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Georgian Bn begins mission rehearsal exercise, preps for Afghanistan deployment

By Master Sgt. Grady T. Fontana | | August 17, 2010

The Republic of Georgia’s 32nd Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) recently arrived from Georgia and began a month long training evolution here at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) that will culminate in a Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRE), which will serve as a final mission evaluation before their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in support of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) there.

The 32nd LIB is the second of four battalions to undergo training through the Georgia Deployment Program (GDP), a Marine Corps-led initiative designed to prepare the Georgians to operate alongside U.S., NATO and other multinational forces in Counter-Insurgency Operations in Afghanistan as part of ISAF. The GDP-ISAF is a two-year training program, which began August 2009.

Prior to the final exercise of the MRE, the 32nd LIB is currently conducting lane training, also known as situational training—refresher training of everything they’ve learned in Georgia.

The lane training covers a variety of subjects, such as improvised explosive device (IED) training, sensitive site exploitation, mounted and dismounted patrolling, key leader engagements, pre-combat checks/pre-combat inspections, reporting, base operations, casualty evacuation procedures, helicopter landing zone setup, and several live-fire ranges.

“My main goal is to ensure my battalion is ready to go to Afghanistan,” said Georgian Army Maj. Phridon Tereladze, battalion commander, 32nd LIB. “It’s important we do this now because when we get back [to Georgia], we don’t have time to prepare, it’s important to do it now.”

At Kittensee combat town, located at the top of a hill, just a quarter mile north of Forward Operating Base West, 10 miles west of JMRC main side, a situation is brewing. The 32nd LIB has just received an intelligence report that the town is hosting an IED factory. Bravo Company has been ordered to block off the village and search for the IED factory.

In their maneuver through town, they encounter many civilians.

“We need to focus on civil affairs—it’s very important,” said Tereladze. “We have to make contact with the local population. Most important, we have to have good relations with the local population. If we do, we will be successful. Everything is up to the people, they are the decision makers.”

Members of Marine Forces Europe, Marine Corps Training and Advisory Group, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and 2d Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, among others, are supporting the Georgians through the training evolution. Additionally, 22 Georgian Military Instructors are serving as Observer/controllers alongside the US Army and Marine O/Cs to continue to build Georgia’s partnership capacity.

“Today was supposed to be a cordon and search of this village, said Master Sgt. Hector Reyes, team chief, Georgia Liaison Team (GLT). “The intent was to make liaison with the village elder but that changed drastically. Almost immediately, upon entering the village, we started engaging hostile acts followed by small arms fire and indirect fire.”

According to Reyes, this MRE offers valuable training to an already professional army.

“They are well-rounded and the basic infantry skills are there. The level of attention-to-detail superseded what I anticipated,” said Reyes. “It’s just the fine tuning now, and that’s what this exercise is here to do—evaluate what we suspected was good and bad, then remediate and perfect it [back in Georgia] following this exercise.”

According to Maj. Chris J. Curtin, officer-in-charge of the GLT, cultural differences aside, the Georgian Army shares many of the same attributes of U.S. Marines: dedication to mission, the camaraderie, the looking out for their soldiers and taking care of them, and the desire to not let each other down and not let their country down.

“I’m very impressed with this battalion. Their level of enthusiasm and desire to get better increases with each block of instruction that they get,” said Curtin, who is an artillery officer with 2d ANGLICO. “They are very easy to work with; they are very determined and they look forward to working with Marines in Afghanistan to accomplish whatever mission that the Regimental Combat Team tasks them to do.”

Curtin’s role, along with the other members of the GLT, is to embed with the Georgian 32nd LIB, deploy with them and help them integrate as part of a Marine RCT in Afghanistan. They arrived in Georgia late June and have been with the Georgians since.

“When you look at a country as small as Georgia, population roughly 4.5 million, for them to give up such a significant commitment of forces says a lot about the Georgian people, the Georgian government, and their desire to make Afghanistan a stable country,” said Curtin.

This training is being conducted at the JMRC, a world-class military training facility that hosts international forces. In this scenario, the training area mimics what the 32nd LIB will most likely encounter in Afghanistan and they’ve created villages and hired actors to add to the realism. The actors not only look like the local populace, but are also provided scripts to role play what these Georgian soldiers may encounter. Along the alleys, local vendors compete for business selling DVDs and Afghan rugs.

Curtin said it’s in their best interest to make sure the training is realistic and Georgians are trained well.

“We are going to serve with them in combat,” said Curtin. “They are going to be on our left and our right. We all need to be able to do our job effectively to both accomplish the mission, and save and protect each other’s lives.”

The GDP-ISAF is not the first time the U.S. Marines have trained with Georgian Forces. Georgia was one of the first countries to offer its full, unconditional support to the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.

As a result of the partnership, on Dec. 15, 2002, MarForEur assumed control of the Georgia Train and Equip Program (GTEP) from Special Operations Command, Europe. Georgia Train and Equip Program, too, was a time-phased training program focused on enhancing the capabilities of the Georgian military.

In essence, the GTEP, which also lasted two years, was designed to protect the Georgian force’s homeland from terrorist threats while promoting peace, security and stability in Georgia and the Caucasus region.

Then, in 2005, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili offered to send troops to Iraq. Thus, the Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operation Program (GSSOP) was born.

The GSSOP was, also, a time-phased, two-year training program. While GTEP was geared toward providing Georgia the capability of meeting an internal terrorist threat, the GSSOP was focused on training the Georgian military to prepare and execute stability operations in Iraq.

Many of the Georgian Soldiers who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan are veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom.