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    Afghans celebrate beloved 'Colonel Bill'

    Afghans celebrate beloved Colonel Bill

    Photo By 1st Lt. Brian Tuthill | Lt. Col. William F. McCollough, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Brian Tuthill 

    Regimental Combat Team-7

    NAWA DISTRICT, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — Five months ago, the Marines and Sailors of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, arrived in Nawa District to the sounds of gunfire, rockets and mortars.

    Today, Nawa is quiet — a place where they can walk through the city center without body armor as children crowd at their feet.

    On Dec. 11, at Forward Operating Base Geronimo, in front of Marine leaders from II Marine Expeditionary Brigade, local Afghan leaders and Marines of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Lt. Col. William F. McCollough, commanding officer of 1/5, cased his battalion's battle colors during a transfer-of-authority ceremony, marking the end of their successful deployment.

    The commanding officer of 1/3, Lt. Col. Matt Baker, called forward his battalion's colors and unfurled the flag and streamers to the wind marking the start of their operational commitment to the Nawa District.

    Through the success of 1/5's Marines over their five months in Nawa, "Colonel Bill" has become the stuff of legends in the district, forging strong ties to local Afghan leaders and much of the population, said Mohammed Khan, Nawa District administrator, at a lunch celebration held in McCollough's honor, Dec. 8. McCollough dressed in traditional Afghan clothes and a headdress for the party to show his sincere respect for Afghan culture.

    "'Colonel Bill' and his Marines patrolled in the heat, drenched in sweat every day, and brought security to our streets and wonderful jobs to our people," said Khan. "They touch our children on the heads and give them candy, and when they play in streets they pretend to be 'Colonel Bill' or one of his brave Marines. We thank you."

    "When we first came here, we had no friends. Now, we are leaving as more than friends. We slept in this very spot in the dirt and we sweat and bled together here," McCollough said to the crowd before him.

    McCollough also took time to recognize the bravery of the Afghan men gathered before him and remembered the three who were assassinated only months ago by the Taliban for stepping forward to lead in their communities.

    After lunch, Afghans and 1/5 Marines exchanged parting gifts with one another.

    Khan adorned McCullough, Sgt. Maj. William T. Sowers, sergeant major of 1/5, and Capt. Brian Huysman, commanding officer, Charlie Company, 1/5, with colorful paper arrangements which hung from their necks — reminiscent of large Hawaiian leis —traditionally given by Afghans at celebrations.

    To Abdul Manaf, Nawa District governor, and Khan, McCollough presented Marine Corps officer's mameluke swords.

    "Many years ago after fighting alongside our Muslim brothers in Africa, Marines were presented a sword — a sword we still carry today," said McCollough. "Now it is my great honor to be able to present you with that sword as a symbol of the struggles we have endured together and the friendship we have built here in Nawa."

    McCollough also presented Manaf and Khan's sons with KA-BAR fighting knives, saying, "You do a great job protecting your father, but if anything happens, you'll be ready, just like Marines are."

    Others received wristwatches to recognize their consistent punctuality and reliability in helping to revitalize Nawa.

    "Whenever I or my men hear about Afghanistan, we will stop and wonder how our friends are doing," said McCollough. "We will remember each other for the rest of our lives."



    Date Taken: 12.15.2009
    Date Posted: 12.15.2009 01:02
    Story ID: 42755
    Location: NAWA DISTRICT, AF 

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