Sunday, March 27

A few weeks ago I had the priviledge of attending an ANA Kandak (battalion) basic training graduation. This was another of those events that really brings home why we're here and makes you feel real good about what's going on. The ANA is a very proud army. Every Kandak is ethnically integrated in proportion to the demographics of the country. Historically, military organizations here were tribally or ethnically organized. These soldiers really bond and are effective together. They also recognize how important it is for Afghanistan to become a strong nation rather than being decentralized and tribally oriented. It's a cultural barrier they appear to be breaking. Just look at their faces. The pictures are worth a thousand words. It is now customary after they are called forward to receive an award that they face the unit and shout "I serve the Afghan nation!" Allegience to nation over tribe and ethnicity is the key to a peaceful Afghanistan and an Afghanistan that participates responsibly in the international community.

Here's the color guard marching forward at the start of the ceremony. The base mosque is visible on the hill in the background.

Here are the soldiers marching past the reviewing stand.

Here I am with the formation of soldiers in the background.

Most ANA ceremonies conclude with what we affecionately call a 'man dance'.

Here I am with the old man that played the drum for the man dance. He's normally the base barber.

Post-graduation celebration.

The soldiers are holding flowers after the ceremony to give to their instructors to show how happy and appreciative they are.

Here I am assisting with an Associated Press Television News interview of the Colonel in charge of the OMC-A team that assists at the Kabul Military Training Center.

The KMTC public affairs team invited us to stay for lunch at their dining facility following the ceremony.

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