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Cpl. Aaron Rooks, CAMP LEATHERNECK, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - The sun was high and the heat was at its peak. The sound of rocks crackling beneath service members’ boots, the noise of construction work, and the voices were nowhere to be heard.
It was as if time came to a sudden halt.
Off in the distance, various Marines walked back and forth making sure the undisturbed area stayed that way. Each person or vehicle that came close to them was immediately turned away, with no questions asked and no explanations given.
After a few minutes a convoy arrived at the recently-deserted location. In one of the vehicles were Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general of Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan.
Petraeus stepped out of the vehicle and proceeded to meet with the brigade’s senior leadership. The Marines, still silently pacing nearby, acted as if nothing had changed. They continued moving back and forth from one spot to another, looking for anything or anyone who posed a threat.
“Our perspective is always outboard,” said Sgt. Roy Price, platoon sergeant, Personal Security Detachment, MEB-Afghanistan. “Our mission is to identify any possible threats and negotiate them long before they ever reach the person we’re protecting. We’re focused on our mission, not the visitor.”
The area remained silent, motionless and empty. The Marines on the ground patrolled different areas that interconnected with each other, while other Marines watched from elevated positions to eliminate any possible threat.
“Once the area is secured, you can see a threat coming from 30 meters away because there is nobody else around,” said Price, an Allentown, Pa., native. “As for the Marines, they’re focused and prepared to execute.”
Petraeus and Nicholson left the secured area unscathed and accompanied by members of the security detachment.
“We presented a hard target, we were proficient in our jobs and we successfully negotiated the mission,” said Master Sgt. Rilon Reall, personal security officer, PSD, MEB-Afghanistan. “The credit goes to the team.”
Although the detachment’s role in the visit was successful, it’s only the beginning, Price said, stating that there are many more missions that await them in their deployment.
Their primary mission within MEB-Afghanistan is to protect the brigade commanding general, as well as any distinguished visitors he hosts. One day, Price said, they could be providing security for the general while he travels from one point to another, and on a different day they could be providing security for someone like Defense Secretary Robert Gates or country music star Toby Keith, two past visitors to Camp Leatherneck.
Price, a military policeman by trade, said the team was built to be a self-sustainable force to mitigate some of the potential problems they could potentially face while providing security. He said the detachment consists of military policemen, infantrymen, motor transport drivers and mechanics, communication technicians, an interpreter, a corpsman and even a supply clerk.
“As a personal security detachment, we maneuver as an independent element on the battlefield,” Price explained. “We are solely responsible for our men and our mission.”
As an independent unit the detachment has to be prepared for anything, said Cpl. Jarred Stedman, assistant motor transport chief, PSD, MEB-Afghanistan. The Marines must be ready to repair broken-down vehicles, call in for support and medical evacuations, treat wounded personnel and engage enemies. The detachment has personnel to handle all of the above, he said, noting that they have also cross-trained in each others’ jobs to ensure they can negotiate each mission, even if a man were to go down.
“Infantry and weapons knowledge, driving, mechanics, supply, we’ve all cross-trained and learned new things,” Stedman said. “I’ve cross-trained other people on fixing trucks. I’m sure I’ll learn more myself as we go.”
Price said the Marines are still new to the camp and they’ve been getting familiar with the area while preparing for future challenges.
“Most of the emotions we’ve handled and gotten over,” Price said. “Our focus now has to be toward executing our missions. Failure is not an option for us.”