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    ‘Lone Star Battalion’ finishes Afghan deployment, passes torch to ‘New England’s Own’

    ‘Lone Star Battalion’ finishes Afghan deployment, passes torch to ‘New England’s Own’

    Photo By OR-6 Mitch Moore | Lt. Col. Russell Zink, the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment,...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard  

    Regional Command Southwest

    CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – As the summer sun set on Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Sept. 13, it also set on 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment’s time in Afghanistan.

    The Marines of the Houston-based 1st Bn., 23rd Marines officially handed responsibility over a wide variety of operations to the Massachusetts-based 1st Bn., 25th Marines during a transfer of authority ceremony.

    First Bn., 23rd Marines, nicknamed “The Lone Star Battalion,” is a reserve infantry unit which has made significant contributions at Iwo Jima, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and now, Operation Enduring Freedom since being formed in 1942.
    Since the battalion’s arrival in March, its Marines have made a “Texas-sized” contribution to the war in Afghanistan.

    “You have to plan to be flexible when you show up on the ground because things are very dynamic and challenging,” said Lt. Col. Russel Zink, commanding officer of 1st Bn., 23rd Marines and a native of Los Angeles. “Be brilliant at the basics and be flexible off of that standard to adapt to whatever the mission required. The way we were able to do that was by having strong small unit leadership.”

    The strength of that small unit leadership was tested when 800 Marines and sailors from Texas were spread across 29 separate locations, executing the full spectrum of counterinsurgency operations.

    Alpha Company supported Regimental Combat Team 8 in the upper Sangin Valley and then transitioned to its own battle space in and around Camp Delaram II in the northwest part of Helmand province. By partnering with Afghan Police, Alpha Company was able to disrupt insurgent influence on a key highway intersection. Before this partnership, logistics convoys were vulnerable to ambush or IED strikes.

    Alpha Company also led a mission that confiscated more than 150 tons of poppy seed, significantly hurting the insurgents’ ability to fund its operations. This marked the largest drug seizure by NATO forces in Afghanistan.

    Bravo Company supported RCT-1 in the southern portion of Helmand province. Through various operations and continuous patrols between Camp Dwyer and Marjah, Bravo Company was able to control vital lines of communication and confiscate hundreds of kilograms of wet opium.

    Charlie, Weapons and Headquarters and Service Company’s were employed in several endeavors. These companies ran the Combat Operations Center at the Camp Leatherneck, Bastion and Shorabak complex and partnered with other coalition forces to make vast improvements to the security of the area. They organized a formal partnership with the 3rd Brigade, 5th Kandak of the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army, which increased their combined efforts with the ANA by 400%. The companies also helped develop governance in Washir and Nad-e Ali districts, and worked with British forces to disrupt insurgent activities south of the bases.

    In addition to having Marines spread across Helmand province, the Lone Star battalion also provided a composite company that ran training camps for the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan in every Regional Command in the country, helping train tens of thousands of Afghan National Security Forces.

    “I think they had a very ‘can do’ attitude with everything that was presented to them,” Zink said of his Marines. “The biggest challenge was always maintaining the ability to be versatile and be able to answer to multiple higher commands, which again challenged our small unit leaders.

    “I knew they always had the capability back [during pre-deployment training], but once we got here, boots on the ground, their performance exceeded my expectations. I think they’re proud of their performance and, as their battalion commander, I’m very proud of their performance as well.”

    Being a reservist battalion, the Marines left their jobs as engineers, electricians, ranchers, farmers, businessmen, lawyers, policemen, firemen and border patrol agents to serve their country in Afghanistan. Before handing over his command to Lt. Col. Brian O’Leary, the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, Zink advised his successor to take advantage of his Marines’ different skill sets.

    “One thing to capitalize on, as a reserve unit, is don’t hesitate to use those non-military skills which can be a force multiplier here in the [counterinsurgency] fight,” said Zink. “Often times you’re going to apply a kinetic application to the fight as well as a non-kinetic and you really won’t be successful unless you capitalize on both of them.”

    First Bn., 25th Marines, nicknamed “New England’s Own,” is also a reservist battalion and is comprised of Marines from Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and New Hampshire. The battalion arrived in Afghanistan during the first week of September after completing four months of pre-deployment training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

    “We’ve been working for this for a long time so it’s good to finally be here,” said O’Leary, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. “The Marines have put in a lot of work. I think that I’m not the only one who is relieved that we are finally here and ready to do the job we’ve been assigned.”

    Since arriving in Afghanistan, Zink has given O’Leary useful information concerning the local Afghans as well introduced him to the leadership of the Afghan units operating around Camp Leatherneck. O’Leary plans to continue the good work of “The Lone Star Battalion.”

    “One Twenty-three has done a great job,” said O’Leary. “This is a long process and no one is expecting that we’re going to cross the goal line during one twenty-three’s deployment or, for that matter, during one twenty-five’s deployment. What one twenty-three has accomplished here has been really quite extraordinary in terms of the relationships they’ve built and the programs they’ve put in place. We can only hope to pick up the ball and continue on their success.”

    This is 1st Bn., 25th Marines’ first deployment to Afghanistan. Their last deployment as a battalion was to Fallujah, Iraq in 2005.



    Date Taken: 09.13.2011
    Date Posted: 09.18.2011 07:07
    Story ID: 77205

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