News: Combat Center bids farewell to ATG
Story by Cpl. Lauren Kurkimilis
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The humbled crowd stood silently as the words of Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, bellowed through the theatre, “Your commitment and courage are undeniable. You carried the weight of your responsibilities with the utmost proficiency, professionalism and faithfulness to Corps and country.” Somber pride radiated from the audience as an era came to an end.
After eight years of operation aboard the Combat Center, the Adviser Training Group officially deactivated during a ceremony held at the base theatre Wednesday. The unit was instrumental in aiding Iraqi and Afghan security forces in the turnover of military responsibilities during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The mission of ATG has been to train Marine Corps transition teams to advise, mentor and train foreign military, police, and border units in operational techniques and procedures to combat terrorism and counter an insurgency.
“Tasked with establishing a Marine Corps formal training program for combat advisers, the Adviser Training Group has superbly executed its mission by preparing adviser teams for Iraq and Afghanistan during the most intense periods of violence in those theaters,” said Gunnery Sgt. Craig Wilcox, master of ceremonies, as he read from the citation written by the Office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps to all of ATG.
During its existence, ATG staff trained 424 Security Force Assistance Advisor Teams, totaling more than 7,700 SFAAT advisers who were proficient in live-fire and motorized operations training, the immersion training and role player support, language and cultural studies, mountain warfare training, and mission rehearsal exercise development.
“This is a difficult day for ATG because it’s not like they’re passing the mantle on to someone else and it’s going to keep going,” said Maj. Gen. David H. Berger, Combat Center Commanding General.
Berger addressed the audience, speaking to the unique nature of what it takes to be not just an advisor, but also an advisor trainer, and asked everyone in the audience who had ever worked for or been involved with ATG to rise so that they could be recognized for all of their hard work. He then introduced the unit’s commanding officer, Col. Jeffrey J. Kenney, praising him for his job well done.
“There wasn’t a better guy in the Marine Corps to do this,” Berger said. “There wasn’t a more perfectly suited leader to take this (unit) on.”
Kenney took the mic and reflected on some of the achievements and capabilities of ATG and thanked his Marines and civilian personnel.
“It was all worth it because our guys went out there prepared … and the result was gratifying,” Kenney said. “ATG was excellent at what they did and they always completed the mission. I can’t name off everyone to thank because there are just too many important people, but I will remember all of you.”
As the ceremony came to a close, the words of the Corps’ commandant resonated within the crowd.
“On behalf of all Marines, I salute the ATG and all who have served in this important unit,” Wilcox recited. “As this group deactivates, know that your contributions are much appreciated by you nation, Corps and by me personally. You steadfast commitment to excellence will have a lasting impact for years to come.”
Among those who attended the ceremony was Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, I Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General, Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Green, IMEF Sergeant Maj and many other prominent members of leadership throughout the Corps.