CAMP BARBER, Afghanistan --
CAMP BARBER, Afghanistan – When it was announced that more Marines were needed to support Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Afghanistan, close to 300 Marines raised their hands and volunteered.
Anxious to join the fight, these Marines deployed as combat replacements to fill in for the combat losses suffered by TF 2/7 since it arrived here in early April.
Of those who “stepped forward,” only 150 were selected. Surprisingly, many of the volunteers had just returned from serving in Iraq. Upon hearing these Marines had cut their post-deployment leave short, senior leaders were awestricken to see so many Marines come forward to support their fellow warriors in comba
“This is what Marines do; they answer the call when needed,” said Sergeant Maj. Matthew B. Brookshire of TF 2/7, now part of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan. “It was humbling to see so many volunteers. It is truly inspiring, and it speaks tremendously of their character and courage.”
The first group of combat replacements landed here at the Bastion flight line on September 11. Also referred to as 9/11, this date serves as a constant reminder of the atrocious and horrific attacks that took place on U.S. soil seven years ago. The events that resulted from these terrorist attacks against the Pentagon and World Trade Center towers led to America’s involvement in the global war on terrorism.
In light of their Iraq deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and now their support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the combat replacements have sacrificed time to spend with family and friends to support TF 2/7 in its mission to conduct counterinsurgency and full spectrum operations with an emphasis on police mentoring of the Afghan National Police. A reinforced infantry battalion of approximately 1,000 Marines, TF 2/7 is currently operating throughout the Helmand and Farah provinces -- an area estimated as large as Vermont.
Although this display of selflessness and dedication to duty will certainly attest to the character and values of each deploying service member, Sergeant Maj. Brookshire offered thanks to the senior leadership at 1st Marine Division as well.
“Credit for getting the Marines here goes to the 1st MarDiv staff,” Sergeant Maj. Brookshire said. “Everything we have needed, they have found a way to make it happen. Their support has been outstanding.”
Assembled from various units within 1st Marine Division, including 1/7, 1/5, 2/1, 2/4, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, and Headquarters Battalion, the combat replacements had only a short time to prepare for this deployment. The Marines of 2/4 had just returned to California a few months ago.
“We came back from a deployment with the 31st (Marine Expeditionary Unit) in mid-July,” said Sgt. Sean R. Patereau, a machine gunner from 2/4 and Tacoma, Wash., native, “We weren’t scheduled to return from block leave until Aug. 21, but most of us were back by the 18th to deploy to Afghanistan.”
Other Marines, particularly those assigned to 1/7, are scheduled to deploy to Iraq within only a few months after TF 2/7 ends their OEF deployment.
“Marines march to the ‘sound of the guns,’” said Lt. Col. Rick Hall, commander, TF 2/7, noting that he was thoroughly impressed by the caliber of Marines joining his task force. He said he was absolutely floored by the number of Marines who had volunteered to join his unit.
Many of the Marines said they volunteered because the battalion needed help and Marines go where they are needed to help each other. One Marine even volunteered because his childhood friend serves with TF 2/7.
“Sgt. Alvin M. Klauson, Jr., and I grew up in the same neighborhood. We lived five houses apart, and went to the same high school,” said Cpl. James D. Shymanik, an assault man from 2/4 and Gurnee, Ill., native. “I came out here to help him.”
The majority of the Marines, however, said the reason they volunteered for this deployment was the chance to fight.
“Nobody joins the Marine Corps for college benefits, or because you make a lot of money. It doesn’t matter if they’re a rifleman or an aviation tech, people become Marines because they want to go out and fight the war,” said Capt. James D. Searels, the Combat Replacement Detachment OIC and Trion, Ga., native,
“Everyone wants to go to Afghanistan, even the commandant, because this is where the kinetic fight is and that’s what Marines are good at,” Capt. Searels said. “Marines are good at blowing stuff up and killing enemy forces who deserve to be killed. That’s what’s going on here right now.”
While supplementing a unit with combat replacements is not a new concept, the sergeant major thought it was extraordinary how the planning came to fruition.
“We are still above our required numbers for deployment, but with the casualties and our short-term deployers who returned to the States, we were just spread too thin throughout our area of operations,” said Sergeant Maj. Brookshire, explaining the reason behind the task force requesting additional forces. “The short term deployers didn’t count against our total strength, but we soon came to realize that they were a vital asset to the fight.”
During his introduction, Lt. Col. Hall explained the task force mission and thanked the Marines for raising their hands on short notice to fill in for his unit’s combat losses.
Due to the previous coordination made in selecting the Marines and preparing for their arrival, the Marines had few questions to ask the task force commander. Although, a few of the questions asked when they arrived here were, “When do we get our Ammo?” and a few asked, “How can we stay to serve with the replacement unit?”
Lt. Col. Hall took an opportunity to brief the Marines on the roles they’re expected to fill and dispel any rumors or exaggerated casualty figures they may have heard. He also took a few minutes to explain the Afghan culture.
“This is not Iraq, and you need to have a proper perspective on this place,” Lt. Col. Hall said. “You will appreciate the difference, as the Afghans are more like us. Your efforts here will be more quickly and greatly appreciated by the people.”
“What you are doing is unprecedented,” added Lt. Col. Hall, referring to his combat replacements as “magnificent young men.” “You have volunteered for one of the toughest and most critical missions for the defense of our nation. You are handpicked out of 280 volunteers… you are some of the most combat ready NCOs and ‘warriors’ in 1st Marine Division.”