News: ‘Cutting Edge’ prepares for next deployment
Story by Cpl. D. J. Wu
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - In the past 10 years, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, has deployed for combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
With OEF coming to a close in 2014, 3/7 is heading into the Integrated Training Exercise for the unit’s last time in preparation for their deployment.
The unit is utilizing ITX to work on their new plan for Afghanistan. They will be focusing their efforts on letting the Afghan National Security Force take the lead.
“There are a lot of unknowns surrounding this deployment,” said Capt. Colin Chisholm, operations officer. “It’s not that our mission isn’t clear, it’s that the mission includes a broad spectrum of potential tasks for 3/7. With ANSF doing more and more, we are transitioning into a follow and support position.”
This will be the battalion’s third and potentially final deployment to Afghanistan and even though much of their mission is similar to previous deployments, there is a sense that things are different.
“It’s not going to be the same as it was last time,” said Staff Sgt. James Gilchrist, platoon sergeant, Company I, 3/7. “With all the stuff that we’re getting, its going to be a different fight.”
The "Cutting Edge" starts their iteration of ITX this week and will make the most out of the 29-day-training cycle.
“We’re going to use this ITX to make sure we’re good at the basics,” said Chisholm. “We’re going to make sure we’re as good as we possibly can be, offense and defense stability. We’re going to use the last evolution of the ITX, the battalion stability exercise, to try to model what (3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment) is doing in Afghanistan.”
The battalion will be replacing the ‘Thundering Third’ in Afghanistan and taking over from where they left off. The mission in Afghanistan is establishing the ANSF as the main authority of the region and the Marines are helping to guide the way.
“We’re there helping them plan,” said Chisholm. “They do it, but we’re there if they need the help. We’re trying to train for a lot of contingencies, a lot of small-scale platoon to company-sized helo-born assaults. Essentially what we think we’ll be doing is a lot of Quick Reaction Force over there, a lot of counter (improvised explosive device) support and medical evacuation.”
For a lot of Marine in 3/7, it will be their first and last deployment to Afghanistan. This ITX is an opportunity for them to take it all in and learn with a unit that has done nothing but war in the last decade. Those that are going again one last time may have mixed feelings.
“It’s kind of bitter sweet I guess,” said Gilchrist. “It’s kind of good to know that we don’t have to go back, but I wish we could do more before we leave.”
The battalion will focus on what they need to do in ITX to deploy to what could be there last mission in Afghanistan later this year.