Dear Interested Reader,
New girls in town: FET resets. Michigan native makes name for himself in Marine Corps. Buffalo Marine lives for challange, thrives at Camp Leatherneck. Afghan, U.S., French discuss force shifts. ISAF Joint Command operational update, Nov. 16, 2011.
Iraq: We leave when you leave.
New girls in Town: FET resets
Story and photos by Cpl. Katherine Keleher
Cpl. Brandy Bates, assigned to Female Engagement Team (FET) 11 in Marjah district, Helmand province, and a native of Mich., listens to other Marines with FET, talk about their experiences during deployment, Nov. 13.
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province – A surge of over 40 Marines with the FET came to Camp Leatherneck, Nov. 11-15, where they were able to kick up their boots and talk about their experiences in Afghanistan, since they began their deployment.
The Marines assigned to the team travel to Camp Leatherneck every 45 days for reset training, before going back to their battalions. In their reset training classes, the Marines covered topics such as Rules of Engagement, escalation of force, and basic lessons learned on relationship building with the local Afghan populace.
“It gives us an opportunity to re-group and re-organize our missions,” said Sgt. Jessica Lugo, the FET 6 team leader in Sangin district, who grew up in Los Angeles. “A lot of things can happen in 45 days. When we come back here we can do those lessons learned, recap, learn anything and revise anything that we might need to execute later on in the future.”
The mission of FET is to reach out to and interact with Afghan women and their children. Until FET was established, women and children were not heard from because of cultural restrictions. Afghan women past the age of puberty are not permitted to talk to men.
Since FET, made up of nearly 2 dozen 2 to 3-member female teams of Marines and Sailors serving as hospitalwomen, were stood up nearly 2 years ago, they've been able to build relationships with Afghan women within their communities.
A main priority of the FET team members during reset training is to talk among one another about lessons learned, and come up with new ideas on how to approach women, different ways to get word out in the villages about upcoming meetings, or even different ways to possibly get local Afghans to understand the importance of sending their children to school.
"It's nice to hear about the progress being made in other districts such as Marjah, and what they're doing, so that when it comes time when teams such as the ones in Sangin are ready to do something new, they already have an idea about what should and should not work," emphasized Lugo, who is an MP by trade.
"Sangin district, where Marines recently executed Op Eastern Storm, is still considered to be a major insurgent threshold, and many locals are still too fearful to leave their compounds," Lugo explained, "making it exceedingly difficult for coalition troops to work toward counterinsurgency (COIN)."
“I can tell you that 90% of the women we talk to have never seen FET,” she said. In response, FET teams in Sangin district spend as much time as possible in public, meeting as many of the local women as possible. Team members agree that success can be measured in small and large ways.
“We did a bicycle handout with the students that participated in our old COP for good attendance in school,” said Cpl. Brandy Bates. “We handed out about 40 different bicycles."
“We also discovered a girls' school with about 110 girls ranging from ages 6 to 15, which was really nice. We've some hygiene classes we’ve given to the ANA, as well as some of the local children,” said Bates.
Armed with lessons learned during reset training, and the successes of previous FETs, current team members said that they're looking forward to accomplishing their missions and goals within the communities of Helmand prov., in the upcoming months.
Sgt. Jessica Lugo listens to other Marines with FET talk about their experiences during deployment, Nov. 13.
Michigan Native Makes Name for Himself in Marine Corps
Story and photos by Sgt. Earnest Barnes
Cpl. Matthew Troutman, a Mich. native, and the asst. ops chief for HQ Bn (Fwd), 2nd Marine Div (Fwd), points out a shooter’s shot group during a recent rifle range. Troutman coordinates rifle ranges and other training events, for units that belong to 2nd Marine Div (Fwd) that are just arriving to Afghanistan.
CAMP LEATHERNECK – Cpl. Matthew Troutman knew exactly what he wanted when he left the small town he hails from, and it was something as simple as a name. “I couldn’t walk down the street without people saying, 'you’re a Troutman, aren’t you?' He added, “I needed to get away and make a name for myself instead of being known for my dad’s name.”
Troutman, who is cordially known as “Fish” to his co-workers, decided he wanted to join the military, which was not uncommon for his family. Troutman took his family and friends off guard, when he told them he was joining the Marine Corps.
“I graduated high school at 118-lbs. No one thought I could do it. I did it to prove people wrong,” said Troutman. “I knew I would be a stereotypical college kid – I would have partied and dropped out. I knew that the Marines would straighten me out, and I knew it would be the toughest, so I figured go big or go home!”
Troutman joined the Marine Corps in July 2006 as a data tech, fixing broken electronics like computers, power supplies, and printers. He came to Afghanistan in May 2011 not as a data tech, but as a member of the 2nd Marine Div (Fwd) comm. gen.’s Personal Security Detachment (PSD). He was recently re-assigned to HB as the asst. ops chief.
Staff Sgt. Dorota Gregory, an Ill. native, is the training and ops chief, and works with Troutman in the HQ Ops Section. “I assist the ops officer with setting up training, working on orders, tracking those going home, and running the weapons range as the officer-in-charge or range safety officer,” said Gregory. “Troutman helps me run the ranges by acting as the firing line NCO, and calling all commands for the shooters. He also sets up the training for Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration training briefs.”
Troutman, who starts his day off with a cup of coffee, said he likes his job because, “no two days are ever the same; the only constant thing out here is that cup of coffee.” Working with different units has given Troutman a fresh perspective on how he views the Marine Corps. He said each unit he works with operates slightly different, and he applies his observations to his life as a Marine.
“I look at it as more tools in the toolbox for me. It makes me a well-rounded Marine,” said Troutman. “The more experiences you can go through in the Marine Corps, just helps better you as a person, thus making you a better Marine.”
Troutman said he learns something everyday from this deployment – his 2nd in a combat area, but he's happy to reel in his last few months to get back to his family. He said going to Iraq in 2008 was not a big deal for him, because he didn’t have a family then, but this is his first deployment being married, so this is a new concept for him. His wife, however, grew up in a military family, so she has been through deployments with loved ones before.
Troutman said missing birthdays, his wedding anniversary, and holidays is not the hard part of being separated from his family. He recently went home for two weeks of R & R leave, arriving two days before his son was born. “It was hard coming back after holding my son for the first time, and just knowing I'm going to miss the first 5 to 6 months of his life,” said Troutman.
Troutman said he has a little more than 3 months left, and looks forward to getting back to the few names he’s made for himself: Marine … Husband … Daddy.
Cpl. Matthew Troutman shouts a command to Marines on the firing line, during a recent rifle range.
Cpl. Troutman (left), assigns a target number to a Marine attending a recent rifle range.
Buffalo Marine Lives for Challenge, Thrives at Camp Leatherneck
Story and photo by Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde
LCpl. Dingyi Duan of N.Y., a high-mobility artillery rocket system(HMARS) crewman with Romeo Btry, 5th Bn, 11th Marine Regt, emigrated from Zibo, China to the U.S., at age 17. The 22-year-old, currently serving on his first combat deployment, had some difficulty adjusting to his new life in America when he first arrived. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and overcame a language barrier, during recruit training to become a U.S. Marine.
CAMP LEATHERNECK – Getting through Marine Corps recruit training is a difficult, but a necessary rite of passage for young adults, who aspire to become U.S. Marines. It's mentally and physically exhausting, and drill instructors hover constantly to correct mistakes instantly. Some recruits stand out and become leaders, while others choose to blend in. No matter what their strategy, recruits must follow a drill instructor’s orders to the letter.
The vast majority of recruits are American citizens and native speakers of English. They understand nuances in body language and behavior, that foreigners and others unfamiliar with American culture do not. Recruits who have English as a second language have an added challenge when enlisting in the Marine Corps.
LCpl. Dingyi Duan moved to N.Y. at age 17 to live with his mother and sisters. This was a period of adjustment for Duan. He spoke very little English, didn’t know many people in N.Y., and was largely unfamiliar with American way of life. His mother, knowing her son’s competitive personality, told him about his sister’s success in school, and how quickly she was learning the English language. Not to be outdone, Duan focused on education in an effort to improve himself.
He attended State University of New York at Geneseo, focusing primarily on schoolwork and learning English. Duane had been a student in China, where he had very little free time, and after 3 years of college, he wanted to take a break from school and try something new. He stopped by the Marine Corps recruiting station outside of the university one day, just to see what the Marine Corps was all about.
“I’d been in school my whole life, so I decided to do something different,” said Duan. “I stepped in and the recruiter was a really nice person. He asked me if I wanted to enlist.”
“I came back to the recruiter’s office after doing research online, trying to figure out who Marines are, what they do,” said Duan. “Then I decided, ‘okay, I’m going to be a Marine.”
When he stepped onto the yellow footprints of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in October 2009, he not only had to overcome the physical and mental challenges of recruit training, he had to do it with English as a second language.
Duan occasionally had a difficult time understanding orders from his drill instructors, but his English improved at a rapid rate, a product of his ability to adapt and overcome. The 22-year-old Duan said, “No matter what the drill instructors told me, all I could say was ‘aye, sir; yes, sir.’”
“The good thing was that the recruits and my drill instructors didn’t really mess with me too much,” said Duan. “They helped push me through the whole 3 months of recruit training, and helped me become a Marine. So, I really appreciate my drill instructors and fellow recruits.”
Two years have passed since Duan stepped onto the yellow footprints, and Duan has not yet met a challenge too difficult to overcome. Duan’s leadership has taken notice of his rapid growth as a Marine, and has been impressed with Duan’s determination, resiliency, and insatiable hunger for knowledge.
“His ability to adapt and overcome is very strong due to obvious reasons, coming from halfway across the world and into the Marine Corps,” said Calif. native, Sgt. Louis Cardin, an asst. section chief in Romeo Btry. “He knows himself and is always seeking self-improvement.”
“I came all the way from China for college in America, and then from college I went to the Marine Corps,” said Duan. “From the Marine Corps, I made it all the way through recruit training, Marine combat training, military occupational specialty school, made it to the operational Marine forces, and then made it to my deployment here out in Afghanistan – it’s really dramatic.”
RC-East, Bagram Media Center
Afghan, US, French discuss force shifts
Story and photos by Army Sgt. Matthew Thompson
Brig. Gen. James Richardson (right), deputy cmdr., Regional Command-East, listens to force realignment discussions with French and Afghan partners, at FOB Gamberi, Nov. 13.
LAGHMAN PROVINCE – “We have to adapt to the situation,” said Brig. Gen. James Richardson. “The mission has not changed, and what we're doing at this time is discussing how we adapt to the changing environment. We all have a common objective. With open and transparent dialogue we will accomplish our objectives much faster."
This was the first meeting between French Army Brig. Gen. Jean-Pierre Pallasset, TF Lafayette cmdr., and ANA Maj. Gen. Abdullah, 201st Corps ANA cmdr., since Pallasset took command, Oct. 15.
French troops of TF Lafayette, located in Kapisa prov., mentor ANA Soldiers of the 3rd Bde, 201st ANA Corps, and officers of the 202nd AUP. With the transition of French troops, having begun in Oct., of this year, and U.S. forces slated for a 2014 withdraw from Afghanistan, ANA Maj. Gen. Abdullah agreed that the Afghan and ISAF need to continue working shoulder-to-shoulder to achieve their goals.
“ANSF and ISAF truly are a very good team,” said Abdullah. “I promise you that the close relationship that we have had with TF Lafayette will continue.” The discussion focused on the reorganization of the French partnership in the area, with the Liaison Support Team, Quick Reaction Forces, and Mobile Training Teams.
“TF Lafayette is working in close cooperation with the ANSF in protecting Kabul,” Pallasset said. “We'll not leave Afghanistan behind.”
“The French have always been there to support ANSF, whether it be the police or the army,” said Richardson. “They've made tremendous progress with 3rd Bde. We must make sure that continues. The only way we can reach our end state is to do it collectively.”
French Army Brig. Gen. Jean-Pierre Pallasset, explains his changing role and mission, to ANSF leaders, during a briefing at FOB Gamberi, Nov. 13.
French Army Brig. Gen. Jean-Pierre Pallasset (center), praises his ANA partner, Brig. Gen. Emam Nazar (left), cmdr., 3rd Bde, 201st ANA Corps, to ANA Maj. Gen. Abdullah, 201st ANA Corps cmdr., after a briefing.
ISAF Joint Command Operational Update, Nov. 16, 2011
By ISAF Joint Command
HELMAND PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor discovered a field of marijuana during a routine patrol in Reg-e Khan Neshin district, yesterday. The force conducted a controlled burn of the field, destroying an estimated 500-lbs (227 kgs) of illegal drugs.
----- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple insurgents and confiscated an IED, while on patrol in Marjah district, yesterday. The incident began when the insurgents engaged the combined force with small arms fire, and then fled the area for a nearby compound.
KANDAHAR PROVINCE — A combined Afghan and coalition SECFOR captured a Taliban facilitator in Daman district, yesterday. The facilitator conducted spectacular attacks and coordinated with insurgent leaders to plan roadside bomb and suicide attacks. Two additional suspected insurgents were detained.
----- In Arghandab district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor discovered a weapons cache during an op, yesterday. The cache consisted of 32 grenades and various IED components.
ZABUL PROVINCE -- In Qalat district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained a suspected insurgent, during an op in search of a Taliban leader, yesterday. The leader coordinates the placement of roadside bombs, and plans attacks throughout Qalat district.
KHOST PROVINCE -- A Haqqani network facilitator was captured by a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor in Sabari district, yesterday. The senior network facilitator distributed rockets, firearms, and homemade explosives, and planned attacks against Afghan forces. Two additional suspected insurgents were detained.
BAMYAN PROVINCE -- In Kahmard district, a weapons cache was turned into CF yesterday. The cache consisted of 39 rockets of varying sizes, 44 canisters of propellant, and 3 grenades.
LOGAR PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained 2 suspected insurgents, during an op to disrupt a Taliban cell in Pul-e ‘Alam district, yesterday. The insurgent cell is responsible for a recent direct fire attack in the area.
PAKTIYA PROVINCE -- In Zurmat district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained several suspected insurgents during an op in search of a Taliban leader, yesterday. The leader constructs and stores roadside bombs and weapons, and coordinates roadside bomb attacks.
We Leave When You Leave
Story by Pvt. Andrew Slovensky
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER -- When U.S. troops came to Iraq in 2003, the Army and AF Exchange Services (AAFES) were not far behind. Tents, trailers, prefabricated buildings, and standing structures became the homes of new, remote AAFES outlets.
The Exchange, with facilities in more than 30 countries, has long been the provider of home comforts and necessities to service members. Toiletries, barbers, beauty shops, franchised restaurants, and energy drinks are just some of the products and services AAFES brought to Iraq to support OIF and OND. Much of the proceeds go to fund Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs provided to service members.
Now, as service members redeploy from Iraq in this historic drawdown, the AAFES facilities are following suite, while still carrying out their mission. “We’re here for the Soldiers, and we’ll go that extra step to have what they need to help them fulfill their mission,” said Debbie Gomez, AAFES mgr., for COB Adder.
"While service members continue to come to COB Adder from other bases in Iraq, the shelves at the post exchange will be restocked for as long as possible," said Gomez. “We have other bases that are assisting us in the drawdown, to make sure that we're fully stocked.”
From tents and trailers, to larger and larger buildings, and back again, the presence of the Exchange has evolved over the course of ops in Iraq. Even POGs, the cardboard circles redeemable at AAFES services in place of metal coins have become scarce. Holding true to their motto, “We go where you go,” AAFES facilities are making an exit along with the troops departing Iraq.