Putting young Afghans on a FAST track

Felicia Sebrell (center) is the director of Resolute Support’s FAST (Functional Area Support Team) programme, which is helping recruit young, educated Afghans for civilian roles performing essential functions within the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.
12 Jan 2018
KABUL, Afghanistan – Offering young college-educated Afghans a career in government service, Resolute Support’s FAST (Functional Area Support Team) programme is helping to build capacity and sustainability within the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.

The FAST programme provides the Ministry of Defence with educated young Afghans to help build capacity in areas such as human resources, procurement, and finance, and also provides careers to talented and motivated young professionals. 

Placing well-trained, capable Afghans in government positions will help professionalize the organizations, create continuity and stability, and support the sustained functionality and efficiency of Afghanistan’s security sector. 

This provides the essential institutional support to the ANDSF as they gather momentum, going on the offensive in 2018, in their fight to defeat the Taliban and other insurgents.
"With trained, educated personnel, and the right processes in place, the ANDSF will possess the essential functions necessary to continue to grow and evolve independently,” said Felicia Sebrell, director of the Functional Area Support Team. "Instead of seeking work outside of Afghanistan, the programme provides an opportunity for the younger educated Afghan citizens to remain in the country and contribute to its future.”

FAST, in partnership with MOD and in coordination with Youth in Action, is preparing hundreds of professionals to compete for civil service positions through a merit-based process.  The positions are located throughout Afghanistan, from the ministry’s headquarters in Kabul to the regional and Corps levels.
"I am really grateful for the FAST programme,” said Khatera Aryobie, an Afghan FAST graduate who now serves as a task lead with YIA/FAST. "It has given me this chance to help my country and support the military.”

Resolute Support’s FAST programme also works with the Ministry of the Interior’s equivalent Subject Matter Expert programme, hiring young Afghan men and women for roles in management, logistics, procurement, human resources, information technology and law.

 "Mission success for our team means positioning the Afghans to take ownership of their own institutions and build effective, sustainable programmes for ANDSF,” said Sebrell.
In the FAST programme, nearly 15 percent of the new hires have been female. While better than it was even one year ago, the programme continues to work toward improving the percentage of females involved, according to Sebrell.

"There are obvious challenges for us, such as security and gender issues,” she said. "We have to be cautious and sometimes selective when recruiting for the programme, and when placing new employees in certain areas.”

Recruitment is a challenge in a province like Helmand, for example, where the Taliban retains some influence and where deeply-rooted traditions prevent most women from pursuing careers or higher education. Travel and transportation are difficult in other areas, as well, creating obstacles for both recruiters and potential recruits.
Youth in Action manages to overcome the obstacles; however, and consistently bring talented and qualified Afghans to the programme. Using various methods of advertising, recruiting at universities, digital engagement and word-of-mouth, YIA perseveres.

"Overall, the demographic breakdown shows we work with a diverse and inclusive group,” said Sebrell. "We have men and women in the programme, and all of Afghanistan’s ethnicities are included.”

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, plans to double the size of the Commando forces and build an independent Afghan Air Force for the first time in a generation, and the FAST programme will remain vitally important to this and other force generation. FAST leadership is looking beyond the short-term goal of resourcing the ANDSF to the complex challenge of developing systems and personnel that will allow the Afghans to take full ownership of their institutions and build effective, sustainable security forces.

 "FAST employees provide a key support element for the ministry,” said Jay Cooper, the senior Resolute Support official responsible for the overall budget formulation, execution, and analysis for the ANDSF’s finances. "They are, in essence, the future for MOD and bring progressive ideas and skill sets to accomplishment of the MOD mission.” 

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