TBILISI, Georgia --
Two battalions of soldiers from The Republic of Georgia stood side-by-side along with their U.S. Marine Corps counterparts in a departure ceremony hosted by the Georgian Ministry of Defense at the Vaziani Training Area Sept. 19, 2003.
Having completed six months of training, the 31st and Batumi battalions will now deploy to the Helmand Province of Afghanistan where they have been fighting shoulder to shoulder with U.S. Marines since 2009.
The training is officially known as The Georgian Deployment Program – ISAF (GDP-I) and formally concludes in 2014 but the Marines remain committed to a continued partnership.
"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 Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group located in Virginia Beach, Va. "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.”
During the ceremony the American Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland reminded the battalions of their importance to the region.
“Your contribution to ISAF will help stabilize a region that is a key part of the future of the global economy,” Norland said. “Afghanistan and Georgia both lie on the new silk road and as peace eventually returns to Afghanistan, the enormous commercial and investment opportunities that surround this entire region will be unleashed, and East and West will once again be linked by this historic trade corridor.”
This marks the 10th and 11th rotations of Georgian soldiers who have trained under the GDP-I program and according to LtCol. William Shannon, the training has been tailored to ensure mission success over the years based on feedback from previous training evolutions and as the mission in Afghanistan evolved.
Lieutenant General Richard Tryon, commander Marine Corps Forces Europe, reinforced the confidence in both the training and the ability of the Georgian battalions.
“The U.S. Marines and Georgian Armed Forces share the same warrior spirit. We have fought proudly side by side, sharing sacrifice and success since 2009,” Tryon said. “I have every confidence that you will upload the proud legacy of the Georgian Armed Forces, just as those who have deployed before you have done.”
The formal ceremony had all of the standard pomp and circumstance one would expect but also included elements which reminded everyone of the combat mission ahead for the Georgian troops.
A moment of silence for allied service members who have been wounded or killed in the Afghanistan war set the tone for the ceremony while award presentations for actions above and beyond the call of duty reminded everyone of the sacrifice ahead. The ceremony culminated with a blessing of the battalions by the unit chaplains and an inspirational message by Lt. Gen. Tryon.
“These troops are ready, they are trained, and they are absolutely prepared to undertake the mission ahead in Afghanistan,” Tryon said. “The Marines in Regional Command Southwest are proud to serve alongside their Georgian brothers.”