Oklahoma Man Proud Of Success Of Afghan Training Academy He Helped Build

Monday, September 17th 2012, 10:07 pm
By: News On 6

NATO announced Monday that it will be scaling back operations with Afghan soldiers and policemen to lower the risk of insider attacks, after more than 50 international troops died when their Afghan trainees turned on them.

An Oklahoma man who helped build an Afghan military training center said he believes some efforts to train the Afghan people are important to the mission.

The idea of the academy Col. Jim Wilhite helped build was to not only train, but educate the Afghan people in hopes of rebuilding the country.

Wilhite is just as excited to show off pictures of Afghan students as he is his own children.

"They are the top 1% of the kids in the nation, so the best of the best," Wilhite said.

The retired US Army Reserves Colonel helped build the National Military Academy of Afghanistan, which opened in 2005.

The academy was modeled after West Point, and News On 6 followed him there in 2006 to meet the Afghan military academy's superintendent.

2/17/2010 Related Story: Oklahoma Man Leads Afghanistan National Military Academy

The Afghan training center teaches men and women to be soldiers while offering them degrees in areas like engineering, political science and international relations.

Eighty-five graduates were in the first class. The latest class has 650 students.

"I am so proud of the work the Afghan people have done with this academy," Wilhite said. "They did it, not us. All we did was offer guidance.

But in this war torn country, dozens of deadly insider attacks have threatened the training dynamics.

Wilhite said he hasn't received any reports of academy students turning on American troops.

He said all applicants go through five screenings before they are admitted into the program.

He can only hope the students who have beat out others to be at the academy will make the right choices.

"It's no different than training my own children to make the right decisions and hope that they don't turn on me," Wilhite said.

The academy continues to grow.

The first female was accepted in 2009, the academy is now accredited, and more degrees will soon be offered.

"I see a positive future for this academy. It's not perfect, but neither are we," Wilhite said.

The military academy is moving to a new location in Afghanistan, because it was only ever meant for 1,200 students and it currently has 3,000.

Colonel Wilhite has written a book about his experience with the academy called We Answered the Call.