GARMSIR DISTRICT, AFGHANISTAN
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Against the backdrop of a piercing mid-day sun, a squad of U.S. Marines quietly patrols along a Garmsir road. A slew of guests walk evenly within their ranks, following their escorts through the bazaar.
For the first of three times this week, the Marines of Guard Force Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, provide security for their guests to meet with local leaders at the district center here.
This isn’t their first task of the day. A few hours before, they posted security from guard towers around nearby Forward Operating Base Delhi, providing overwatch in the biting cold, shivering through five-hour, early morning shifts.
It also isn’t their last duty of the day. Each is part of Guard Force’s endless cycle of shifts on post, patrol and rest. Even during their rest time, each of the platoon’s three squads remains ready to function as a quick reaction team.
“Our operational tempo is rigorous and our schedule is always changing,” said Sgt. Curtis Wolf, a 27-year-old Guard Force squad leader, and native of Bellevue, Mich. “The grind for our Marines is seven months of irregular sleep hours and not much off-time.”
Guard Force isn’t a traditional infantry platoon. It’s a melting pot of Marines from various occupational specialties.
“We’re sent radio men, admin clerks and supply Marines, and we turn them into infantrymen,” Wolf said. “Our challenge is helping them maintain their specialties while teaching them to assist their squad as proficient infantrymen.”
On patrol, the Guard Force Marines trudge through the nearby bazaar in full combat gear. They are the face of the battalion in the area surrounding FOB Delhi, bridging the cultural gap by amiably greeting curious Afghan children and merchants in Pashto. They’ve quickly built rapport during their first month in Garmsir, enabling once-inquisitive stares to give way to friendly interaction.
“Our relationship with the locals is an important part of our job,” Lance Cpl. John Hagan, a 23-year-old Guard Force team leader and Philadelphia native, said. “They see us frequently, which shows them we’re helping secure the area they live in. Building a mutual respect helps us better support them and allows us to gain intelligence on enemy activity here.”
On post, they function as the main security element for the battalion headquarters, observing the area surrounding FOB Delhi from lofty guard towers. They watch and wait, rifling through their thoughts to battle boredom and tiredness.
“Mentally, post is a lot harder than patrol,” said Lance Cpl. Christian Yamada, a 19-year-old Guard Force team leader from As Mahetog, Saipan. “We need to muster up the willpower to stay awake. There isn’t always somebody to talk to, but we all like it because it gives us so much time to think.”
Despite the infrequent insurgent activity here, the Guard Force Marines are resolute in their mission. For seven months, they’ll labor through a repetitive but essential grind, protecting their fellow Marines, Afghan National Security Forces and civilians based out of FOB Delhi.
Their duties are rarely exciting, but this melting pot of Marines has found satisfaction in tackling these tasks together.
“We joke around in our off-time, but we flip the switch to ‘on’ when we’re standing post or on patrol,” Yamada said. “After all is said and done in a day, we go to sleep. When we wake up to do it again, we’re still with the same people … our friends.”
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This work, On post or patrol, Guard Force Platoon maintains security in Garmsir, by SSgt Reece Lodder, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.