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    Afghan soldiers and Lava Dogs clear Garmsir roads



    Story by Cpl. Colby Brown 

    Regimental Combat Team-5

    GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan — With every partnered patrol or operation the Afghan National Army conducts, their soldiers gain valuable military experience.

    In Garmsir, Marines from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, the ‘Lava Dogs,’ partner daily with their Afghan counterparts from 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps. These continuous partnered operations allow the Lava Dogs to more thoroughly mentor and advise their brothers-in-arms.

    During the Northern Battalion Security Area clearing operation completed here Sept. 3 - 7, the Lava Dogs had an extensive partnering opportunity. ANA soldiers and Marines worked together to clear five different objectives while conducting continuous operations.

    “It was a good chance for us to advise them on tactical operations,” said Sgt. Craig Purdy, an advisor with the 1/3 Embedded Training Team and a native of West Salem, Ohio. “When we leave and do the turnover with the ANA, operations like these will help ensure they are ready to take over security of their country.”

    During the battalion-sized partnering operation, ANA and Marine forces cleared more than 25 kilometers of roads and searched more than 300 compounds. Additionally, several detainees were apprehended, local nationals gave tips on the location of caches, and atmospheric evidence proved that the increase in coalition presence pushed suspected insurgents from the area.

    Marines in ETT do not measure the success of partnered operations by a diminished insurgent capability alone. Working alongside the ANA and, in most cases, following their leadership throughout an operation is a key indictor of success.

    Over the course of the five-day operation, ANA soldiers partnered with ETT autonomously cleared compounds and set up vehicle checkpoints. Their willingness to stand watch nightly and operate on less than five hours of sleep daily is a clear indication of their progress as a military force.

    “As an advisor, you inherently want the ANA soldiers to step up and take a leading role,” said Staff Sgt. Mustapha Mussa, the kennel master for 1/3 and an advisor with the ETT. “Especially when they go out on patrol, do a [vehicle checkpoint] or clear a compound, we want to have the Marines in the background ready to assist if need be.”

    “It was pretty obvious that the ANA were doing that during the operation,” added Mussa, a native of Michigan City, Ind. “Especially during the [vehicle checkpoints]. The ANA were searching cars and people by themselves and we were just there as advisors.”

    By taking the leading role in this operation, the Garmsir ANA had the opportunity to understand the logistical requirements of extended operations.

    “It wasn’t just the ANA following in the footsteps of the Marines,” said Capt. Daniel Petronzio, the commanding officer of ETT and native of Beverly, Mass. “They were heavily included in the logistical and tactical planning — everything that is expected of a professional military force.”

    “When we first got here, the ANA were logistically reliant on Marine forces,” added Petronzio. “Now, they operate relatively independently. We don’t worry about if they can shoot or patrol because the Marines who have partnered with them at the platoon level have accomplished that. We are working with them at the staff, administrative level, advising them on how to execute as a Kandak [battalion].”

    The operation included impromptu shuras and dinners with elders in the area, allowing ANA leaders time to interact with the local people. ANA soldiers and Marines patrolled through villages that coalition forces don’t frequent regularly. The presence of the partnered force allowed the local communities to witness coalition operations first hand and speak personally to ANA soldiers in their area.

    “Interacting with all the village elders and having the ANA with us allows the local people to see that the ANA have a huge part in the security of the district,” said Purdy. “The local people also have reacted positively when they see that ANA are leading patrols and operations.”

    The operation followed the celebration of Eid Il-Iftar, an Islamic holiday following the holy month of Ramadan. As a demonstration of the continued security throughout Garmsir, the operation allowed coalition forces to interact with people from different areas of the district traveling to celebrate the holiday.

    This operation was the first of its kind in Garmsir due to the size of forces involved. What is not unusual, however, is the partnering of ANA soldiers and Marines.

    “The more things the ANA are partnered and involved in now, the more military experience and readiness they will have when we leave,” said Mussa.

    The consistent partnering effort becomes increasingly important as Afghan and coalition forces move closer to transferring authority of the district.

    Editor’s note: First Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd 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 Afghanistan 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 responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.



    Date Taken: 09.08.2011
    Date Posted: 09.08.2011 12:42
    Story ID: 76663

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