CAMP LEATHERNECK, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan – The rolling hills and farmlands of Gallatin, Tenn., offered endless opportunities for horseback riding, hiking and outdoor sports for a young Corey Collier as he grew up in the small town. The Cumberland River and its many connecting waterways served as a perfect fishing retreat during his youth.
Collier, now a Marine Corps major and the current operations officer for 2nd Marine Division (Forward), grew up in the outdoors working on his grandfather’s farm and playing football, so it was natural for him to find a home in the Marine Corps when he enlisted in 1987.
“A small-town kid growing up, I dreamed of getting out and seeing the world,” said Collier, a 1996 graduate of The Citadel. “The Marine Corps was an opportunity for me to do that. The recruiter asked what I wanted out of the Marine Corps, and adventure was what I was looking for.”
Collier began his military career as an enlisted Marine with hopes of being an infantryman, a perfect fit for the 18-year-old used to being out in the fresh air, raising tobacco and tending cattle.
However, he was assigned to the cryptological intelligence field when he scored exceptionally high on his initial aptitude tests. He followed this occupational field for 10 years, reaching the rank of staff sergeant, before attending The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, S.C., through the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program.
“I took a heavy course load to finish school,” explained Collier. “I was there to do a job, and that job was to finish my education. I finished in a little under three years. Getting the requirements so I could get back out to the fleet and do what Marines do, that to me, was the way to get to where I wanted to be.”
He attended The Citadel not only to further his education and become a commissioned officer, but also as an opportunity to return to his military roots in the infantry.
“It comes down to the different reasons you join the Marine Corps. For me, where the Marine Corps lives and breathes is in the operational forces” Collier. “The real benefit of being a Marine is being able to live with, lead and be a part of the team that resides in the fleet Marine force.”
These days Collier is a big part of that team. He is responsible for coordinating all the ongoing operations of Task Force Leatherneck, headed by 2nd Marine Division (Forward), as its various units fight the insurgency in Helmand province. He presides over the movements of approximately 10,000 service members within the approximately 25,000 square miles of the division’s area of operations.
“I take the plan of action as it’s established and bring to fruition the commanding general’s campaign plan,” Collier said. “On a weekly basis, anywhere from five or six operations can take place – each operation may last a single day, week or month – and I’m responsible for making sure the support requirements for each one are in place and moving forward as planned.”
The weight of responsibility he shoulders is enormous, yet Collier bears it with a quiet modesty. He speaks with a reserved confidence that denotes his 25 years of service.
“He’s a quiet professional who ensures everything that needs to get done gets done,” said Los Altos, Calif., native Maj. Mark A Kiehle, the deputy current operations officer for the task force.
“He has to work long hours to make sure information gets to where it needs to be. He’s very focused and an all-around good guy – a go-to guy. If you need something done right away, he’s the guy who’s going to get it done for you.”
Like an artist who looks upon a finished painting with a contented fulfillment, Collier sees the beginning of each operation like an empty canvas. He works diligently to compose the outline of each operation and carefully monitors each brush stroke until the operation’s completion.
“When you see a mission go from its initial planning state to execution and there is success, there is satisfaction that comes with knowing you played a part in that,” mentioned Collier. “That’s the most enjoyable part.”
However, the completion of one mission starts the beginning of several more. The process is ongoing as the task force continues to break the insurgency’s grasp on the citizens of Afghanistan. Collier works endless hours to ensure the job gets done; yet keeps a positive attitude.
“Because it’s such long hours and you work with someone in such close proximity, you get to know them pretty well,” said Kiehle, a 1997 University of Colorado graduate. “(Collier) has a good sense of humor. As you go through fairly long work days, you find times to bring levity to the situation, and crack a joke or two.”
Collier hopes to return to his roots when the job is done and 2nd MarDiv (Fwd) returns to the United States.
“When we come back from deployment, I’d like to pick up a battalion command,” Collier said. “I’d like to get back with the infantry – that’s where the rubber meets the road in the Marine Corps. There are a lot of things out there that bring about success, but the actions of a Marine infantryman when he goes out and does his job, day-to-day, to me, that’s the epitome of the Marine Corp’s life blood, and I get the most satisfaction out of being a part of that.”
Editor’s note: Second Marine Division (Forward) 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.
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This work, Tennessee native finds adventure where the rubber meets the road, by Sgt Jeff Drew, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.