Republic of Georgia puts her best into Iraq fight

KRTSANISI, Georgia — Republic of Georgia 22nd Light Infantry Battalion Soldiers salute for the U.S. and Georgian national anthems during the Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program Phase II Bravo opening ceremony here Aug. 27. The GSSOP assists Georgia, a U.S. partner in the Global War on Terrorism, in providing capable, trained military units to sustain their contribution to the effort in Iraq. (DoD photo by Army Spec. Daevid Brown)

KRTSANISI, Georgia — Like men of stone, the well-disciplined soldiers of Georgia's 22nd Light Infantry Battalion stood motionless in the cloudy Caucus afternoon, as men of importance heralded the commencement of a journey that will eventually lead to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The opening ceremony of the Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program's Phase II Bravo at the Krtsanisi Training Area here Aug. 27 marked the beginning of the 22nd Battalion's training by U.S. Marines.

"The great country of Georgia has stood beside the United States throughout the Global War on Terrorism and the GSSOP mission represents our continuing partnership and collaborative effort towards a brighter future," said Marine Maj. Melvin Chattman, the GSSOP Task Force commander.

Georgia's GSSOP troops form part of the dedicated force called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1546 to protect the UN forces in Iraq.

The GSSOP Task Force mission is to assist and enhance Georgia's capability to sustain its contribution to the effort in Iraq. Georgia needs the assistance, due to the Georgian military's limited resources.

"Over the next few months, the 22nd Infantry Battalion will go through a comprehensive training program that will enrich and enhance its current capabilities," Chattman explained.

"With the spirit and traditions of our founding principles, we intend to move forward boldly and without hesitation in training the 22nd Infantry Battalion," Chattman declared.

Following and improving upon the pattern set in training the 21st and 23rd Light Infantry Battalions, the 22nd Battalion's 17-week training will consist primarily of ground combat skills and tactics, such as marksmanship, first aid, urban operations and search techniques related to service in Iraq.

"What you will do in the weeks ahead is prepare yourself for the ultimate challenge," said Marine Maj. Gen. John McCarthy, the deputy commander of Marine Forces Europe. "The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines that make up the SSOP Task Force are a reflection of the will, the character and the courage of the American people. They are here to help you prepare for what may be one of the greatest challenges in your life."

The U.S. task force not only consists of Marines but also includes Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen who fill support rolls.

"I would like to note the professionalism of the United States military, who has successfully trained the 21st and 23rd Battalions. I am sure that the training of the 22nd Light Infantry Battalion will be conducted with the same level of professionalism," said Georgian Capt. Lasha Karmazanashvili, 22nd Light Infantry Battalion commander.

"We would like to express our gratitude to the government of the United States for their assistance to improve our military and to enhance the capability of the Georgian Armed Forces," expressed Karmazanashvili.

As partners in the Global War on Terrorism, dedicated to promoting peace and stability, the very fabric of the U.S. and Georgian relationship can be found in the international bonds of friendship that have been galvanized in the previous GSSOP training phases.

"You will build friendships that you will carry with you throughout your life. Those friendships will include not just your fellow soldiers, but those who stand for freedom of all armed forces around the world." McCarthy told the U.S. trainers and Georgian Soldiers.

The GSSOP is a five-phase initiative that on average has consisted of about 70 U.S. service members training battalions of about 600 Georgian soldiers.

In January, Phase I kicked off GSSOP with a U.S. European Command pre-deployment site survey team visit to Georgia to ensure Georgian forces and facilities were ready for the program.

Phase II, The training of the Georgian 2nd Infantry Brigade, which is two thirds complete, will end with the graduation of the 22nd Battalion.

Phase III will train the reconnaissance, engineer and signal companies of the 1st Brigade.

Phase IV has been designed to train and equip the military staffs and the logistics battalions of the 1st and 2nd Brigades.

Phase V, the final phase, will train the general staff command and control elements, Operational Headquarters Staff and the 1st and 2nd Brigade staffs.

The various training phases will take place in classroom and field environments at different locations in Georgia. The GSSOP is scheduled to last 15 months.

The Georgian people exhibit a staunch patriotism for their homeland. They take pride in their unique Georgian language and alphabet. Their devotion to the Georgian Orthodox Church is closely entwined with their national pride.

"In the Georgian people we find a character like our own, who values freedom and who values courage, not just in your own nation but around the world," McCarthy told the well-disciplined Georgian troops.

The Georgian military is founded on highly motivated, patriotic individuals who serve the Georgia homeland with honor, courage and commitment. Their love of the freedom they have struggled to achieve fuels a desire to help others achieve the same freedom. This is a significant factor in Georgia's partnership with the United States.

"Nothing symbolizes U.S. and Georgian cooperation quite as much as the work we're doing together fighting in the war on terrorism, working together in Afghanistan and in Iraq," said John Tefft, in his first public appearance as the U.S. ambassador in Georgia.“Before I left Washington, I had the privilege of seeing one of my State Department colleagues who had just returned from Baghdad. He wanted to make sure that I knew before I came here, that the Georgian Soldiers in Iraq were doing an outstanding job, serving in dangerous conditions arm-in-arm with their American and other coalition colleagues.” Tefft explained.

“I’m confident that the 22nd Battalion, after completing this training, will assume its position and do an equally distinguished job serving arm-in-arm with the coalition in Iraq,” Tefft said.

The GSSOP is close to the hearts of those at the highest levels of the Georgian Ministry of Defense.

“At present Georgian Armed Forces face quite important objectives,” said Levan Nikoleishvili, Georgian armed forces head of the general staff. “Drastic reforms are being held in the armed forces. But, no success will be achieved unless each of you will do his work profoundly.”

“Only after that, the effort of Georgian and American military servicemen will be realized. After the training is over, you will be required to participate in those operations and be dislocated to those places which will be asked by our country and the international community,” Nikoleishvili added.

Chattman’s closing remark seemed to reflect the inner most thoughts of many families, Soldiers and U.S. personnel at the opening ceremony, “May God bless our nations. Semper Fidelis.”

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