KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
Marines and sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit began arriving in Afghanistan this week.
This deployment is in support and under the command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. During this deployment the MEU will conduct full-spectrum operations to capitalize on recent ISAF and Afghan Nation Security Force successes in providing a safe and secure environment for the Afghan people in which to rebuild their lives.
“We will bring stability to that area. The locals will feel a little safer,” said Gunnery Sgt. Paul Crawford, company gunnery sergeant, Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th MEU, ISAF.
Crawford cautioned about the immediacy of their impact. The 24th MEU is not expected to begin operations until the spring giving, the unit time to acclimatize and adjust for operations here.
The Marines of the ground combat element compare this deployment to their previous stint in Ramadi, Iraq because once again they have a chance to improve the lives of those suffering from unruly insurgents.
“Helping kids, starting schools back up, helping the area, making it less dangerous for the people as opposed to the terrorists running free, doing as they please, not letting the people live a free life like they have a right to,” explained Cpl. Chase Sachs, TOW vehicle gunner, Weapons Company, BLT 1/6, 24th MEU, ISAF.
The battle-seasoned Marine, who operates a long-ranged, vehicle mounted missile system, wants his time in Afghanistan, like that of Iraq, to be remembered for the progress of the country more than trigger pulling; something positive he can tell his 2-year-old daughter about his service.
“We opened up more schools; you could see a drastic change from when we first got there. You see more kids in the schools, kids outside in the streets playing,” said Sachs said of his tour in Ramadi.
Undoubtedly, the means to that end will come from the opposing end of the Marines’ rifles, a task they handled well in a 2004 deployment to Afghanistan.
“Obviously, last time 1/6 was here we made a big impact. Hopefully we will have more success this time,” said Crawford, a platoon sergeant during their four-month deployment in 2004.
The Marine Expeditionary Unit represents the smallest unit in the U.S. military combining air and ground combat assets and logistical support under one commander.
“The MEU is Marines and equipment capable to do a variety of missions; everything from limited objective raids to security operations, humanitarian assistant and disaster relief,” said Lt. Col. Matt Trollinger, operations officer, 24th MEU, ISAF.
Unlike a collection of separate units, the smaller MEU goes through their entire pre-deployment training as a collective.
“The three entities under the command element: a battalion, our aviation combat element, our combat logistics battalion, having worked together during that planning enables us to respond that much faster,” he explained.
That response ability was tested when the 24th MEU received the order to head directly to Afghanistan a mere month before their original deployment aboard Navy ships to act as a force-in-readiness in the Central Command theater of operations, and will continue to be tested as the MEU begins operations.