Story and photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, provided transportation for Daoud Mohammad, the Washir district governor, and Afghan National Army soldiers from the 215th Corps, during shuras, or meetings, with local Afghans outside of Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Aug. 19.
Mohammad, who represents the district which Camp Leatherneck falls in, visited with locals of Shorab City and another village to the south of the city. Both villages lie just outside Camps Leatherneck and Bastion, the province’s largest coalition bases.
“The purpose was to get him out and to interact with the people, hear their plights and see what he can do to help them out,” said 1st Lt. Andrev Swedenborg, a platoon commander with Weapons Company and a Detroit native. “Also, we wanted to just get out there and mingle with the locals to see what they have going on.”
Local villagers greeted Mohammad with grins and excited voices. While he may not get to visit everyone under his governance as frequently as he would like, he said he understands it is important for him to make visits such as this to show people that he is there to help them.
After exchanging greetings, the district governor sat down alongside about a dozen locals for a shura. Typically during these meetings those present will sit, talk, drink tea and eat. However, this shura ran slightly different due to Ramadan, a month-long religious observation when devout Muslims fast during hours of sunlight.
Instead of enjoying tea and food, the men sat in the shade and discussed local security and law.
Though the security and law enforcement in the village has been improving, there have still been some issues, Swedenborg explained. One of the village elders has been accused of illegally charging people in the village rent for living or conducting business on land that is actually owned by the government.
Though the accused elder was not there, the district governor and locals discussed his possible location as well as what the government and coalition forces could do to help improve the development of the area.
“I think it was good for the people to see the district governor out there during Ramadan,” Swedenborg said. “They got to see that the he continues to do his job while fasting and observing the holiday.”
While the Afghan officials socialized with the locals, the Marines provided security to the outer part of the villages, allowing the ANA to take the lead in the security.
“It was another good instance of how we’re getting ready to turn all of this over to the ANA,” Swedenborg said. “It’s a chance to legitimize their roles and patrols out there in the community, showing how we’re starting to limit our role and maximize theirs.”
“I do like how we pushed the ANA out there to the upfront face for the people to see that they are legitimately out there doing their jobs,” added Cpl. Bobby J. Diaz, a squad leader with Weapons Company, and a native of Austin, Texas. “It’s not just the U.S. military out here running the roads. Seeing that the ANA is out there with us shows the locals that they are here to protect and enforce the laws out here. It gives them the trust they need to know that when coalition forces leave, we’ll still have people to keep security in the area.”
The Marines of 1st Bn., 23rd Marines, nicknamed the Lone Star Battalion, are scheduled to return to Houston this fall.
More photos here.