CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Marines and sailors aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan gathered for a relief in place/transfer of authority ceremony, Oct. 25.
After 10 months of service, Regimental Combat Team 6 will be returning home to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., while Regimental Combat Team 7 takes over their area of operations in southwest Afghanistan.
RCT-6 has been deployed to northern Helmand province and Nimruz province since December of 2011. In the July of 2012 they took over all of southern Helmand as well from RCT-5. RCT-7 is expected to stay for a year with all of Helmand province and Nimruz province as their area of operation.
“I would like to tell you how proud I am of the Marines of RCT-6,” said Col. John Shafer, commanding officer, RCT-6. “Every RCT headquarters that’s deployed in support of (Operation Enduring Freedom) since the beginning of the surge has had daunting challenges.
“These Marines have met all the challenges and then some,” he continued. “They’ve not only come and faced a determined enemy and partnered with a determined force—their (Afghan National Security Forces) partners—but they’ve done it in the midst of a surge recovery.”
The ANSF consist of all the military, police and security forces in Afghanistan. The surge recovery was the rapid redeployment of about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan in order to meet the presidential drawdown deadlines.
Other challenges faced by RCT-6 that Shafer talked about were a reduction of 30-40 percent of troops in the area of operations and taking over another battle space. The addition of another battle space made a total of 55,000 square kilometers that RCT-6 was responsible for. This simultaneously doubled RCT-6’s responsibilities and reduced their personnel by nearly half.
“What’s most notable to me is the way they have done it, all with a smile on their face and an understanding that their mission is about ensuring the Marines in the battalions and our coalition partners have what they need, when they need it,” he said. “And they’ve done that amazingly, absolutely amazingly.”
After Shafer’s speech, Col. Austin Renforth, commanding officer, Regimental Combat Team 7 spoke to them.
“The Marines of Regimental Combat Team 7 would like to thank Col. John Shafer, Sgt. Maj. Deets and the rest of his team for a very professional and thorough turnover,” said Renforth. “You guys bent over backwards and we couldn’t ask for anything better.
“Along with our Afghan partners, (we) will endeavor to build not only on the successes of not only RCT-6 but of all the regimental combat teams that have gone before us,” added Renforth.