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Republic of Georgia MOD, ACMC Recognize Marines and Sailor for GDP-ISAF Contributions

By Gunnery Sgt. Alexis R. Mulero | | March 1, 2013


Thirteen Marines and one sailor were honored by representatives from the Republic of Georgia’s Ministry of Defense and Gen. John Paxton, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, for their contributions in support of the Georgia Deployment Program – International Security Assistance Force (GDP-ISAF) during an award ceremony at Sandpiper Recreation Center Theatre aboard Joint expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story, Va., Feb. 28.

Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Phelps, Maj. Matthew O’Donnell, Capt. Michael Walls, Capt. Devin Myler, 1st Sgt. Shaun Leek (not present) and Gunnery Sgt. Marcuss Hernandez (not present) were awarded the General Giorgi Mazniashvili Medal. The General Giorgi Mazniashvili Medal is the fourth highest individual award in the Georgian Armed Forces and it honors a servicemember’s leadership and contributions to Georgian national defense.

Also recognized during the ceremony were Capt. Jared Perry, Capt. David Blossom, 1st Lt. Brett Roberts, Gunnery Sgt. Adam Cortese, Gunnery Sgt. Corey Brown, Gunnery Sgt. James Wells (retired), Chief Petty Officer Robert Neal, Staff Sgt Joshua Sims and Major O’Donnell, who were presented the Republic of Georgia’s Peacekeeping Operations Medal, which is presented in recognition of a servicemember’s significant contributions to Georgian Armed Forces peacekeeping and combat operations. 
Major O’Donnell, who supervised the six-month pre-deployment training of Georgia’s 31st Light Infantry Battalion and also deployed with them to Afghanistan was awarded both medals for his lasting contributions to the program.

According to the citations read, these Marines greatly contributed to the expansion of the program and their considerable achievements, tireless efforts, and steadfast professionalism reflected great credit upon the unit, the United States Marine Corps and the United States of America.

“The U.S. and Georgian partnership is very important,” said Republic of Georgia Col. Lasha Beridze, Deputy Chief of Defense, Georgian Armed Forces. “We are like a family. We are two hands working together for one common objective and that makes us stronger.”

U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe (MARFOREUR) is the lead component for planning, coordination and execution of the GDP-ISAF program and Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group (MCSCG) is the lead command with direct responsibility for training the Georgian battalions with support from Training and Education Command (TECOM) and multiple Operating Force units. Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group executes and enables security cooperation (SC) programs, training, planning, and activities in order to ensure unity of effort in support of U.S. Marine Corps and regional Marine Component Command (MARFOR) objectives and in coordination with operating forces and Marine Air-Ground Task Forces.

The original GDP-ISAF program was a two-year train and equip mission designed to prepare four Georgian infantry battalions in sequence for operations in Afghanistan with Regional Command Southwest - RC(SW). As of May 2011 the program is now GDP-ISAF II, a subsequent extension of the original program for training and deploying nine additional Georgian infantry battalions over three-years.

"The GDP-ISAF program has grown over the years into one of the finest modern examples of how the Marine Corps can build a partner’s capacity through equipping, training, and advising," said Col. Matt Baker, commanding officer at MCSCG. "The Georgian soldiers and U.S. Marines have worked exceptionally well together both in and out of combat; today, is a great day to celebrate the success’ of this program and the lasting partnership Marines have developed with our Georgian counterparts.”

Other distinguished guests in attendance included Brig. Gen. Blake Crowe, Commander (Acting), U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command and Republic of Georgia dignitaries; Mr. Misha Darchiashvili, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Georgia to the United States of America, Canada, and Mexico;  ) Colonel Lasha Beridze, Deputy Chief of Defense, Georgian Armed Forces, Mr. Levan Gamkelidze, Head of the Georgian National Guard Department; Lieutenant Colonel Temur Eubidze, Defense Attache, Embassy of Georgia to the United States of America, Canada, and Mexico; Lieutenant Colonel Vepkhvia Chalabashvili, Assistant Defense Attache, Embassy of Georgia to the United States of America, Canada, and Mexico; Lieutenant Colonel Aleksander Tugushi, Deputy G-2, Georgian Armed Forces, and former Commanding Officer, 31st Georgian Light Infantry Battalion (Rotation 4 of GDP-ISAF) and Major David Khorguashivili, Georgian Armed Forces Liaison Officer, Allied Command Transformation.