TACTICAL BASE DWYER, Afghanistan --
First battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, cased their unit battle colors during a transfer of authority ceremony aboard Tactical Base Dwyer, Oct. 1.
The ceremony signified the battalion’s transfer of authority of the base and their area of responsibility to 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, a U.S. Army command based out of Fort Hood, Texas. The ceremony also meant the end of combat operations for 7th Marines – a regiment which has been actively supporting Operation Enduring Freedom for several years.
“Today is a very special day,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, commander, Regional Command (Southwest) and Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan. “We say goodbye to a very good team, led by Lt. Col. (Seth) Yost, and the members of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, who are known as the ‘First Team.’ We also say hello to a new team, led by Lt. Col. (Brian) Harthorn, and the members of 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, also known as the ‘Thunder Squadron.’”
The ceremony served as a traditional way to observe the transfer of authority and recognize 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, for accomplishing their mission during their final deployment to Helmand province.
During the battalion’s approximately seven-month-long deployment, the “First Team” was responsible for a number of successful missions throughout Helmand province.
“They should be proud of what they contributed to the campaign,” said Brig. Gen. Yoo. “They have been involved in everything from the northern Helmand retrograde from Sangin, which was historic for the Marine Corps but also for 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, because of their previous deployment there. They were involved in the central Helmand liftoff to support our U.K. brothers as they picked up and moved out of Lashkar Gah. They were involved in elections prep from both the primary elections and the runoff elections.”
On May 5, Marines and sailors with Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, transferred Forward Operating Base Sabit Qadam in Sangin District and security responsibility of the area to the Afghan National Army’s 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps. The transition was monumental for Marines and Afghan security forces alike.
“For Charley Company, the opportunity to end the Marine Corps’ persistent presence in Sangin, a place that holds deep meaning for our Corps and for the 7th Marine Regiment, who has been there since 2011, and for this battalion, it was an honor,” said Yost, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. “It was an honor to transfer Sabit Qadam and a privilege to transfer security responsibility over to our capable Afghan partners, who continue to fight against our common enemy.”
In addition to providing security forces for retrograde operations, the battalion also provided ground and airborne assault forces for multiple operations throughout the province.
“Throughout the deployment, the Marines and sailors conducted more than 25 air assault and helicopter-borne vehicle interdictions, making this a very dynamic mission set,” said Maj. Peter Ankney, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, operations officer. “The Regional Operations Company concept has been around for a few years now, but it was (1st Battalion, 7th Marines) who took it the furthest and made a difference in the battlespace. Many tactical training procedures and standard operating procedures that have been validated here will be very relevant to crisis response operations in the next 10 years.”
Unfortunately, amidst the battalion’s success came two devastating incidents. The first incident occurred while providing security, June 25, when Sgt. Thomas Spitzer, a scout assigned to the Scout Sniper Platoon, was killed in action. The second occurred during a dismounted combat patrol, Aug. 9, when Staff Sgt. Brandon Dodson, a platoon sergeant with Bravo Co., stepped on an improvised explosive device. Dodson was severely injured, but he maintains a positive attitude and is committed toward his recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“The ‘First Team’ has a rich combat legacy, and the Marines of this battalion demonstrated, once again, that they have the tactical skill and the courage to answer our nation’s call,” Yost said. “The list of the battalion’s alumni is legendary and includes such men as John Basilone, Chesty Puller, Chew-Een Lee, Al Gray and General Mattis. It may be a different fight today and we may use different equipment than the Marines of the past, but our Marines showed they are just as competent, courageous, disciplined and lethal as those who have come before us.
“It’s been a memorable deployment for 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. It’s been inspiring to have been here as we help to write the final chapter of the Marine Corps’ presence in Helmand province.”