During my last few days in Afghanistan, I got a behind-the-scenes look at a “dress rehearsal” for a large-scale training exercise the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps was planning at Camp Shorabak in Helmand province to showcase the Corps’ military training and enhance interoperability.
The scale of the exercise was pretty impressive: it involved hundreds of Afghan soldiers, two of the 215th Corps’ Mi-17 helicopters, and over a dozen M1117 armored vehicles, plus Humvees and trucks.
The M1117, used by the U.S. Army’s military police corps and the Army National Guard, has less armored protection than the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, but the ANA fleet does have enhanced survivability features. The U.S. government announced it would be donating nearly 500 of these vehicles to the ANA, and they were first fielded to Afghanistan in 2012. The Afghan National Security Forces also have an extensive fleet of High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, some purchased or donated from the U.S. government, some acquired from elsewhere.
But unlike U.S. armored vehicles, which tend to look pretty standardized, you’ll often see Afghan vehicles “dressed up” with a variety of aesthetic modifications. Marines said the ANSF sometimes used flags or other decorations to indicate the vehicle of a senior official. I’m told the below Humvee belonged to 215th Corps Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Zamen Hassan.
Here’s another view of the same vehicle. It’s hard to see all the flags, but I think I counted 11, including the ones painted on the sides. As you can see, the vehicle’s tires and sides also got an accent paint job.
I’m not sure why the truck below received the “Pimp My Ride” treatment, but in addition to flags on the hood and windshield, the truck has what appear to be Christmas decorations on the dashboard–including tinsel and sprigs of greenery–and a few things I can’t identify. It was even more impressive in person.
As light-hearted as these observations are, it was incredible to see the 215th Corps on parade in armored vehicles and even conducting air maneuvers in their own helicopters. Considering this Corps was created circa 2010, that’s remarkable progress.
Have you seen any tricked-out combat vehicles on deployment? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.