Brisbane resident Kylie Nuernberg admits her job as an Army mentor in Afghanistan is feeding her passion of meeting new people and learning about new cultures.
Enlisting at just 17 years of age, she has been posted to various roles all over Australia and is now deployed to Kabul for the Australian Defence Force’s Operation Highroad.
Warrant Officer Class Two Kylie Nuernberg is on her first deployment after 20 years in the Army and is passing on her experience as a Senior Non Commissioned Officer (SNCO) to the instructors of the Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA) in Kabul.
Embedded as part of the British-led ANAOA advisory effort with partners from Denmark and New Zealand, Warrant Officer Nuernberg advises the female Afghan SNCOs on the delivery of training in both the field and barracks environments.
She said it is essential to build rapport as an effective mentor and to have a good working relationship with her mentee.
“I’ve managed to build a strong relationship with my mentee, Hunifa, by making sure I ask about her, what her day has been like, and family before affronting her with too many work-related questions,” Warrant Officer Nuernberg said.
To strengthen their relationship, Warrant Officer Nuernberg spends a good portion of her day practising the local Dari language.
Her home away from home, a small compact room inside a shipping container, is lined with Dari word lists and common phrases.
“My goal is to speak fluently with my mentee about the training being conducted here without having to rely wholly on the interpreters,” she said.
While she makes every effort to improve her chances of being an effective mentor, she said it is important to be flexible.
“The Afghan mentees have seen coalition mentors come and go since the academy’s establishment four years ago,” she said.
“We have to be mindful that our advice may not always suit the Afghan way of doing things – and that’s ok.”
While this is Warrant Officer Nuernberg’s first deployment, she said a previous six month posting to Timor Leste helped prepare her for the role.
“In 2004 I was posted to the Defence Cooperation Program in Timor Leste providing logistics support to the mentor training team,” she said.
“My time in Timor prepared me in the sense that I learnt how to interact with different cultures – it was a fantastic experience.”
Before commencing the mentoring role at ANAOA, the coalition adviser team completed the 10 day Individual Military Skills Training (IMST) induction course in the UK.
“All the coalition mentors flew to the UK to conduct IMST. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet the other nations and to align expectations for our eight-month deployment,” she said.
Warrant Officer Nuernberg said it has been great working with the small coalition “family” and that she will miss them when she returns to Brisbane in November.
Until then, she is going to make the most of her deployment and continue to immerse herself in the culture, working “Shohna ba Shohna” (shoulder-to-shoulder) with the Afghan people.