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thedrifter
04-30-03, 08:26 AM
Marines Serve in Joint, Coalition Mission
by Staff Sgt. Amy L. Forsythe
Marine Corps News
April 29, 2003


KABUL, Afghanistan -- Two U. S. Marines have joined forces in effort to help build an army from the ground up. They have joined their U.S. Army infantry counterparts and several foreign servicemembers to design what could be the key to stability in Afghanistan.

After the Taliban fell, the U.S. led coalition forces in stabilizing Afghanistan. One of their first tasks was helping to create a nationalized, non-factional Afghani Army headquartered in the capital city of Kabul.

Finding Afghan soldiers to fill the ranks was the easy part. Building and reconstructing suitable rifle ranges, living quarters, recreational facilities and other projects has required the expertise of a diversified team.

This overall responsibility falls under the U.S. Embassy's Office of Military Cooperation in Afghanistan and the Department of State under the direction of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Karl Eikenberry. The Afghan National Army Design Team is composed of infantry and engineering experts from around the world to provide an international perspective.

After receiving individual deployment orders, Gunnery Sgt. Melvin Farmer, 37, from the Second Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C., reported to the Coalition Joint-Civil Military Operations Task compound in a neighborhood in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul. Farmer arrived in late February and was greeted by another Marine already assigned to the ANA Design Team, Lt. Col. Mark Econie from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Farmer is an infantry staff non-commissioned officer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He has been on active duty for almost 19 years. He is seeing for the first time how "joint and coalition troops are merging training tactics and applying a vast amount of diversity into accomplishing the mission," he said.

Farmer and Econie are currently working within the ANA Design Team bringing a diverse perspective on how to design and develop improved, safer ranges for Afghanistan's newly created army.

Farmer's infantry and operational planning expertise made him the most suitable candidate for this position. He is tasked with providing guidance and input to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who are developing training ranges for the ANA.

Econie, a mobilized reservist from Chula Vista, Calif., is an engineer in his civilian profession. He brings his experience of several overseas deployments to the forefront by assisting with developing the training ranges.

The ANA has steadily increased in size since its inception late last year. The ANA has trained approximately 4,000 troops to date. The end-state goal is to train 70,000 troops within the next 18 months. U.S. and French special operations forces are training the initial eight battalions before the responsibility of training will be turned over to the leadership within the ANA.

Farmer interacts mostly with U.S. Army soldiers, but reports directly to a Canadian captain and a British lieutenant colonel. "What I've learned most is that we have more similarities than we have differences," he explained.

Farmer and Econie will conclude their tours in Afghanistan in late July and return to their respective duty stations. Just as they brought expert infantry knowledge to assist in building training ranges here, they'll return home with a feeling of a job well done. They have left their mark in history by contributing to the success and sustainment of the Afghan National Army.



Sempers,

Roger