MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
As troop numbers continue to decrease in Afghanistan, the counter-insurgency mission remains the same- to maintain hard-won momentum. Marines are once again being called to do more with less. In this case, this means handing over increasing responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces, all while the number of Marines and sailors operating in theater steadily decreases.
To accomplish this process of maintaining gains while reducing its own footprint, the Marine Corps has increased its training and deployment of advisory teams. These are groups of Marines and sailors tasked with passing on knowledge and experience to their Afghan counterparts. The teams, which typically consist of two dozen Marines and Navy corpsmen, are drawn from an array of occupational backgrounds and are trained to sustain themselves while living alongside their Afghan counterparts, training them day-in and day-out.
“Up until the very end of last year, the battalions who were going forward and deploying were usually tasked with two or three advisor teams,” said Capt. Curtis South, the operations officer at the Advisory Training Cell, which falls under II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group. “Now with the drawdown in Afghanistan, certain battalions aren’t deploying and there’s an increase in the advisor teams.”
With less infantry battalions deployed and more Marines available to take on deployments with advisor teams, it gives the Corps more capability to field trainers and mentors, which in turn increases the effectiveness of their Afghan counterparts, and makes the handover of Afghanistan to its people more likely to be successful.
“The mission serves multiple purposes; it allows us to reduce our footprint by putting more dependence on the Afghans,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Pursel, the logistics officer with a Police Advisory Team currently training to deploy. “It also allows them to put dependence and confidence in their own abilities. In their current state of abilities and organization they really can’t do that, so they need us out there to train these men on how to do their job.”
To better train the advisory teams, II MHG tasks an Advisor Training Cell with the responsibility of making sure every team preparing to deploy is fully trained.
“Our primary focus is to train them to adequately advise their counterparts in country on basically everything a battalion would have to do,” said South.
As South explained, each team is trained by the training cell staff on everything from weaponry to advisory training.
“They have to be the masters of all trades,” he said.
As U.S. and coalition forces begin wrapping up their missions throughout Afghanistan, long term success may very well rest on the shoulders of the advisor teams.
“Us living with them every day, we’ll build a relationship like brothers,” continued Pursel. “That’s the type of relationship they like to build, and that’s the type of relationship that we need to build a cognizant force. So living with them is going to give us the greatest opportunity to build that camaraderie and brotherhood so they know we’re there purely to help them. Not for our own ambitions.”