CAMP HANSON, Afghanistan --
Marines here are making big moves for the future of Afghanistan.
Combat engineers in Marjah in direct support of 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, began demilitarizing bases in order to reduce their footprint from military operations here.
The battalion is currently manning 17 outposts in the Marjah area, but is planning to cut that number down to three posts to include Camp Hanson.
First Lt. John Winslow, Engineers Platoon commander serving with 2nd Bn., 9th Marines, said his Marines are preparing for the arrival of their replacement units who’ll man the three posts in Marjah. The Afghan National Security Forces here will operate the remaining outpost.
“We’ve spent a lot of time tearing outposts down completely or making them smaller to turn them over to the Afghan forces,” said Winslow, a Sacramento native. “We’ve been lucky in Marjah because there’s a huge ANSF presence here.”
Specifically on Camp Hanson, Marines serving with the guard platoon are providing security from various guard posts around the base. Engineers have already begun to tear down fortified walls to shrink the base’s perimeter. The Marines plan to reduce the posts by half by the end of their seven-month deployment.
Winslow said compacting the battalion’s reach is to facilitate efforts to keep Afghan forces in the forefront of security operations in their country.
“It’s to wean them off of our support. We’re giving them their own bases and having them use their own logistical support,” he said.
Sergeant Timothy Brookshire, a combat engineer serving with Engineers Platoon, said he remembers during his last deployment his unit came to Afghanistan building combat outposts – extending perimeters as more Marines inhabited positions around the country. Now, his mission has taken a U-turn.
“Last year, we were doing IED (improvised explosive devices) sweeps on the roads and building a few combat outposts,” said Brookshire, a native of Homer, Ga. “Now, they’re using engineers in different roles; we’re making our compound smaller. It’s just to make it easier on us so we can eventually transition out.”
In the spring of 2011, two Marine battalions controlled combat operations in Marjah. Through years of mentorship and training, Afghan police and soldiers began to take control of security operations in the area. Winslow said it’s just been a drastic decline in coalition forces, “which is the ultimate goal."
“Nowadays, anything the Afghan forces do for themselves is considered winning,” Winslow said. “It’s really an uncomfortable position, but we’re taking that backseat during partnered operations, giving them the security over watch. The whole point is to have them out in the front.”