BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) _ Safi Roshan though just in his late 20s has spent the better part of his life in battle.
First, it was at his father's side against the Soviets in Afghanistan, starting at the age of 13. Then, still in his teens, Roshan fought with the Northern Alliance against the Taliban who controlled Afghanistan after the Soviets pulled out.
But it was while fighting in concert with the Americans who liberated Afghanistan after 9-11 that Roshan finally dared to believe lasting peace and prosperity were possible.
``America's gift means peace and security for our country and I thank you,'' Roshan said, during a visit with Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino (Ret.), and Sgt. Maj. J. Dean Bridges, both of the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
Mancino and Bridges were deployed in 2003-04 to Afghanistan with the 45th Infantry Divisions Task Force Phoenix to train the Afghan National Army; Mancino was brigade commander. The end of their deployment was a new beginning for Roshan.
He redoubled his efforts to serve his country and its newfound independence by continuing his military service. When he returns to Afghanistan, it will be as the command sergeant major of the Afghan National Army.
He's the first Afghan National Army soldier to come to school in America ... ``its quite an honor,'' Mancino said.
Roshan went through a rigorous selection process and had to meet very stringent academic, physical and security standards, Mancino said, and is at the top of the course among international students.
Roshan has been in the U.S. for many months sharpening his English skills at the Defense Language Institute; then attending the Sergeant Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, at El Paso.
``I came to the army as a supply sergeant, then as the company sergeant, battalion sergeant major, garrison sergeant major, and then the corps sergeant major,'' Roshan said.
``Now, I will be command sergeant major,'' he said with pride in the importance noncommissioned officers are gaining in the ANA.
``An NCO was nothing in the Soviet Union style of military. They were misused sometimes such as running for tea ...,'' Roshan said. ``Now we are working together, with officers.
``America has the greatest army in the world because they have great NCOs,'' he said.
The people in Afghanistan's military fought in the Soviet style.
``We know now that was the wrong style and we are changing that,'' Roshan said.
But, change doesn't come without difficulties, and Roshan is frustrated with the slow pace at which NCOs are being sent to the U.S. for training.
``Of all the officers they are sending (60), I am the only enlisted. I hope to correct this,'' he said.
As the Afghan National Army's highest-ranking noncommissioned officer, Roshan will have the opportunity to address that deficit. He hopes to help establish in the ANA in a hand-in-hand working relationship between officers and NCOs he's observed in the National Guard units deployed in Afghanistan.
The progress of the ANA has also been challenged by differences between the various tribes in Afghanistan. There are five or six major tribes.
These tribes have slowly come together_ tribes that have warred against each other through history. Now they all work together with very few problems, Mancino said.
As Afghan National Army soldiers began to set aside their tribal differences, they also developed trust for the National Guardsmen training them, oftentimes because of personal interaction, not military.
New policies and benefits for ANA soldiers, though slow in coming, are beginning to take shape.
Roshan is anxious to see his army take part in international efforts of need and peacekeeping and take the gift to others he believes America gave to Afghanistan.
``When the Afghanistan army is established, there should be Afghan National Army soldiers in many countries,'' he said. ``If anything in the world should happen, we should be the first ones there.''