COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Afghanistan – As Afghan forces prepare to take the lead in combat roles, Marines with Police Advisor Team, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, and Afghan forces at Combat Outpost Castle held a command post exercise, July 18, 2012.
The exercise tested how the district level operational coordination center handles scenarios that occur on the battlefield. The OCCD acts as a hub for managing local Afghan National Security Force operations.
Captain William Van Eaton, PAT officer-in-charge, said the scenarios included how to handle finding an improvised explosive device, how to properly call for an emergency medical evacuation and calling for Marine support in case the enemy overwhelms the Afghan forces.
“We are basically just taking a step back and letting them call everything in,” said Van Eaton. “They know that they will be doing this, but that the Marines are just a call away if they do need us for support, such as a MEDIVAC, (explosive ordnance disposal) or even a (quick response force) team to help them if they come under fire and need a hand.”
Inside the OCCD, maps and photos of wanted insurgents hang on the plywood walls. The Marines, Afghan Uniformed Police and Afghan Border Police worked hard, using translators to communicate. Marines supervising the exercise called out scenarios to the Afghan forces and their Marine mentors. They worked around a wooden table scattered with paperwork and radio wires, routing information to and from units on the battlefield that also participated in the training. With that information, the OCCD determined what actions to take and executed them.
“I really enjoy working with the Afghans. It’s a good change of pace,” said Cpl. Ryan Kirby, PAT team leader.
Kirby, of Nortonville, Kan., says he enjoys seeing the improvements the Afghans have made since his unit got to Afghanistan in April.
“They’re doing a real good job,” he said. “I mostly deal with them on patrols. In the beginning, they would just rush and would try to get back as soon as possible. Now they want to talk to the locals and lead the patrols.”
“We are learning a lot from our Marine advisors,” said Soldier Abdul Bari, radio operator, Afghan Unformed Police, Khanishing District. “They are doing good things for us. If we face any problems we send it up to our Marine advisors and they help us as soon as possible. We like and appreciate their help.”
Although Bari was recently assigned to his current job in the OCCD and has not had a lot of time working with the Marines, he is eager to learn more and more every day.
“I joined because I want to work for my country and do my job for my country,” said Bari, 24. “I wear my uniform because of my country, so I want to make my country and my area safe and peaceful.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion is a part of Regimental Combat Team 6. RCT-6 falls under 1st Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force 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 ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.