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    Transition in Garmsir: ‘America’s Battalion’ replaces ‘Lava Dogs’ in southern Helmand



    Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder  

    I Marine Expeditionary Force

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELHI, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Following the completion of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment’s successful seven-month deployment here, Lt. Col. Matthew J. Palma, 3/3 commanding officer, accepted responsibility of the district from Lt. Col. Sean Riordan, 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment commanding officer, during a relief in place and transfer of authority ceremony here, Nov. 17.

    Though “America’s Battalion” has been operating in Garmsir for two weeks, the ceremony marked the official turnover of the district between the two battalions.

    Under 1/3’s watch, Garmsir has become a symbol of progress. During their deployment, the “Lava Dogs” focused on preparing the Afghan National Security Forces to take on a greater role in counterinsurgency operations. The Marine and sailors of 3/3 will continue to mentor ANSF as they progress toward taking lead security responsibility in the district. Infrastructure development projects like canal reconstruction are in full swing district-wide.

    The threat of improvised explosive devices still looms over the district, but the pervasive insurgency of two years ago has almost completely disappeared.

    “The level of violence within Garmsir has decreased significantly, to the point where we’re now focusing our efforts on developing the Afghan National Police to provide this security,” Palma said. “As they continue to develop and mature, we’ll move into a position of over watch. This will allow them to continue to gain their own independent competence.”

    Over the course of their deployment, 3/3’s Kilo Company will train and mentor the ANP, and work together to establish police facilities in each of Garmsir’s eight precincts, Capt. Brian Blaine, Kilo Co. commander and a native of Ruleville, Miss., said.

    In positions beyond the battalion headquarters here, India and Lima Companies are integrating with a larger population and training the Afghan National Army. Further south, 3/3’s Weapons Company is partnering with the Afghan Border Police to prevent insurgent infiltration from across the eastern desert.

    The success of partnered efforts mirrors the outlook of local and Marine leaders on the future of Garmsir.

    Over his two years in office, District Governor Mohammad Fahim has received support from four Marine infantry battalions. He declared Garmsir the “safest district in Helmand province” because of the thriving partnership between Afghan and Marine forces here.

    Over a celebratory dinner at the district center, Nov. 17, Fahim thanked Riordan and his Marines for improving Garmsir and bolstering its security. He said this enabled the growth of education and allowed for construction projects including six schools and numerous bridges.

    Echoing the sentiments of a room packed with local elders, Fahim called the Marines of 1/3 his brothers, honoring their relationship forged over seven months of close partnership. He continued, speaking excitedly about the progress his district will make under the watch of Palma and the Marines of America’s Battalion.

    “We are winning this war,” Fahim said. “I’m optimistic that with the help of the 3/3 Marines, we’ll have peace and stability in Garmsir forever.”

    Palma assured the crowd of his dedication to making the district a safe place where future generations can live in peace.

    “This idea of a democratic Afghanistan is bigger than the insurgents can defeat … its momentum is unstoppable,” Palma said. “Afghanistan has a deep pool of talented, patriotic servants committed to the country, and a government willing to step up and accept responsibility of the interim security and overall destiny of the country. Our enemies are fighting a losing battle. They just haven’t fully accepted it yet.”

    Editor’s note: 3rd 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: 11.17.2011
    Date Posted: 11.20.2011 02:27
    Story ID: 80284

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