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    Afghan National Army maintains progress in Garmsir

    GARMSIR DISTRICT, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN

    11.01.2011

    Story by Cpl. Colby Brown 

    Regimental Combat Team-5

    GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand Province, Afghanistan — When 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment arrived in Garmsir, the Afghan National Army acted as augments to the infantry squads of the battalion. There were only a few un-partnered positions and 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps was spread throughout the district in groups of three or four soldiers.

    Now, nearing the four-year mark of their presence in Garmsir, the kandak is functioning as a unit. Where there were fire teams before, there are now squads. With mentoring and advice from 1/3, the kandak has consolidated its forces into elements that can operate independently.

    “What we can call a success is that we have started to take Garmsir in a different direction,” said Capt. Joshua Cavan, assistant operations officer for 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment and native of Amherst, N.Y. “On the hyperbolic curve, prior battalions were on the upside of the curve. The peak was when 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment was here and they cleared Safar and Durzay.”

    “We are now on the back slope of that curve,” added Cavan. “We’re not ready to pull out by any means but we’re now in the build phase. We’re building up the Afghan National Security Forces and closing some of the positions. We have gone from having more than 50 positions, with Marines, to having a little more than 30. The ANSF have gone from 18 positions to more than 25.”

    More than eight Marine patrol bases have been transferred to the ANA. Soldiers conduct their own patrols and Marines at partnered positions act as advisors and mentors. Although there hasn’t been a change in the number of soldiers, the number of autonomous ANA elements has increased.

    “I would say that 85% of the patrolling effort we have is ANA lead,” said 1st Lt. Brandon Salter, platoon commander of Combined Anti Armor Team 1, Weapons Company, 1/3. “It doesn’t take the Marines to drive them anymore, they are out there taking the initiative themselves and conducting operations.”

    “I feel if I turned my positions over to the ANA, they are not going to just sit there and allow the enemy to move around freely,” added Salter, a native of Kennesaw, Ga. “They are going to get out there and be aggressive with their patrolling. Just because we are pulling back into more of an over watch atmosphere, it doesn’t mean we aren’t there. We are still mentoring them, we’re still going out there and we still do joint patrols.”

    Over the course of 1/3’s deployment the ANA have participated in every operation, having taken the lead in four of them. Every squad has gone through a validation course, which brings the squad together at a Marine position and evaluates proficiency in patrolling, offense and defense movements.

    Afghan forces are becoming self-reliant, requiring little Marine logistical support. Further training continues with monthly classes conducted by 1/3’s Embedded Training Team.

    “Before, it was just two or three ANA soldiers at a patrol base and we, the Marines, would take care of them,” said Cavan. “Now that they have their own positions, they have to supply themselves.”

    “They can take care of the basic needs of their soldiers as far as food, water and fuel,” added Cavan. “In terms of a fully functioning supply and maintenance system, it’s coming along. They have made some strides but they are not to the point they can do it on there own… with continued mentorship they will get there.”

    With the help of Marines from 1/3, the ANA have progressed toward taking authority of security in Garmsir. As Marine forces consolidate in preparation for the planned transition of security responsibility to Afghan forces, the ANA soldiers of Garmsir look to fill the role.

    “Instead of the ANA being along for the ride, it’s now Afghan units operating independently,” said Cavan. “The simple switch of consolidating their forces into squads has made the biggest mark because now they are operating as a unit.”

    Being able to work alongside a foreign force, no matter the location, is an opportunity in of itself. The relationship is dynamic, often times working through a language and cultural barrier that can make daily tasks difficult. For the Marines of Combined Anti Armor Team 1, the experience of working with ANA soldiers is unique.

    Sgt. Angel Franco has patrolled almost every day with his ANA counterparts.

    “At first it was difficult conducting joint patrols,” said Franco, a section leader with CAAT-1 and native of Tucson, Ariz. “They don’t patrol the same as we do. But now, it’s much better. They respond to our advice and if we have a problem we sit down and fix it by talking to each other.”

    “It has just shown me that they care about their country and they want to take control of security in their own country,” added Franco.

    This sentiment is echoed by the other Marines of CAAT 1, who see their experience of training and mentoring Afghan soldiers as one they soon won’t forget.

    “When I call back home I tell my family that this is a once in a lifetime experience,” said Salter. “Being able to train and lead Marines and at the same time work alongside a foreign force and watch them grow, build and take pride … to see them start raising Afghan flags and start taking pride in their country, it’s great. It’s rewarding to get to be a part of that.”

    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.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 11.01.2011
    Date Posted: 11.01.2011 04:06
    Story ID: 79365
    Location: GARMSIR DISTRICT, HELMAND PROVINCE, AF

    Web Views: 931
    Downloads: 1

    PUBLIC DOMAIN