Mar 19, 2008
Marines in Afghanistan !!
Marines arrive in Kandahar; Joint Ops
With Canadians Expected
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN – There was no housing ready for them, so the arriving U.S. Marines claimed a desolate spot on the far side of the runway and started to build their base virtually as they rolled out of their aircraft.
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, under Col Peter Petronzio, brings some 2,300 Marines to the fight for stability in south-central Afghanistan. The Marines will work with the Canadian forces already on the ground, and under the command of NATO-ISAF will conduct full-spectrum operations to capitalize on recent ISAF and Afghan Security Force successes in providing a secure environment for the Afghan people.
The speed at which these men work is in keeping with the traditions of the United States Marines Corps, a force known for its ability to respond quickly and ferociously anywhere in the world, and there is an expectation that the thousands of Marines arriving will make an immediate impression ‘outside the wire.”
The Marines of the 24th MEU are making preparations to begin operations this spring, but right now are building the infrastructure from where they will be operating. In addition to building a tent city, they are installing showers, latrines, a gym, and even the ramps and laying the AM-2 matting necessary to land aircraft. Sleeping tents are being erected 24/7, and helicopters are being assembled as they are rolled out of the 40’ shipping containers in which they arrived.
Additionally, the Marines continue their usual training regime, maintain their physical fitness, and acclimate to the altitude.
Equally important is that the commanding officers and other key personnel from the Canadian, English, and other NATO forces meet and work to co-ordinate the Marines into the fight.
As reported in the Globe & Mail, as well as other Canadian newspapers, Canada has demanded another 1,000 troops in southern Afghanistan as the price for extending its mission to 2011. The 3,200 Marines currently arriving (approx 2,300 from the 24th MEU and 1,000 from 2/7 Marines out of 29 Palms) are officially scheduled to stay through the typical Marine deployment of seven months. The Globe & Mail reports that there is a widespread belief in Kandahar that they will be staying longer.
Col Petronzio rejected claim that the Marines were there to do the “heavy lifting” that many NATO countries have left to the Canadian and British forces. He also added that while many of his men had learned valuable counterinsurgency skills in Iraq, that every battle is fundamentally different. He added that his commanders would be looking to build on the "painful lessons" learned by a Canadian contingent that lost its 81st soldier this week.
Col. Petronzio said that the Marines, who as a MEU field their own helicopters, fighter jets, tanks, and artillery, will be happy to offer their allies access to any equipment they're not using.
The equipment most coveted by Canadians are the marines' helicopters, 25 of which would normally be deployed with an MEU. These include both attack and utility helicopters, as well as the medium- and heavy-lift choppers so urgently needed by Canadian forces.
"We go as a package," Col. Petronzio said yesterday. "If we're not going as a package, we're not going to have our stuff sitting here idle. It'll be available for the coalition."
Col. Petronzio also pointed to the extensive track record of close co-operation between the Canadian and United States militaries. "I think ... [we] have a long history of doing this together," he noted.
The Military Observer will be reporting in more detail on the 24th MEU in the upcoming weeks and months, as well as the 12th Marine contingent that has just arrived at Camp Black Horse, RCAC-Central. They are tasked to train the 201st Corp ANA troops in the eastern part of the country, out on the Afghan-Pak border.