CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- The maintenance bay was clean and tidy despite the rain and mud outside. Afghan, American and Georgian flags were displayed behind a podium in preparation for the important visitor. Anticipation filled the air as soldiers with the 31st Light Infantry Battalion with the Republic of Georgia and Marines with Georgian Liaison Team 11 stood still in formation as they awaited the arrival of the Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili to Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 15.
The vehicles pulled up outside the maintenance bay like train cars following the engine. One by one, the security detail exited the vehicles and ensured the area was secure before President Margvelashvili entered the bay.
“Any time a leader comes out to see their guys, that is always a good thing,” said Maj. Ronnie L. Goode II, officer in charge, GLT-11, and native of Stuart, Fla. “A lot of work and effort goes into it on our part to get ready for it, but in the end it’s just motivation for the Georgian soldiers – their president came out just to visit them.”
This was the first time President Margvelashvili has visited his troops in Afghanistan since taking office during November 2013.
During his visit, he presented numerous awards to his soldiers as well as several Marines with GLT-11 to show his appreciation for the outstanding work the Georgians and Marines have accomplished.
The Georgian medals were presented to Maj. Goode; Staff Sgt. Robert Plemmons, Charlie Company Advisor; Gunnery Sgt. Robert Kaufmann, Alpha Company Advisor; Staff Sgt. Jason Rodriguez, Bravo Company Advisor; 1st Lt. Tyler Ross, Supply and Logistics officer; and Capt. Thomas McCabe, officer in charge, 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Supporting Arms Liaison Team.
“It’s really good for him to come out and see his boys and see everything they are doing,” said Goode. “It speaks volumes for them to give Marines medals, especially my Marines medals, and to recognize the hard work the GLT puts in. As the GLT, we don’t get to see a lot of the politicians, generals or anyone like that, so when they do come out to visit, it shows us how serious the Georgians take their mission and reinforces our efforts. It shows they care about their soldiers here in Afghanistan; they care about the GLT and Marine relationship.”
Although President Margvelashvili’s visit was brief, he made time to sit down, eat lunch and talk with his soldiers, and toured their work and living areas before boarding his flight back to the Republic of Georgia.
“I’m very proud of this mission and the role our country plays in securing global peace and security in Afghanistan and around the world,” said President Margvelashvili. “We feel a great atmosphere of interaction and friendship here. The Marine that I gave a medal to, he said ‘thank you’ to me in Georgian, which excited me and showed me the reality of something we were talking about – that Georgian soldiers and Marines have become one team, one family, that we are working together for the better future of this country and the world.”