CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
The newly formed Regional Command Southwest raised the NATO flag during a ceremony signifying the unification of all international security forces in southwest Afghanistan here, July 3.
Governor Gulab Mangal of Helmand province and Governor Gulam Dastagar Ezad of Nimroz Province attended the ceremony along with senior governmental officials from the Helmand provincial reconstruction team, the Afghan national security forces, and coalition partners.
Regional Command Southwest is responsible for security in the Helmand and Nimroz provinces in southwestern Afghanistan. Along with the Afghan government and security forces, seven other nations contribute to RC (SW) to bring security to the region. Those nations include the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Georgia, The Kingdom of Denmark, The Kingdom of Bahrain, and the Republic of Estonia.
Marine Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, the commander of RC (SW), made history by being the first U.S. Marine to command a NATO regional command in combat. Mills was the commanding general of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), which is a Marine Air Ground Task Force largely manned by Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“It is a distinct privilege for all of us to stand up Regional Command Southwest,” said Maj. Gen. Mills. “We are truly building on the outstanding work of all who have served here in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. This is a natural military progression based on the number of troops serving here and the priority placed on Helmand and Nimroz provinces.”
The deputy commander, U.K. Brigadier George Norton, and several other nations round out the command’s staff sections.
The new organization provides improved oversight of ISAF forces operating in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. With the majority of ISAF forces based in southern Afghanistan, the formation of the new headquarters permits commanders in the south to focus on geographically smaller areas, ensure greater partnering between the Afghan national security forces and ISAF and deliver the levels of security required for governance and development to continue to spread in the region.
The North Atlantic Council authorized the command’s establishment based on efficient and effective command and control considerations. The troop surge last fall added an additional 10,000 Marines into Helmand province, bringing the combined total of coalition forces to 50,000 in RC (S). RC (S) had six provinces and 50,000 troops before the RC (SW) establishment date. With the new RC (SW) the ability to command and control is optimized. RC (SW) has nearly 30,000 troops to include Task Force Helmand and Task Force Leatherneck.
Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of ISAF Joint Command, said, "The establishment of Regional Command Southwest significantly increases the ability of the Afghan National Security Forces to partner with the coalition."
“RC (SW) stands here today to build upon the successes of our predecessors,” said Maj. Gen. Mills during the ceremony. “Much has been done, but much remains to be done. We know there’s still hard fighting to be done. We know there are casualties that must be endured. We know there are battles to fight. But we know there are elections to hold, jobs to create and security to bring. I promise you the insurgents will not prevail.”