As the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan prepares to transition to a training mission, it is worth asking just what is an “omeletteer,” the term recently used by retired General Lewis Mackenzie to describe part one of our current roles in assisting the development of Afghan security forces.

The term is, of course, derived from Canada’s Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLT), pronounced omelettes, which began advising and mentoring the Afghan national army (ANA) in Kandahar in 2005. (In 2007, a special police OMLT, pronounced pomlette, was created to train the Afghan national police.)

A Canadian menu of what is required to be a good “omeletteer” can be gleaned from our Army Lessons Learned Centre in Kingston. The core ingredients of this training concoction can be obtained from its website (

Perhaps most useful are issues of The Bulletin, containing short handover type briefs intended to help the next rotation. Recommended are: “Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) Training for Deployment,” by Captain Stephen Good, a Company Commander Mentor in Roto 3; “The Afghan National Army: A Quick Perspective of the Afghan within the Uniform,” by MWO Wayne Bartlett, a Roto 3 OMLT regimental sergeant major; and “Operational Mentoring at the Front,” by Warrant Officer Craig Hannon, a Roto 3 OMLT company sergeant major. All are available in Volume 13, No.2, January 2008. Also of note is “14 Tenets for Mentoring the Afghan National Army,” by Lieutenant Colonel W.D. Eyre, commanding officer of the Rotation 3 OMLT, in Volume 14, No. 1, March 2008.

For an alternative recipe, Captain Alexander Allan offers an intriguing photo diary of his tour in Helmand Province. General Sir Richard Dannatt notes in the forward of Afghanistan: A Tour of Duty (Third Millennium Publishing, 2009, $18.20) that this book provides readers with “authentic insight.”

The outstanding photographs are grouped in four collections: People and Place, On Patrol, In Camp, Incident and Aftermath. Unlike the Canadians, the British appeared to have sent the bulk of a battalion to undertake similar OMLT duties. In addition to their mentoring task, which implicitly includes training, there was also a “strike” tasking. Perhaps the picture that most affected me was of comrades burning the boot and foot of a fellow guardsman who had been evacuated by helicopter following an IED strike.

In Greetings From Afghanistan: Send More Ammo (New American Library, 2010, $20.46), Benjamin Tupper, a captain in the U.S. National Guard, has turned a “therapeutic” online blog he maintained during his year in Ghazni Province as a member of an Embedded Training Team (ETT) into a series of essays organized into five sections: War Stories, Laughter is the Best Medicine, Culture Shock, Farewell Fallen Comrades and Home.

The ETTs were the model for the Canadian OMLTs, and Tupper and his driver, in an up-armored Humvee supported with a single machine gun, mentored and trained an ANA company. Those in authority may find much to disapprove; one essay talks of censorship. Although many blogs provide no insight into ETT operations, they do inform about American soldiers responsible for making the ETTs succeed. It should be noted that Tupper previously worked in Afghanistan with an NGO.

A final source for comparison is Martin J. Dockery’s Lost in Translation: Vietnam, A Combat Advisor’s Story (Ballantine Books, 2003, $10.99), an attempt 40 years after the Vietnam conflict to make sense of a life-defining eight months as a military advisor in 1962. Dockery was a regular para-trained infantry officer who served by himself as the American combat advisor to a South Vietnamese infantry battalion in the field. He didn’t serve a full tour. After eight months, some “brass” from Saigon relieved him after finding him sick, relying on Vietnamese medicine, and dressed much like a Vietnamese soldier. Presumably he was thought to have gone “native.” The book is essentially the narrative of one man’s experience as a combat advisor, but his musings contribute to our understanding of the key ingredient of any OMLT recipe – the people involved

Though Canadians may no longer be “omeletteering” following the same recipe in the New Year, determination of the most successful mix for OMLTs may only be known well after the last Canadian soldier leaves.


Reviewed by Major (Ret’d) Roy Thomas, MSC, CD