TBISILI, Georgia — U.S. Marines and Republic of Georgia soldiers marked the beginning of the Georgia Deployment Program Aug. 30, with an opening ceremony at the Krtsanisi National Training Center just outside of the city here.
Georgia is scheduled to provide an infantry battalion to serve along with U.S., allies and other partners nations in Afghanistan. The Georgia Deployment Program is a two-year training program consisting of four six-month rotations designed to train four Georgian infantry battalions in counter-insurgency tactics, techniques and procedures in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan in support of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF).
A formation of about 40 Marines from Marine Corps Training and Advisory Group (MCTAG) were flanked by about 750 soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 31st Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) during the opening ceremony formation, which lasted about 30 minutes.
"On behalf of my country, my Commandant, and the Marines who will serve with Georgian forces in Afghanistan, let me say again how much your support and shared commitment to freedom is appreciated and has earned our lasting friendship," said Col. Scott C. Cottrell, director, MCTAG, during the opening ceremony speech. "It was that initial offer of a battalion to fight alongside of the Marines in Afghanistan that led us to this day."
Each of the four rotation is further broken down into six phases and each will culminate in a mission rehearsal exercise slated to take place at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hoenfels, Germany. The first battalion of Georgians are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan March 2010.
"This training program begins with the individual skills required in a counter-insurgency environment, progresses through small unit operations and culminates with a battalion-level mission rehearsal exercise," said Cottrell. "To support this training program, the Marine Corps has committed its finest Marines to help train the 31st Battalion. All have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, many for multiple tours."
The training program will focus on skill sets necessary for Georgian forces to operate alongside NATO and ISAF partners in a counter-insurgency environment in Afghanistan. The training will include packages such as maneuvers, marksmanship, driving, logistics, medical, as well as classroom staff training.
Krtsanisi National Training Center, also known as KTA and about 20 miles south of Tbilisi, is surrounded by grassy, rolling hills and is currently home to the 31st LIB and the MCTAG Georgia Training Team.
The training team consists of about 10 MCTAG staff members and the remainder of instructors are subject-matter experts in their respective fields staffed from various units throughout the Marine Corps.
According to Capt. Alexandre Tugushi, commander, 31st LIB, his soldiers are battle testeddmore than 65 percent with previous deployments to Iraq supporting ISAFFand ready to begin training.
"I'm very glad this training will start," said Capt. Alexandre Tugushi, commander 31stLIB. "We're going to receive high-level training from Marines for our very important job in [Afghanistan]. The whole unit is motivated."
U.S. officials were also grateful to Georgia for its contribution of an infantry battalion to serve alongside U.S. service members in support of ISAF operations in Afghanistan.
"Over the years, Georgia has demonstrated that they are a willing and reliable coalition partner in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Paul B. Riley, chief, U.S. European Command Office of Defense Cooperation, Tbilisi. "We look forward to serving with Georgia in Afghanistan as we work together to protect the Afghan people."