CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
The Marines with the Embedded Partnering Team, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), held a farewell dinner for their Afghan National Army counterparts aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Dec. 9.
According to Capt. Patrick Ross, the officer-in-charge of the EPT, the team “was partnered with the 215 Corps Logistics Battalion, Afghan National Army, to provide [mentors], staff development and technical training, in order to accelerate the maturation of the battalion. Through daily, direct advising and partnering our Marines and sailors attempted to prepare these Afghan soldiers to operate independent of coalition forces.”
The time has come for the ANA to begin training with a larger-scale operation, more specifically the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission - Afghanistan. It was with this upcoming transition in mind that the Marines and ANA soldiers came together for a “hail and farewell” between the outgoing EPT and the incoming NTM-A EPT.
“It is important for the Marines, sailors, linguists and Afghan soldiers to have closure to this part of their military lives,” Ross explained. “We have travelled, trained and toiled together for nine months, through some amusing and frustrating situations. Even rough and tough Marines and sailors become sentimental when it is time to say goodbye to good friends and fellow soldiers.”
Per ANA and EPT tradition, a highlight of the festivities was the volleyball game.
“Since we started playing with the Afghan soldiers in April, we have lost every game each Thursday,” Ross said good-naturedly. “Even when they threw the game on the 4th of July in honor of our holiday, we still could not pull of a legitimate victory.”
Joking aside, Ross and his Marines say they learned much from the soldiers in the training and logistical operations, as well as cultural aspects, and they hope that they taught the ANA an equal amount.
“I would like to think the Afghan leadership we worked with learned that despite gender, age or rank, a strong, knowledgeable soldier can do great things and lead his or her subordinates in a firm and effective manner,” Ross began. “We spent countless memorable hours with them in the dirt turning wrenches, behind the steering wheels in trucks and driving on the roads of Afghanistan. If nothing else, I think they learned some of the more technical aspects of soldiering.”
Both the Marines and ANA soldiers spoke of their hope for bright and safe futures of their counterparts, and a hope that they could once again come “shoulder-to-shoulder” to work together in the future. This has been their common theme throughout their training together.
“Despite the vast cultural, lingual and behavioral differences of the Afghan soldiers and the United States Marines and sailors, we found commonality through soldierly virtue, military lifestyle and our respective patriotism,” Ross said.
Capt. Brian Pugh, the logistics mentor with the EPT, said it was a “wonderful, but bittersweet celebration. It was sad to see our friends go. We built strong bonds over the last several months, but it was good to see the awesome progress they have made.”
Staff Sgt. Jason Browning, a mentor with the EPT, agreed that the farewell represented “a step in the right direction for the ANA, and for the Marine Corps. Turning over this mission to NTM-A on a successful note means great things.”