Story and photo by Cpl. Adam Leyendecker
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – In the mountains of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, a small group of Marines are wrapping up a successful tour of training Afghan National Security Forces.
The Marines, reservists with the Houston-based 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, deployed to Training Site Survey Lone Star in February and have spent the last several months helping Afghan Border Policemen become a more proficient force.
When the Texas Marines arrived at TSS Lonestar, they found themselves conducting almost all of the ABP’s training at the site. However, during the course of a steady transition, the Marines are preparing to leave having successfully handed over instructing duties to a mostly Afghan instructor group.
“This site was not expected to be Afghan-led for another two years,” said Gunnery Sgt. Rusty Smith, the site commander and a Houston native. “In addition, the Marines truly set an excellent example of leadership and professionalism I believe will endure for years to come in their Afghan counterparts.”
During their tour the Marines at TSS Lonestar mentored more than 2,000 Afghan police in firearms tactics, small unit patrols, vehicle operations and clear and sweep operations. Ninety-five percent of the trainees also earned tactical drivers’ licenses.
“The policemen that come through here come in with an open mind because every thing they are taught here they haven’t seen yet,” said Sgt. Michael A. Augustine, communications chief for the training detachment and a Houston native. “The students become eager once they see how locked on their Afghan instructors are.”
The ABP students learned more than just combat tactics. They learned how to act as professionals and it showed with the time and effort the policemen put forth to square away their uniforms each day, said 1st Sgt. Scott B. Wolfe, part of the battalion’s contribution to NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan
As the Marines prepare to return to Texas, the training site is now more than 75 percent Afghan-led.
“The Marines have put this site on track to be fully Afghan led in less than a year,” Smith said. “Every Marine on this mission went above and beyond to break language and cultural barriers and build solid relationships with Afghan instructors, interpreters and students. These positive relationships were the foundation of everything.”
The Marines who helped develop training at the site are now preparing to transfer authority of operations to a contingent with the Massachusetts-based 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.
“All the training and gear is there for them,” said Wolfe. “I hope 1/25 does even better than us.”
More photos here.