CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Thousands of people rely on the security parameters in place on Camp Leatherneck to keep them safe as they go about their daily business of running units, planning sustainment missions for Afghan communities, holding shuras with Afghan government figures and maintaining a sense of normalcy in a battle-ridden area of operation.
These security measures are established and strengthened by the Marines of Task Force Belleau Wood, beginning with the three-day Base Defense Augmentation Force training course.
“The BDAF’s primary purpose is to provide uninterrupted security to Camp Leatherneck,” said Sgt. Jacob E. Garcia, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, TFBW, and a primary instructor and developer of BDAF. “We want a fortified concrete wall protecting us, not a chain-link fence leaning on toothpicks. We designed the BDAF school to give the thousands on Leatherneck that concrete wall of protection.”
BDAF’s importance on the base is evident when presented with the sheer enormity of coalition forces and civilians working and living together.
“Thousands of people are able to work and accomplish their missions…just like back home, they know that someone is there to combat threats,” added Garcia, a native of San Antonio.
He compared the job of BDAF-trained Marines to that of the extensive police forces protecting American citizens on a daily basis in the U.S. He also added that the only way the people on Leatherneck can continue to be protected is if the BDAF Marines are able to train to serve as “that impermeable wall that keeps the ‘bad’ out.”
Gunnery Sgt. Pete Mireles, the operations chief with Weapons Company, was also involved in the overall development of the course when II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) took over command of Regional Command Southwest a few months ago. BDAF was created and tailored to the overall operations to protect the camp, said Mireles, originally of Lockhart, Texas.
He added the BDAF is structured to assist and familiarize Marines with operations involving weapons systems, interior guard and standing post.
The Marines trained through BDAF provide 1/23 with enough operational support to execute the responsibility of force protection for the entire camp, Mireles continued.
“Everyone should know that, without the guard force in place, all the freedom, comforts and luxuries we have about the [base] would not be as extravagant to begin with, nor possible,” Mireles went on to emphasize.
It is a unique aspect of BDAF that brings Marines from any unit and any military occupational specialty together to train to secure the base. Marines without infantry backgrounds are familiarized with basic infantry techniques over a condensed, well-planned curriculum.
“Every Marine is a rifleman, but not every Marine can complete a mission without direction, training and expectation,” Mireles began. “All Marines who come through the BDAF aren’t of infantry background, [but] the BDAF mission is to ‘Protect his house or die trying; not on our watch!’
“Morale, Welfare, and Recreation centers are full, dining facilities are packed, free time is undisturbed. Why? Because competent Marines are on watch from tower to tower, at the main entry point, and out on patrol,” Mireles said.
It is this diligence and dedication to thorough training and well-rounded, competent, responsible Marines that drives BDAF. From weapons systems training, to post and guard procedures, to reinforcement of the importance of camaraderie and looking out for your fellow Marine, BDAF leaves nothing out, despite its condensed time frame.
“Every Marine that is trained will have the pride, discipline and duty of force protection for Camp Leatherneck,” Mireles concluded.