CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- With temperatures in the 110s, Marines and sailors with Regimental Combat Team 7 closed the final page on a chapter in Helmand province during a casing of the colors ceremony here, July 31.
Over the past several years, RCTs have turned over their responsibilities to the next RCT as the combat mission in southwest Afghanistan continued, but this time was different. Afghan National Security Forces have taken control of combat operations throughout Helmand, which has eliminated the need for a Marine infantry regimental headquarters. Instead, RCT-7 has officially turned over its responsibilities to Regional Command (Southwest).
Marines with RCT-7 have spent the last 10 months providing support to ground combat units and security force assistance adviser teams and retrograding equipment out of Afghanistan.
While the RCT will be the last in Helmand province, the Marines recognize they are the benefactors of the hard work of previous Marines.
“It’s the progress that’s been made that allows us to be the last (RCT),” Col. A. E. “Sparky” Renforth said. “This is a big day for all the regiments who came before us, and if it wasn’t for their hard work we wouldn’t be in this position — to be able to leave.”
In the fall of 2009, RCT-7 began its first deployment to Helmand province. Since then Marines with 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 8th Marine Regiments have deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In October 2012, 7th Marine Regiment again deployed and is the only RCT to have deployed here twice.
“I think the (Marines’) endurance and flexibility has impressed me the most,” Renforth said. “What the Marines have done is kept their positive attitude the entire time—nothing ever fazed them, and it was really impressive to be a part of it.
“I say all the time, ‘It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t care who gets the credit.’ That’s what our Marines have lived by, and they all know that they made a difference,” he added.
Renforth and Sgt. Maj. Scott Samuels, the RCT-7 sergeant major, furled the regiment’s colors and then encased them, symbolizing that the regiment’s mission is complete.
“We’ve thought the whole time about the legacy that came before us and not wanting to let down those Marines,” Renforth said. “We’re proud to have been the last regiment.”