HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan --
I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) assumed command of all Marine operations throughout southern Afghanistan during a transfer of authority ceremony here April 12, making it the largest Marine command in Afghanistan since the war began nearly a decade ago.
Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general, Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan, transferred his authority to Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, who now serves as the commanding general of I MEF (FWD).
Since spring 2009, MEB-Afghanistan conducted counterinsurgency operations and combat offensives including Operation Khanjar in July 2009 and Operation Moshtarak in February.
The guest speaker was Helmand provincial Gov. Gulab Mangal. Mangal, an ally to coalition forces, had been an instrumental piece in the construction of Afghan national security forces in Helmand province.
“The security situation has been changed,” said Mangal. “People have new hope for a bright future. To bring security, peace in Helmand, Marines tried the best to get the trust and confidence of Afghan people. On behalf of the Afghan government and Helmand people, I would like to pay my condolences to family members in the United States for the sacrifice they suffered so that Helmand province can have security and peace. MEB-Afghanistan will be remembered in the history of Helmand and Afghanistan.”
Through persistent, personal interaction, the brigade’s leadership developed and maintained a high level of trust with the provincial leaders.
“I consider you the coach of this entire team,” said Nicholson. “You endure tough days. Being the governor of Helmand is hard work. I salute you and your great leadership from all of us who call Helmand home.”
Maj. Gen. Mills praised all servicemembers who fell under MEB-Afghanistan and reminded them of their success, which will have lasting effects on the security of Afghanistan.
“Helmand province is a different place because of their efforts,” said Maj. Gen. Mills. “It’s different because of the tactics and success they had on the battlefield. It’s different because of the success they had in the governance and economic area. They have truly changed the lives of the Afghan people and they have done that by paying with blood, sweat and tears required to accomplish a great tough mission.”
While true success must be achieved by, with and through the Afghan people, MEB-Afghanistan has laid the groundwork for a transition of authority to the Afghan government, in what has been described as one of the most challenging provinces in the nation.
“Fair winds and following seas,” said Maj. Gen. Mills. “Have a safe trip home. Although I know that you truly won’t go home. You’ll leave a part of yourself here in the province. You’ll leave blood of the casualties you suffered, you’ll leave the love you had for the Afghan people and the love they had for you. You’ll leave appreciated.”