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Marine Forces Europe and Africa

United States Marine Corps

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U.S. Marines train Georgian infantry in mission rehearsal exercise, continues International Security Assistance Force support in Afghanistan

By Master Sgt. Grady T. Fontana | | February 19, 2011

The Republic of Georgia’s 33rd Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) arrived at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) here recently from Georgia to begin a month long training evolution that will serve as a final mission rehearsal prior to their upcoming deployment in support of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

The 33rd LIB represents the third of four battalions to undergo training through the Georgia Deployment Program ISAF (GDP-I), a U.S. European Command-sponsored, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe-led initiative to prepare the Georgians for their Afghanistan deployment as part of ISAF.  The instructor trainers are sourced from throughout the Marine Corps and directed by Marine Corps Training and Advisory Group.

The GDP-I is a two-year, time-phased, program which prepares four battalions, one every six months, to be able to integrate with ISAF in Afghanistan in a counterinsurgency environment. This 33rd LIB is scheduled to replace the 32nd LIB, a 750-strong combat unit currently deployed with other ISAF units in Afghanistan, partnered with the Afghan National Security Forces.  The 33rd LIB is part of Regimental Combat Team 8 attached to the 1st Marine Division (Forward) and Task Force Leatherneck.

The Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRE) is a culmination of six months of training in Georgia with Marine Corps trainers and advisors. According to Sgt. Maj. Phillip Fascetti, 1st MarDiv (Fwd.) sergeant major, the training is paying dividends.

“The 32nd Georgian Battalion has been doing an outstanding job. They do not complain and have accomplished all of the missions that they’ve been assigned,” said Fascetti. “We have a great working relationship with them. They are outstanding warriors and are always looking to mix it up with the enemy. They’re doing their country and the 1st Marine Division proud.”

During the first half of the MRE the Georgians will conduct a wide variety of operations that reflect the mission sets common to ISAF forces in Afghanistan such as area security, cordon and search operations, deliberate live-fire attacks with mortar and sniper integration, command post exercises, and cultural awareness engagements.

Staff Sgt. Jeremiah A. Williams, an instructor trainer with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, was in Georgia with the 33rd LIB conducting small unit training—patrolling, urban operations, live fire training—and is now here as an observer controller to see them through the MRE.

“My impression of the [33rd LIB] is that they’re a really good fighting force,” said Williams. “They don’t stop… They train until almost perfection.”

Williams returns to his unit in Camp Pendleton, Calif., after the MRE but he takes back with him unique experiences training with the Georgians.

“I’ve had a great time working with the Georgians—and learning from them. I gained a lot of friends with the company,” said Williams, a Portland, Ore., native. “The opportunity to work with another nation and prepare them to go on into Afghanistan, and push our knowledge from being in war, has been really good. It’s important because these guys are going to be fighting alongside with us in Afghanistan.”

A majority of the observer controllers were sourced from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, who recently returned from Afghanistan, serving alongside the 31st Georgian LIB.  They add valuable insight to the tactical skills needed in Helmand province, and are taking every opportunity to coach, teach, and mentor their Georgian counterparts.

Following the MRE’s initial week of battle drills, live fire, situational and specialty training, the 33rd LIB will begin the final exercise (FINEX) which will test all the skill they have honed during the previous four months of training.

 In addition to the offensive and defensive portions of combat-related scenarios, the FINEX will also focus on cultural awareness scenarios like key leader engagements and town/provincial council meetings, as well as humanitarian assistance and helping the population centers.

 “Back in Georgia we did a lot of good training,” said Georgian Lt. Shalva Geladze, motorized platoon commander, Company B, 33rd LIB. “Most of our guys were new, just out of boot camp, but now they have a lot of knowledge and are used to working with U.S. Marines. We know how to work and coordinate with U.S. Marine units and this will help us because we will be working with Marines in Afghanistan.”

Geladze expressed sincere appreciation toward the Marine instructor trainers.

“We had a very good partnership with U.S. Marine instructors,” said Geladze through an interpreter. “They were always helping us in every way possible and we knew if we had any problems with the training we could always go to the instructors and get the assistance we needed.”