CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- While many Marines spend their time advising the Afghan National Security Forces, there is another group of Marines who work directly with the Afghan government.
The Marines with the Civil Affairs Detachment, Regimental Combat Team 7, assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with governance and development.
The detachment is comprised of 11 Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and is divided into two basic parts: four Marines who work with the RCT command and seven Marines who help with the daily advising of local government officials throughout Helmand province.
At the RCT level, the Marines process reports, attend meetings and provide information about civil affairs projects, said Gunnery Sgt. Dwayne Baters, the detachment staff noncommissioned office-in-charge. The Marines also handle information requests and provide logistical support to the civil affairs Marines at the smaller bases.
“The Marines belong to the RCT, so we check on how they live and make sure they are doing well,” said Baters, a native of Harlingen, Texas.
Since the Afghan government has taken the lead role in projects and governance, the number of civil affairs Marines throughout the province has been reduced. Many of them operate independently from small bases in support of battalions and government agencies.
“Everyone loves them—the battle space owners, the provincial reconstruction teams, the state department, everyone,” said Maj. Stefan Sneden, the detachment deputy officer-in-charge.
The Marines are a valuable asset to local commanders because they are fully-trained Marines, but they are also trained to understand politics and government, Sneden said.
“They’re able to provide commanders with intelligent information about politics in the district,” said Sneden, a native of Stillwater, Oklahoma and graduate of the University of Oklahoma. “They’re trained to focus on the government and politics and then provide the commander with guidance.”
A few years ago, civil affairs Marines were busy with development projects like building schools and water wells in the area. Now, the government of Afghanistan is in charge of similar projects.
“Less projects run by the Marines means more development by the Afghan government,” said Sneden.
A few months ago, a number of Afghans in Musa Qal’ah district came to the coalition forces for help for the poor and hungry. Coalition troops told them to contact their local government.
The Helmand provincial governor, Naaem Khan Baluch, heard this appeal and facilitated aid to the people, said Maj. Matthew Winkelbauer, the civil affairs detachment officer-in-charge.
“He made a promise to his people to purchase humanitarian aid packages from the local market with rice and oil, and then he delivered on his promise a few days later,” Winkelbauer said.
“They worked through their own system to get their people help.”