News: Task Force Leatherneck transfers to 1st Marine Division
Story by Sgt. Jacob Harrer
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — The 2nd Marine Division (Forward) transferred authority of Task Force Leatherneck to 1st Marine Division (Forward) during a brief ceremony, here, Feb. 25.
Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division (Fwd), relinquished command to Maj. Gen. David H. Berger, commanding general of 1st MarDiv (Fwd).
Task Force Leatherneck is the Ground Combat Element of Regional Command (Southwest), covering Helmand and Nimroz provinces.
In the past year, Craparotta, a native of South Windsor, Conn., said his division’s focus was conducting population-centric counterinsurgency, which meant living among the people and spreading out the forces.
In addition, he stressed the importance of partnered operations.
“That’s how we developed the [Afghan National Security Forces], we lived with them, we ate with them and we operated with them everyday,” said Craparotta. “The young Marines set the example to the ANSF and that’s how we got them out there operating among the population. We gave them confidence and that’s how we accelerated their development.”
When Craparotta took command in March 2011, 1st MarDiv (Fwd), then led by Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, had developed a plan to dismantle the insurgency and interdict the route from the south, at Bahram Chah, near the Pakistan border.
According to Craparotta, 2nd MarDiv (Fwd) executed the plan, and as a result, the insurgency was unable to launch a spring offensive and only able to project a diminished fighting season, as compared to the one in 2010.
A second element of the campaign involved earning the trust and confidence of the Afghan people and opening up the freedom of movement opportunities for the citizens.
“We spent a great deal of time improving roads,” said Craparotta. “We gave the [Afghan] citizens an opportunity to get to the market; we facilitated their freedom of movement.”
Opening up the roads also allowed the Afghan National Army and coalition forces to connect the citizens with their local government, giving them the opportunity to interact with their provincial government—and the government to outreach to the citizens in their districts.
“We needed to convince the citizens that there was some benefit to them siding with their government,” said Craparotta. “This was critically important, especially for a people who have been… intimidated and lived through the past 35 years of violence.”
The Division also trained and established local police forces that supported ANSF and linked them to elders, district chiefs of police, and district government.
Berger and 1st MarDiv (Fwd) assumed command of TFL during a time of transition, in which the ANSF would assume greater responsibility in the security and stability of Afghanistan and its people. In the next year, the total footprint of coalition forces will be reduced by approximately two thirds and many of the bases throughout Helmand province will be closed or turned over to the ANSF.
“We’re moving from partnered [operations], to the next part in which they’re in the lead,” said Berger. “They’re doing the counterinsurgency—everything that we do is supporting the ANSF.”
Task Force Leatherneck’s mission surrounds encouraging the Afghans to take the lead in all aspects of security and governance. According to Berger, the 1st MarDiv (Fwd) will be focused on ensuring the ANSF have the tools needed to become more independent.
“Whatever they’re planning and whatever they’re executing,” added Berger, “that’s going to be the first on our list.”
The 1st MarDiv (Fwd) is slated for a one year deployment. During the course of the deployment, the division’s forces are scheduled to conduct a time-phased reduction, which will bring troop levels down by two thirds.
Editor’s Note: The 1st MarDiv (Fwd) works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force 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 ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.