News: Q&A with senior Marine pilot in Afghanistan
Story by Cpl. Brian Adam Jones
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Maj. Gen. Glenn M. Walters, the senior Marine Corps aviator in Afghanistan, commands 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), the aviation combat element for the southwestern regional command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. He sat down to discuss the progress that has been made over the last 10 months in Helmand and Nimruz provinces under his command.
The general weighed in on counterinsurgency efforts through the end of the Taliban’s “summer fighting season,” including Operation Eastern Storm, a major offensive to secure Route 611 and the area south of the Kajaki Dam, key pieces of infrastructure in the Helmand River valley.
He spoke of the role of aviation in counterinsurgency efforts and how his Marines and aircraft will continue to keep the insurgency on its heels right up until he transfers authority to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in the early spring.
Q: Obviously we’re at the beginning of 2012 now, and you’ve said that our outlook and operations weren’t going to shift with the end of the summer fighting season, that we were just going to continue the fight, and taking the fight to the enemy and to the insurgency. But now that we’ve seen the end of fall and we’re into the cold of winter, what have the last few months been like for the Wing, operationally?
A: It really hasn’t changed from the summer, we conduct operations during the wintertime to keep the enemy off balance. That requires aviation support, both for our conventional forces and our special operating forces. We haven’t seen too much of a let up. We’ve been flying just as much during the wintertime as we did during the summertime.
Q: How does the conflict change during the winter, though?
A: Basically, the Taliban’s leadership tries to take the winter off, and we don’t let them. We still seek out their leadership. We still seek to increase our conventional forces in different operating areas. We pushed up to Kajaki, there’s no secret about that. All that happened during the winter months. We made it there a lot quicker than people thought. So we’re still taking the fight to the enemy and that’s the best way to disrupt and keep the insurgency off balance.
Q: Can you touch a little bit on Eastern Storm, and the success that we saw there?
A: Well, Eastern Storm, I hate to say it this way, but it’s been like all of our other operations here that have gone very, very well. The Marines on the ground, the Marines in the air, and the Marines supporting in the logistics command did just a fantastic job. All of the objectives were met ahead of time, at a cost, but I think the goals we had set were accomplished and they were accomplished with a lot more ease than some people had predicted.
Q: Can you speak a little bit to the importance of aviation in a counterinsurgency, particularly Afghanistan?
A: Aviation has three big and important roles in a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. One, it’s the one asymmetric advantage that we have over the enemy that we take advantage of. Two, it supports our Marines on the ground, keeps them resupplied, gets them back here quickly when they’re hurt, and provides aviation fires – in aviation fires it also provides a presence over the battlefield. It shapes and it limits what the Taliban can do against our Marines on the ground.
Q: Historically, how do you think the Marine Corps’ example that we set over the last 10 years, our ability to use the [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] and use aviation to project power, Sir, how do you think that’s going to fare in the history books?
A: I think our use of combined arms and the MAGTF in [counterinsurgency] operations and in conventional operations are well known throughout history. This just reinforces the power of the MAGTF, in my opinion, and shows what we can do when we’re given a battlespace, given a mission, and when we get together as Marines, how we can execute that mission very rapidly in defense of our nation.
Q: What are our goals over the next two months as our time here comes to a close?
A: To support the fight, right up until our [transfer of authority], to prepare the battlespace so that our fellow Marines who are going to replace us out here don’t see a hiccup or a burp in operations, and they continue the fight just as we have fought it for the last 10 ½ months.
Q: What are the differences, do you think in terms of the conflict that 3rd MAW (Fwd.) is inheriting, as to what you saw when you took over here, what sort of progress has been made?
A: There’s been tremendous progress, the next step I think under 3rd MAW’s tenure out here, they will see a shift from COIN operations, although we’ll continue to do COIN operations, to security force assistance and counterterrorism. All of that is going to require aviation support. The level and intensity will be determined by the enemy.