News: Retrograding Home: Redeployment a focus of effort as Afghanistan exit draws closer
CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan - In 2009, Camp Dwyer was a sprawling base which housed thousands of service members ready to fight. Most of them were the result of a 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan introduced by President Barack Obama.
Four years later, the camp, located in the Garmser district of Helmand province, is a skeleton of what it once was. Millions of dollars of equipment used to fight insurgency once littered the base, but today there are few signs it ever existed. Empty lots surrounded by gated walls are primarily what remain here.
For the Marine Corps, these lots represent progress— transitioning from a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy to an increased focus on security force assistance. But for the Marines of Redeployment and Retrograde in Support of Reset and Reconstitution Operations Group (R4OG), each lot represents hours of hard work.
The overall mission of R4OG is to inventory, separate and prepare equipment for transportation back to the U.S. However, the General Support 2 Platoon here is primarily responsible for forwarding equipment within the region that needs to be scrapped or retrograded and reutilized by Marines at Camp Leatherneck, the hub for operations throughout Helmand and Nimroz province.
“Our unit, as a whole, has been very important in the mission of getting Marines out of Afghanistan,” said 1st Lt. Indranil Das, the officer in charge of the General Support 2 Platoon.
According to Das, the platoon has gone through Camp Dwyer lot by lot and the work hasn’t been easy. Das described it as tedious manual labor. The Marines spend each day in the unforgiving Afghan sun moving heavy objects and sorting through equipment. It is endless hours of moving things from one place to another and keeping record of every item.
The majority of the Marines are new to the R4OG mission. The unit is provisional at best, combining Marines from all three Marine Expeditionary Forces. Das said the Marines are from a wide variety of job fields and for most the transition has been difficult.
“I came from Camp Lejeune, N.C., but the majority came from Camp Pendleton, Calif., or Okinawa,” said Cpl. Allen Nicholas, a squad leader with the platoon. “It’s probably one of the most diverse groups I’ve ever worked with.”
Das said when the unit first arrived they had no idea the amount of equipment they would move at once. Their first task was to sort and move seven large containers of equipment, which at the time was overwhelming. That soon turned into several hundred 20-foot ISO containers and dozens of vehicles.
“It was a steep learning curve,” he said. “But once we learned the process, we started working really efficiently.”
Das said the unit has faced several challenges throughout the deployment, but the Marines’ diverse backgrounds and abilities to adapt have been helpful.
“Getting to know each other was a challenge, but the Marines have developed a sense of camaraderie,” said Das. “The Marines’ work has been making our detachment look good. It’s been a learning experience for everyone, and I think they are all going to leave here as better Marines.”