CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq --
When Lt. Col. Geoff Rollins took command of 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team in October 2006, he had a daunting task before him.
Rollins had 18 months to prepare his Marines for mobilization and deployment to Iraq.
Reservists attend weekend drills one weekend each month and an annual training session each year in order to keep their proficiency honed in their military occupational specialties. The rest of the time, many reservists have typical American lives, with full-time civilian jobs and families.
Rollins, 42, drives more than 700 miles round trip from his home in Richmond, Va., once a month to attend his battalion’s drills. He balances his commitment to the Corps with his family, business career and passion for motorcycle riding.
In accordance with Marine Forces Reserve’s structure, 2nd Bn., 25th Marines is geographically dispersed, for the most part, throughout the northeastern U.S. Weapons Company is co-located with the battalion’s Headquarters and Service Company in Garden City, N.Y.; Company E is based in Harrisburg, Pa.; and Companies F and G are in Albany, N.Y., and Dover, N.J., respectively. The battalion also includes a heavy-weapons detachment from Broken Arrow, Okla.
Although each company drills together one weekend each month, the battalion only comes together once a year for their annual training, which typically lasts between two to four weeks.
Prior to the battalion’s mobilization in May, they received several hundred individual augments from other Marine units to fill out their ranks. The end result was a melting pot of both reserve and active duty service members, both new recruits and veterans, who hail from companies and detachments in 11 states.
They were trained and ready by September to join First Marine Expeditionary Force, an active duty unit based in Camp Pendleton, Calif., which was already in Iraq.
“Through teamwork we can maintain our traditional relationship between reserve and active components,” said Rollins. “I want this battalion to be the epitome of the total force concept. Discipline means doing what is right, all the time.”
The battalion is currently based at Camp Korean Village in Iraq’s western al-Anbar province with the mission of mentoring and providing operational over watch of Iraqi Security Forces.
Rollins cited one of his biggest challenges as “the loss of critical pieces of our pre-deployment training program,” as shortly before mobilization, the battalion’s timeline was moved up 30 days.
Next, shortly before their arrival in Iraq, Rollins was informed that he would have to divide his unit into two separate elements, geographically dispersed, after arriving in-country.
However, in classic Marine Corps fashion, the commander learned to adapt and overcome.
“First and foremost, our greatest accomplishment thus far is the successful split of the battalion for its two missions,” said Rollins. “This has not been done since World War II, and we have successfully executed two distinct missions as two separate task forces. The security-force detachment has made significant improvements to the force-protection posture of Al Asad Air base. The (Korean Village) detachment continues to separate the insurgents from the population with an aggressive patrolling plan, coupled with lines-of-operations management that has involved the battalion in key leader engagements, where we are working with the local government officials in their attempt to build capacity for growth. These lines of operation include economics, government, rule of law and communications.”
Rollins credits much of the success to the increased level of maturity which reservists bring to the table. He explained that this is due, in large part, to the years of both active duty service in the Marine Corps and subsequent civilian work experience, particularly in the fields of emergency medicine and police work.
As a sales consultant for a major information technology firm for 12 years, Rollins cites his own professional experience as a critical element of his development as a leader of Marines.
“Strength comes from cohesion and unity,” wrote Rollins in his command philosophy. “The majority of our Marines and sailors only spend a fraction of their lives in the Corps. During this period, we need to provide them the opportunity for improvement, not only to make a better Marine or sailor, but more importantly a better American citizen. We need to help form positive attitudes of service, honor and commitment. We owe them nothing less.”
Rollins’ previous combat tours include serving as a platoon commander with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, a company commander for 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1993 and as commanding officer of Echo Company, 2nd Bn., 25th Marines in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This is the battalion’s third mobilization since 2002 and their second deployment to Iraq.