HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
Marine leaders from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, sat down to dine with Mir Hamza, the Garmsir Distirict National Directorate of Security chief, May 1 to celebrate the transition from 2/2 to 3/1.
The dinner helped establish strong relationship between 3/1 and Afghan national security forces, similar to the one that 2/2 and ANSF had.
“One of the difficult things for us taking over is to sort of jump start those relationships to a point where we have the same kind of functional goodwill built between us, and dinners like this can really help,” said Lt. Col. Benjamin T. Watson, the commanding officer of 3/1.
The night started off with a dinner of rice, chicken, flat bread and lamb, cooked by Mir Hamza and served by the Marines. They joked and laughed with one another while enjoying the food.
Watson added that while sitting around and talking business can be productive, the kinds of relationships that they want to establish are personal ones that can only be established in a relaxed environment.
The Marines of 2/2 used dinners like these to establish their relationships with the ANSF. Engagements like these will help continue the progress made throughout Garmsir by the Marines of 2/2.
“It’s very key that we continue to do these kinds of dinners and building rapport,” said Capt. Douglas N. Carr, the intelligence officer for 2/2.
The night was not complete after the dinner, as friend of Hamza, Rahmatullah, a local musician, played his dulcimer. Rahmatullah is famous throughout Afghanistan and is known for his missing right index finger which was cut off when members of the Taliban told him he could no longer play music. The Taliban was unsuccessful in deterring him from continuing to play.
“It’s something that you don’t see often in America,” said Carr. “It’s definitely a treat and (Hamza) knows it, that’s why he brings the guy.”
There are a few musicians in 2/2 as well. Navy Lt. Malcolm Brown, the battalion surgeon for 2/2, plays the saxophone, and Maj. John Giannella, the operations office for 2/2, plays the guitar. They took the opportunity to play along side Rahmatullah.
“I did not imagine that I would be jamming out with a Garmsir District, Helmand province, rock star on this deployment,” said Brown. “That was pretty unexpected.”
Music has been another conduit to the close relationship between 2/2 and ANSF. The Marines silently listened, sometimes clapping along to the tempo and watching as interpreters and local Afghans sang and danced.
“There are always obstacles in communication in a work relationship where there are two different languages and two different cultures,” said Brown. “Sitting down to dinner and playing music is probably the best way to overcome that because music is the universal language. I don’t have to speak Pashto and he doesn’t have to speak English; we can communicate through music.”
As the musicians played into the night, those in attendance slowly dwindled. The night ended with a presentation of a Ka-Bar and Marine Corps flag to Mir Hamza from 2/2.
“I tell you from the bottom of my heart that I really like you guys,” said Mir Hamza.