Photo Information

Major Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) commanding general, gives a speech during the Regional Command (Southwest) Transfer of Authority ceremony here, Feb. 28. The Marines I MEF (Fwd) redeployed back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., after a year of fighting the insurgency and transitioning the fight to Afghan-led operations. (U.S. Army photo by Bill Putnam/Released)

Photo by Bill Putnam

II MEF assumes responsibility of Regional Command Southwest

28 Feb 2013 | Sgt. Bryan Peterson

Major Gen. W. Lee Miller, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) commanding general, took command of Regional Command Southwest during a Transfer of Authority ceremony here, Feb. 28.

Major Gen. Miller assumed responsibility from Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, I MEF (Fwd) commanding general, of Coalition forces serving throughout Helmand and Nimroz provinces.

“There is no light between (Maj.) Gen. Gurganus and I,” said Maj. Gen. Miller, addressing Afghan military and government officials in the audience. “We have been tracking each other for nine months, now. I know what’s been going on (here). I know where you’re headed and I know how good you are. We will continue to press. I appreciate the opportunity to take command of RC (SW).”

Major Gen. Miller referred to his continued communication with Maj. Gen. Gurganus during I MEF (Fwd)’s yearlong deployment. He said he will continue building on NATO’s “guide, advise and assist” strategy as Afghan National Security Forces continue taking the lead in securing Afghanistan.

Major Gen. Gurganus is credited with taking what was considered a counterinsurgency campaign in the region to a security force assistance mode of operations while overseeing the drawdown of more than 10,000 Marines and other Coalition troops.

The SFA mission is executed by small Security Force Assistance Advisory Teams by providing guidance and advice to ANSF units as they conduct security operations. The teams facilitate the transition of security from Coalition forces to ANSF.

Last year, the Afghan 215th Corps stood up a new 4th Brigade, further increasing its capabilities. This enabled 3rd Brigade to secure access to the provincial capital and 2nd Brigade to maintain pressure in the northern region of Helmand province in areas such as Kajaki and Sangin.

“Today, Afghans lead 80 percent of combat missions,” said Army Lieutenant Gen. James T. Terry, the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command commander, during the ceremony. “This shows what a Coalition can get done. The idea of ANSF leading missions was just that, an idea. Now, it’s a reality…a remarkable [turnaround].”

Major Gen. Gurganus said it’s been a “year of complexity, challenges, and hard and good times,” but he cited the strength of the coalition has “been the confidence, courage and trust” shared by all.

He emphasized confidence, courage and trust are synonymous with the Afghans.

“Add cooperation and that’s exactly what carries our ANSF partners through as well,” said Maj. Gen. Gurganus. “These three things, plus cooperation with one another and (the Afghan’s) commitment to the mission, is something really phenomenal to watch and my parting words are to continue that.”

He sees a “bright, positive” future for Afghanistan, especially in the Helmand province. Looking at Afghan National Army Maj. Gen. Sayeed Malook, the 215th Corps commanding general, and other Afghan military and civilian leaders, he said he was positive the “sun has risen” in Helmand province and “it will never set again.”