Marines training Georgian troops in Afghanistan

Stars & Stripes:
As dozens of Marines across Helmand province advise and assist Afghan forces, a small group of Marines is focused on a different group: a Georgian light infantry battalion.

The Georgian Liaison Team — about 90 Marines from different East Coast-based units — teaches, advises, mentors and participates in operations with the 750 soldiers of the 31st Georgian Light Infantry Battalion. The battalion is part of the task force charged with security of the sprawling Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion complex.

This is the 11th rotation of Georgian troops in Afghanistan and the third tour in Helmand province for the 31st Georgian Light Infantry Battalion.

During those rotations, Georgian troops spent their deployments engaged in combat operations out of forward operating bases in northern Helmand province, these troops are running patrols, manning guard towers and sending out quick reaction forces around Camp Leatherneck, with the help of their Marine advisers.

Staff Sgt. Robert Plemmons, who came to the Georgian Liaison Team from II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C., works with Georgian company-level staff. He said the Georgians plan the missions with the Marines’ advice and support, then the Marines go out with the Georgian troops, assisting at “friction points” wherever necessary.

Those friction points might be a location where an IED was spotted, the search area of a vehicle check point, a shura or any other situation when there is the potential for something to go wrong, said Capt. Jonathan Lucas, who joined the Georgian Liaison Team from the training instructor group of Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group in Virginia Beach, Va.

The Marines also act as liaison for air support, explosive ordnance disposal and other supporting units, Plemmons said.

As of mid-January, Georgia was contributing more troops to the Afghanistan effort than any other non-NATO nation and was fifth behind the U.S., the U.K., Germany and Italy for total troops in the country, despite having a population of slightly less than 5 million.

A republic the size of West Virginia in the troubled Caucasus mountains, Georgia tangled with neighboring Russia over two separatist regions in 2008. Some Russian troops remain in those regions, which are on Georgian soil.
This is an opportunity for Georgia to get live fire training for its troops that will help them in dealing with the Russian threat.  It is also a demonstration of what a good aly Georgia has become.  It is a relationship that needs to be nurtured.


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