The 31st Battalion is the first of four Georgian battalions to complete the Georgia Deployment Program – ISAF and will serve alongside U.S. Marines in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
During his remarks, Natonski praised the commitment of the Georgian Armed Forces and the Georgian people.
“I would like to thank the people of Georgia, the government of Georgia and the Armed Forces of Georgia for their contributions to NATO and ISAF; a contribution that will not be forgotten,” Natonski said. “To the warriors [of the 31st Infantry Battalion], the Marines who have trained you have been so impressed with your dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism. The Marines in Afghanistan look forward to serving alongside their brothers from Georgia.”
In his comments, Georgian Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Col. Arsen Tsukhishvili thanked the Marine training team and highlighted the accomplishments of the 31st Battalion throughout the six-month program.
“Today, the international community attentively observes peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan lead by NATO, and the participation of Georgian units in these operations will emphasizes the contribution of Georgia to international security,” Tsukhishvili said. “You are the best sons of our country and distinguished soldiers of the Georgian Armed Forces. We believe you will accomplish all assigned missions with dignity on a high level, and we wish you success in your mission and are looking forward to seeing you all return safely to Georgia. “
In addition to their participation in the traditional Georgian deployment ceremony, the distinguished visitors met with senior members of the Georgia’s Ministry of Defense, and observed training of the 32nd Infantry Battalion during a tour of the Krtsanisi Training Area (KTA). The 32nd Battalion will replace the 31st upon completion of their deployment.
At KTA, the Marine leadership had the chance to see firsthand how the Marines of MCTAG prepared the 31st Battalion as they watched U.S. Marine and Georgian instructors run squad-level infantry training for the soldiers of the 32nd Battalion.
Marine Master Sgt. Brent Dorrough, Georgia Training Team senior enlisted advisor, said the training package they deliver gives him 100 percent confidence that the 31st is ready to successfully accomplish their mission in Afghanistan.
“We train them just like we train U.S. Marines,” Dorrough said. “We train them to the Marine Corps’ standard and they get the exact same package that Marine Corps [units] would get before they deploy.”
According to Marine Lt. Col. Dan Thoele, the Georgia Training Team leader, the robust training package that makes up the Georgia Deployment Program - ISAF (GDP-I) consists of six months of intense infantry and staff training that goes from the individual and squad level all the way up to the battalion staff.
Thoele said over 240 Marines have traveled to Georgia to train the 31st Battalion, including instructors from the Marine Corps Training and Education Command’s professional schools and the Marine operating forces. In addition to regular military activities, Thoele highlighted that the GDP-I package focused on preparing the Georgians to operate in a counter insurgency environment by emphasizing key leadership engagements, working with the tribal and local leaders, and operating from forward operating bases.
“The Marine Corps has put forth full effort behind [the GDP-I training program],” Thoele said. “I truly believe that the Marines in Helmand, Afghanistan will be excited with what the 31st Battalion brings to the table. They have the drive and energy, and now the training to do a good job and accomplish any mission they are assigned.”
In addition to Natonski and Brier also visited the GDP-I team to observe the training.
As the Marine service component of U.S. European Command, Marine Forces Europe (MFE) is the lead component tasked with operational control of GDP-I, and Brier said the Marines of MFE have been highly successful in coordinating with the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation in Tbilisi and the entire country team at the U.S. Embassy in Georgia to ensure that GDP-I has the resources needed to accomplish their mission.
“The successful training and deployment of the 31st Battalion, proves the viability and value of MCTAG and what this Marine Corps resource can provide to all of the combatant commanders,” Brier said.
Brig. Gen. Brier also highlighted the historic importance of this first phase of the four-part GDP-I.
“For the Georgians and the Marines; going through this training evolution, and going to Afghanistan to serve alongside each other is going to build ties and bonds that will last and draw our two nations closer.” Brier said.
As they depart for their mission in Afghanistan, the Marines who have worked with the Georgian soldiers of the 31st Battalion say they are proud to see what has been accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.
“It is just like when we deploy ourselves or when we say goodbye to one of our own units,” Dorrough said. “They are just like family leaving; we’re proud of them and we want them to do well and we wish them the best. “