Friday, January 22, 2010

I MEF Marines meet Afghan allies

by Gunnery Sgt. Christian Harding
I MEF

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Jan. 22, 2010) — A delegation of Afghan National Army officers visited 1st Marine Expeditionary Force recently to observe Marine training programs and provide valuable insight as the partnering force to the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.

"What is building a solid partnership between the United States and Afghanistan is that the Marines are working along side our forces with full support and coordination, as opposed to simply advising and tasking," said Brig. Gen. Muhaiuddin Ghori, commanding general, 3rd Kandak, 205th Corps, Afghan National Army, in his opening comments to I MEF staff members. "Marines conducted operations in Now Zad and Garmsir district excellently. I feel that such a success was possible due to their coordination with the Afghan National Army."

"With the help of Marines, local villages are seeing improvements in very short time. More Af-ghans are dropping their weapons and picking up tools to begin work on their lands," added Ghori.

Marine forces on the ground in Afghanistan have impressed Ghori and Marine leaders strive to build on this positive impression.

"As we build our forces for this mission, we are taking a hard look at how we partner and mentor with the ANA forces," said Lt. Col. John Martinko, current operations officer, I MEF, during his introduction brief. "Marine air ground task forces are specifically tailored for the given mission ... they are scalable. Our focus is on turning over the battle space to the ANA through partnering."

As part of their visit, the Afghan officers observed the day-to-day running of a division command operations center. The also toured tour the battle simulation center and met the key advisors of the leadership training program for the Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The orientation concluded with a visit to I MEF's "tent city" to observe Marine pre-deployment scenario training. Referred to as an MRX, the scenario training exercises provide a learning envi-ronment in which Marines work through orchestrated scenarios similar to those they might encounter while deployed to Afghanistan.

"In the future, I would like to see more integration of ANA officers with these types of exercises," said Ghori. "I believe it will have a positive impact and guarantee the level of free interaction that we already share with Marines."

"The officers in this delegation are in the unique position and carry the specific skill sets that allow them to see and understand the training programs here, which they can take back to their officers and expand their training knowledge," said Air Force Capt. Seth Asay, escort officer from NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan, Afghan Integrated Unit Training office.

The visit took the Afghan officers to the School of Infantry where they observed scenario-based training specifically adapted to familiarize new Marines with situations they might encounter in Afghanistan. As the Marine Corps adapts for duty "in every clime and place," the school conducts training for not only conventional warfare, but irregular warfare tactics.

The delegation toured a "shoot house" where infantry students get a taste of dynamic entry tactics as they learn close-quarters battle skills. The group also visited the school's forward operating base training facility.

"The Marine Corps has an excellent infantry training program here, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to see things firsthand," said Lt. Col. Sayed Mohammad Gulakai Malekzai, operations officer, 205th Corps, ANA. "Marines are very well trained and will be successful in Afghanistan."

"The instructors are doing well to make the training as realistic as possible," said Col. Mohammad Aslam Mohammad Hashim Hashmi, also an operations officer with the 205th Corps. Hashmi was especially impressed with the realism of the training adding, "These Marines will be mentally prepared when they arrive in Afghanistan."

As Hashmi, Malekzai, and other Afghan officers toured the facilities at the School of Infantry, staff members from the school explained the various training programs and their intended outcomes.

"We equip entry-level Marines with the basic combat skills of Marine infantrymen," said Col. Brennan T. Byrne, commanding officer, School of Infantry, in his introduction brief to the dele-gation. "This training is also given to Marines in non-infantry fields of work."

This visit to I MEF and the School of Infantry were part of a two-week-long orientation of train-ing programs and exercises that also included observation of training of Marine Transition Teams, infantry training at the Marine Corps Infantry Immersion Trainer, and basic skills devel-opment at the School of Infantry.

PHOTO: Afghan Brig. Gen. Muhaiuddin Ghori maneuvers alongside a Marine fire team on patrol in a virtual village in the infantry immersion trainer during a visit to Camp Pendleton Jan 20.

Source: US CENTCOM.

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