News: Setting the Conditions: Motor Transport Marines prepare Garmsir for transition
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Over the past four years, seven U.S. Marine battalions have rotated through Helmand province’s Garmsir district.
In the midst of developing counterinsurgency efforts, coalition forces have built up fighting positions and added improved technology, vehicles, weapons and communications equipment. They’ve driven out the insurgency that once plagued the district and worked to develop its Afghan National Security Forces — dual efforts evidenced in Garmsir’s continual progression in security.
Today, Garmsir’s ANSF largely operate independently and are near accepting lead security responsibility from coalition forces. As the transition approaches, motor transport Marines with Trucks Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, are faced with a daunting task — retrograding thousands of items spread across their 1,200 square-kilometer battlespace.
Broken up into three elements spread throughout Garmsir, the 50 motor transport Marines of ‘America’s Battalion’ have filled several roles since arriving here in November.
They’ve logged 20,000 miles on more than 500 combat logistics convoys while supporting 3/3’s offensive combat operations and aiding in ANSF development. In the process, they’ve transported nearly 4,000 personnel and two million pounds of cargo, including 400,000 gallons of fuel, to coalition forces at 42 forward positions, said 1st Lt. Daniel Ledeen, the 3/3 motor transport officer and a 25-year-old native of Chevy Chase, Md.
The platoon’s wrecker operators have recovered more than 200 military and civilian vehicles and supported the movement of giant generators and 900-gallon fuel tanks. Mobile contact teams have traveled the battlespace to fix vehicles used by each of 3/3’s five companies. Altogether, their maintenance teams have attained a 98 percent vehicle readiness percentage, a 23 percent increase since receiving them.
As they serve in their core capacity, the motor transport Marines are simultaneously supporting 3/3’s logistics section in retrograding more than $140 million dollars worth of equipment back to their home base in Hawaii.
“Their dual mission of both logistically supporting our Marines to the highest degree, while at the same time carefully designating equipment, accounting for it and safely transporting it for turn-in, demonstrates their critical importance,” said Maj. Sean Carroll, the 3/3 executive officer and a native of San Diego.
This additional responsibility of the retrograde isn’t typical for motor transport Marines on a combat deployment, but it’s become a necessity as coalition forces shift from the lead in counterinsurgency operations to supporting Afghan forces from the periphery.
Upon their arrival in Garmsir, ‘America’s Battalion’ assumed a larger area of operations than their predecessor — 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment — and began working to extend the influence of Afghan government and ANSF into previously untouched areas. They paired with ANSF to defeat remaining strains of the insurgency and, in doing so, facilitated a progression in security that demanded the evolution of the district’s battlespace.
“Within 60 days of our arrival in Garmsir, we shifted our full focus toward position transfers, accounting for and retrograding equipment, and setting the conditions for the transfer of lead security responsibilities from coalition to Afghan forces,” Carroll said. “The success of this monumental shift in the campaign rested on the battalion’s logistical capabilities to complete each challenging mission.”
The expanded mission has challenged the motor transport Marines, lengthening their workdays and increasing responsibility for the enormous amount of serialized gear they transport, said Cpl. George Eifert, a wrecker operator and 22-year-old native of Cambridge, Minn.
Experience has taught Eifert his work isn’t done even after he’s recovered a vehicle, completed a re-supply or backhauled gear from a position transferred to Afghan forces. He and his fellow Marines have learned the convoy schedule and rough terrain demand their full attention both on and off the road.
“We’re on the road so frequently, so there’s a lot of pressure on our maintenance section to ensure our vehicles are ready for every mission,” Ledeen said. “We’re using them more than normal and we see the effects of this … but these trucks are what we have to conduct the retrograde.”
Working their challenging, multi-faceted mission from behind the scenes, the motor transport Marines have been essential to the mission of ‘America’s Battalion’ and the future success of Afghan forces in Garmsir.
“They’re among the unsung heroes of this deployment,” Carroll said. “Both day and night, non-stop, our mission has challenged them to the highest degree, and they’ve planned and executed their portion flawlessly. We couldn’t have achieved virtually any of our successes without their strength and professional contribution.”
Editor’s Note: Third Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division (Forward), which works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the ANSF assumption of security responsibility within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.