Photo Information

Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, hosts a key leader engagement involving Afghan National Army soldiers and local Nawa District officials at Patrol Base Jaker in Afghanistan's Helmand Province July 28. 1/5 is part of Regimental Combat Team 3 whose mission is to conduct counter insurgency operations in partnership with the Afghan national security forces in southern Afghanistan.

Photo by Lance Cpl. James Purschwitz

Marines tackle new mission

21 Jun 2010 | Cpl. Michael Curvin

The Transition Team Training Cell with II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, prepares Marines for future deployments to Afghanistan. Marines learn about cultural differences, basic language skills and how to interact with foreign services through classroom instruction and hands-on scenarios.

The T3C was created in 2007 and has become a valued tool for Marines as they conduct operations in Afghanistan. The course’s length ranges from three weeks to three months and varies depending on a unit’s mission.

“Our mission is to train mentor-teams that are going forward,” said 1st Lt. Jeff J. Hecker, T3C deputy officer-in-charge. All the transitional teams from II MEF have come through here to get advisor specific skills.”

Future mentors are taught basic language skills in Pashtu, Dari or both, depending on the mission. Training also includes convoy operations, weapons handling and proper use of interpreters.

“Even though Marines have a lot of great skills, especially in combat arms, we don’t often have the skills to mentor an Afghan National Army soldier or officer,” Hecker said. “Our success in Afghanistan is not based off how many Taliban we kill, but how quickly we can establish the Afghan National Security Force.”

One of T3C’s specialized classes is Human Terrain and Cross-cultural Engagement. In this course, students learn how to communicate effectively with foreign troops by performing mock meetings with Afghan officials. The scenarios are based off of real situations that coalition forces have encountered in past meetings.

This is a favorite class among the students, said Hacker. Many of the scenarios have comical results such as promising to bring gifts but not knowing how much to bring.

“This training is pretty good,” said 1st Lt. Brent G. Eisberner, the Police Mentoring Team OIC with 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division. “Working with role players is great training, and I think the Marine Corps should be doing more of this.”

After their mock meetings, the Marines are critiqued on how well they handled themselves. It is better to make mistakes during training than to endanger a real mission, said Eisberner.

With this training, Marines are prepared to not only fight the enemy on the battlefields of Afghanistan, but they are prepared to properly advise Afghan troops on maintaining stability throughout the region. Historically, these types of missions have fallen onto the shoulders of special operations troops, but interaction between Marines and Afghans dictates that every Marine must take on a mentoring role regardless of his rank.

“While the mission of mentoring Afghan Officers falls primarily to Marine officers and staff noncommissioned officers, all team members will be living and working in close contact with the Afghan unit they are advising,” Hecker said. “Therefore, they need to have a firm grasp of how to interact with the Afghans and influence them positively.”