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Volume 3 / Issue 2 / Winter 2016 Military Operations

Page 19

“Courage is a good thing; another ingredient, obedience, is

also absolutely necessary for your soldiers”[i]

“You say to your soldier, ‘Do this’ and he does it. But I am

obliged to say, ‘This is why you ought to do this’ and then he

does it”[ii]

Even if a mountain is high, there is a path to the top[iii]

Wars are inherently dramatic events, events that bring out the best

and worst in human nature. The ongoing Afghan War is no different

and it has had a profound effect on the DNA of the Afghan National

Army (ANA). The ANA is expected to be the instrument of choice

for dealing with the ongoing security situation, but like many armies

before, it is an imperfect instrument. There has been a lot of money,

let alone blood sweat and tears spent on the ANA, but even its

most ardent supporters, cannot ignore vast disparity in weapons,

equipment, training and professionalism between NATO forces and

the ANA. Since the Afghan state is involved in making war it has

been forced by circumstances to make an army while in contact,

not the most advantageous position to be in. Similar contexts that

come to mind are Cromwell’s ‘

New Model Army

’ and the Baron

von Steuben’s efforts with the

Continental Army

. Much of the ANA

capability still rests in the realms of the paper it has been written on

(or Excel spreadsheet) and has the depth in capability that reflects


Before NATO and especially the British Army get too pumped up

by its own capability and importance, it should be acknowledged

that the British Army has had over three hundred years of military

development. The British Army has its faults; it was not that long

ago that the British Army’s officers were drawn from the landed

gentry and nobility and bought their commissions. Promotion was

either bought or obtained by political connections. For all that, the

British officers were by and large a competent lot, dedicated to their

profession, and the men they led. The rank and file until the twentieth

century was confined to the foolish, debtors, criminals pardoned on

the condition that they enlist, and drunks. It would seem that the British

Army with such a makeup would lack the elements to build a reliable

force in combat; but its record in war is to the contrary. The British

soldier throughout the years has unquestionably displayed qualities

of hardihood, courage, persistence, and military effectiveness that

did honor to the nation it served. The ANA, perhaps coming largely

from better demographics, is no different. In short it has taken the

British Army a long time to get to its current standing as one of the

leading training organizations in NATO and to expect the ANA

to get to the same level overnight while in contact is perhaps over

ambitious. Cultural context and understanding is required.

Mission Tactics

There is no reason to doubt the ANA courage, it is the application

of that courage so it can be effective that is the role of the NATO

mentoring mission. The mentoring of the ANA does not so much

require innovation or imagination but imperturbable patience,

with an understanding of the conservative culture. The ANA needs

Gerry Long

To cite this Article:

Long, Gerry, “The Green Mountain Boys: Mentoring an Army from the Ground Up! The British

Army & Afghan National Army (ANA) Experience 2006-15”,

Military Operations

, Volume 3, Issue No. 2, Winter 2016,

pages 19-21.

The Green Mountain Boys: Mentoring an Army from

the Ground Up! The British Army & Afghan National

Army (ANA) Experience 2006-15

© Zabelin | - Group Of British Soldiers Photo