With media coverage of Operation Enduring Freedom waning, budget discussions about ending funding to the war in Afghanistan, and focus turning away from the Middle East, U.S. forces are slowly being forgotten in the American conscious. But the fact remains that service members are still hard at work, working with and training Afghan troops and police on how to gain territory from insurgents, and maintain stability in their regions.
The Marine Corps is still playing an active role in establishing and maintaining Afghan security forces and supplementing their units, in addition to extensive training. In the Marine Corps Total Force, there are more than 4,000 Marines furthering the mission in Regional Command – Southwest.
Reserve Marines hold a critical part of that mission, augmenting active units to accomplish assigned activities.
“There are no differences between the work quality and quantity of the Reserve and active Marines,” said Capt. Joe Dewson, fires advisor for Security Force Assistance Advisory Team 2-215. “It is all about the Total Force, regardless of which component the Marines are assigned to, each brings a unique set of qualities and experiences to the unit.”
Dewson, part of SFAAT 2-215, said their mission is to provide assistance to, and more importantly, reinforcement of an Afghan solution, whether it is on the battlefield to dominate and win every fight with overwhelming force, or find enduring, Afghan solutions to Afghan challenges.
Advisor team 2-215 is a mix of active and Reserve Marines, hailing from several different units around the Corps. Like many of the advisor teams in Afghanistan, 2-215 sees its success when the Afghan National Army unit they are assigned to gains autonomy and initiative to control its area of responsibility.
Fulfilling this type of role is a huge experience booster not only for the ANA, but also the Marines.
“Through the support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom the past 13 years, the operational tempo and experience that has been built among our Reserve Marines has produced a momentum throughout the Total Force and a depth of experience throughout the ranks that is unprecedented,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, commander, MARFORRES.
Mills recognizes the large part the Reserve plays in the Total Force Marine Corps and plans to continue on the same course.
“During 2013, Marine Forces Reserve operations continued on a high operational tempo as our four major subordinate commands were called upon to provide 1,414 Marines and Sailors to support combatant commander operational requirements, and we plan to deploy 443 Marines and Sailors during 2014,” he said. “In addition, Marine Forces Reserve will deploy thousands of Marines to a multitude of theater-specific exercises and cooperative security events that are designed to increase interoperability with our allies, as well as developing theater security cooperation activities.”
And so, despite diminishing visibility to the American public, there are still Marines executing their assigned missions in a highly kinetic environment just as energetically and efficiently as when this mission started more than a decade ago.
Just as the Reserve component has not lost momentum in Afghanistan, Mills looks toward the future in all aspects of the Marine Corps mission.
“As part of the Marine Corps Total Force, Marine Forces Reserve’s commitment to organize, man, train, equip, and provide forces to augment, reinforce, and sustain the Active Component in support of combatant commander’s requirements remains so very vital now and for the future,” he said. “We live in a world of increasingly complex security challenges across the globe and fiscal uncertainty at home, but we stand ready, relevant, and responsive to meet any current operational requirements and energetically respond to future emergent contingencies.”