COMBAT OUTPOST TORBERT, Afghanistan --
The small combat outpost, surrounded by open desert and tiny farming villages in southern Helmand province’s Garmsir district, is the quietest it’s been since December 2010.
Over the past 16 months, Afghan and coalition forces have employed Combat Outpost Torbert as a key location for stabilization and the growth of governance in Garmsir’s once-volatile Banadar region.
Today, Afghan forces will soon assume lead security responsibility for the district, as coalition forces have stepped back into an overwatch role. This development enabled U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, to transfer COP Torbert to Afghan Border Police, April 20, 2012.
The position was named in honor of fallen Cpl. Eric M. Torbert, Jr., a combat engineer with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion. While supporting 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion on a night patrol in Banadar, Dec. 18, 2010, the 25-year-old Lancaster, Pa., native was killed by an improvised explosive device on the ground that came to bear his name.
Shortly after Torbert’s passing, Marines with 3rd LAR cleared the surrounding area and established a fighting position, naming it Patrol Base Torbert to carry on their brother’s memory and honor his sacrifice.
“Cpl. Torbert loved being a Marine,” said Staff Sgt. Scottie Carter, who served as Torbert’s platoon guide during their deployment with 3rd LAR. “The fact that he had the opportunity to help people from another country made him very proud. He truly was the type of man that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.”
Following their sister battalion, 2nd LAR operated from PB Torbert before transitioning control of the position to 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, in November 2011.
Since the PB had previously supported only 16 Marines and four armored vehicles, it had to grow once Weapons Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, arrived. They expanded the position beyond its original walls and re-designated it as Combat Outpost Torbert. It grew to support 83 Weapons Co. Marines and sailors, 20 vehicles and partnered forces with 2nd Tolai, 2nd Kandak, ABP.
From COP Torbert and two other positions in Banadar, the Weapons Co. Marines tackled a challenging task. In addition to developing the Afghan National Security Forces, conducting partnered combat operations and helping bring 50 Afghan Local Police to the area, they were critical to expanding Afghan governance in Banadar, said 1st Lt. Garrett Johnson, the Combined Anti-Armor Team 1 Platoon commander for Weapons Co., and a native of Oakland, Calif.
The Weapons Co. Marines worked closely with Banadar elders to deepen local involvement with the district government. This resulted in Banadar’s representation by three seats in the April 17 district community council elections, a first since the elections began in Garmsir in 2009.
“We’ve watched the elders of Banadar take a vested interest in developing their security,” said Maj. Jason Armas, the Weapons Co. commanding officer and a native of Rye, N.Y. “The region was completely ungoverned a year ago, but it’s now fully a part of Garmsir’s government … and the best thing is that they want to be a part of it.”
As the partnered forces worked toward transition, the COP Torbert-based Marines were faced with a daunting mission surrounding the retrograde and stateside redeployment of military gear, Armas said.
“Since so many Marine battalions have worked in Garmsir, retrograde became an enduring task from the day we arrived,” he said.
Over the course of their deployment, the entirety of ‘America’s Battalion’ has been tested by position consolidation and the movement of equipment. Upon its November arrival in Garmsir, the infantry battalion inherited 62 positions. Since then, it has demilitarized or transferred 59 of them to Afghan forces, including COP Torbert. Coalition forces maintain the remaining three.
In coordination with the battalion’s logistics assets, Weapons Marines accounted for, packed and helped transport approximately $27 million dollars of military gear out of COP Torbert. Once they departed for the last time, the only physical reminders that Marines once occupied the position were guard posts and walls made of Hesco barriers — a foundation for the continued success of Afghan forces in Garmsir.
Though the small combat outpost is now run solely by Afghan forces, the legacy of Cpl. Eric M. Torbert, Jr., and the memory of his sacrifice haven’t faded.
“Cpl. Torbert was a great young man, loving husband to his wife, good friend to all and a great Marine,” said Carter, a native of Augusta, Ark. “He will be missed by a lot of Marines, and his memory will always be carried on through his family and friends.”
Amid progress and security in Garmsir, Afghan forces have also acknowledged the impact of his selfless service, proudly maintaining the position’s name as Combat Outpost Torbert.
“I think the Afghan forces recognize we are willing to fight and die alongside them to help protect them from those who seek to do harm against their people,” Carter said. “Keeping the position’s name as Torbert is a way for them to recognize Cpl. Torbert’s sacrifice … to remember that he gave his life to help this country and its people.”
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