FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan --
As Col. Randall P. Newman spoke during the transfer of authority ceremony from the ‘Lava Dogs’ 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Geronimo, June 6, he had to raise his voice to be heard over the hum of a nearby generator.
The Regimental Combat Team 7 commanding officer didn’t mind competing with the steady whir of the generator. To the contrary, he saw it as progress. After all, if he had been in the same spot last year, he would need to yell to be heard over the sound of gunfire. FOB Geronimo isn’t the only area to have seen that kind of change.
“Now in areas of Nawa, most specifically the district center and the likes, there are places where a short year ago, rounds were exchanged in combat as people resisted that effort to bring this back to the Afghan people,” Newman said. “Today, in place of that combat, there are men and women shopping, going about their normal business with a sense of freedom that hasn’t been felt there in a while. Nothing can speak more highly than that. We’ve given back to a fellow human being the opportunity to achieve a better future.”
Although 3/3, known as “America’s Battalion,” has been operating in Helmand province for weeks, the ceremony marked the official turnover of the area of operations from 1/3’s authority to 3/3’s.
At the ceremony, Newman wasn’t the only one to note the progress made as a result of 1/3’s work. Haji Abdul Manaf, Nawa District governor, was quick to praise 1/3, remarking he wished the U.S. government would write the names of the battalion’s men on golden pages for the people of the United States and Afghanistan.
“[Lt.] Col. Matt Baker is a great warrior and great supporter of Nawa peace and prosperity,” Manaf said. “This word is coming from all the elders and citizens of Nawa, that we express our appreciation of Col. Matt Baker and his hard work and we hope that 3/3 will keep that same support and relationship.”
Baker, though honored by the praise, was quick to point out there is a set of names far more important than his own.
“While my name ends up being the name that gets mentioned, first and foremost there are more important people to mention,” Baker said. “There is an entire battalion of Marines that did work for us, it’s not possible to have the accomplishments we’ve had if it weren’t for Sgt. Maj. [Dwight D.] Jones and all the officers and staff of 1/3. The names that I want to make absolutely certain that we say out loud today are the names of those who will not be going home.”
Baker went on to solemnly read off the names of the four men from 1/5 and five from 1/3 who died supporting Nawa.
“These Marines will not be going home, did not go home with their battalions,” Baker said. “It’s very, very important that we never forget their names.”
Remembering Those Lost
1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment
Sgt. William J. Cahir
Lance Cpl. David R. Baker
Lance Cpl. Donald J. Hogan
Lance Cpl. Justin J. Swanson
1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment
Cpl. Mark D. Juarez
Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Meinert
Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Poole
Lance Cpl. Noah M. Peir
Lance Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson