GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan -- When U.S. Marines with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, arrived here in early November, they met an Afghan National Police force primed for development.
Their Afghan National Army counterparts were proficient and ready for transition, but the ANP were ready to grow.
Instead of simply replacing the police mentoring team of their predecessors — fellow Hawaii-based 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment — Kilo’s infantrymen dispersed along an 80-kilometer stretch to partner with ANP at each of the district’s five police precincts.
On their last deployment to Helmand province’s Nawa district in 2010, the Kilo Marines had a combat-specific mission and their own battlespace. Now, they’re partnered solely with the ANP and spread throughout the area of operations of 3/3’s four other companies.
Captain Brian Blaine, the commanding officer of Kilo Co., 3/3, and a native of Ruleville, Miss., said the mentoring mission is atypical for a forward-deployed infantry company, but it remains a vital task as coalition forces near transition of lead security responsibility to Afghan forces in Garmsir.
“We’re geographically preparing the battlespace for turn-over, with the ANA in the periphery and the ANP within the population centers,” Blaine said.
Since the ANA is proficient to the point that Marines are now just in an overwatch position, the goal is function primarily as a quick reaction force on the outskirts of population centers, Blaine added.
At the district police headquarters, Marine leaders work with District Chief of Police Lt. Col. Abdul Ahad Masloom to improve security operations and relationships with local government.
Simultaneously, the Kilo Marines are teaching the ANP how to better enforce the rule of law and protect the population inside their city centers. Four Kilo Company platoon commanders mentor ANP precinct commanders while their Marines and police work together, conducting vehicle checkpoints and security patrols.
“We mentor them, train them and live with them,” said 30-year-old 1st Lt. Adam Staff, the 2nd Platoon commander of Kilo Company, 3/3, and a native of Walton, Ky. “We do everything together.”
Prior to the Kilo’s arrival, many of Garmsir’s ANP had not spent extensive time working with Marines, said Cpl. Brian Ortiz, a 28-year-old squad leader with 2nd Plt., Kilo Company, 3/3, and a native of New York City.
Though not police officers by trade, Ortiz and the Kilo Marines have devoted themselves to mentoring and training their counterparts.
“We bring them on board with what we’re doing, explain the purpose and show them how to do it,” Ortiz said. “We explain that becoming a better police officer will improve their community. They’re motivated to do their job a lot more when we explain the reasoning behind what we’re teaching.”
Ortiz said the Marine mentors teach the ANP how to use their weapons and present themselves as officers. They cover security patrols, teaching the ANP how to brief patrol orders, coordinate patrol schedules and conduct the actual patrol missions. They reaffirm the importance of standing post on guard duty and the follow-up — relieving and replacing a fellow patrolman.
“When the Afghan people see their ANP are able to uphold the law and provide them security, they’ll put their trust in them,” Ortiz said.
Despite the challenge of growing a police force with limited logistical capabilities, Afghan and Marine forces are intent on further establishing the ANP in Garmsir. Police headquarters are being built in each of the district’s five precincts over the course of 3/3’s deployment.
The partnered efforts are also successfully weeding out police corruption, supporting police growth and helping to further the education of patrolmen. New training academies are either in use or under construction in Lashkar Gah and two partnered positions in Garmsir — Forward Operating Base Delhi and Patrol Base Amir.
Staff said the academies help increase the literacy of current ANP — a challenge throughout the district — and bring new patrolmen “to the fight.”
“We’re working with teachers in each precinct to help both commanders and their patrolmen improve (their literacy),” Staff said.
While the continued growth and increase in security is evident to the Kilo Marines from position of overwatch, the development is also being noticed among the ANP ranks.
Lieutenant Mohammad Dawood, the 2nd Precinct commander in the Garmsir ANP, partners with Staff at PB Amir Agha in Loya Darvishan. As a police veteran with experience battling the insurgency, he is highly regarded by ANP and the Kilo Marines as being well versed in policing and infantry tactics.
Dawood has extensive experience working with coalition forces and expressed gratitude for the knowledge he’s gained during his time spent with Marines. With transition in sight, the precinct commander is confident in future of his force.
“The police of Garmsir are ready to maintain the security of our own district,” Dawood said. “When the Marines of Kilo Company leave, we’ll continue to keep security and people will be happy with what we’re doing. We’re from this area and we’re proud to serve our people … they trust us. Our country has a strong future because we have our own forces and we’re staying with our people.”
As the local government’s roots deepen here, the growing police force has become an essential component of a secure future for Garmsir. The work isn’t done quite yet, but the ANP are making clear progress through their partnership with the 3/3 Marines.
“When we first got to Garmsir, we identified that the ANP had a long way to go,” Staff said. “Since then, they’ve made great strides with our Kilo Marines dispersed among them. The ANP still have shortfalls, but by the end of our deployment, as long as they continue to work hard and improve, they’ll be prepared.”
Editor’s note: Third Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.