FORWARD OPERATING BASE EDINBURGH, Afghanistan (Mar. 21, 2011) Aca,!" While Task Force Thunder primarily comprises Soldiers, itAca,!a,,cs not just Soldiers who are making the mission happen.
Eight Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based out of Cherry Point, N.C., and two Marines from the Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 based out of Miramar, Calif., received Army Achievement Medals Mar. 20 for their part in the joint mission here.
Lt. Col. Charles R. Bowery Jr., the commander of the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, which is based out of Fort Hood, Texas, presented the awards to the Marines for their exceptional speed and efficiency at the forward arming and refueling point in support of Army special operations with Task Force Dragon.
Since their Oct. 1 arrival here, the Marines have provided Army aircrews with more than 25,000 gallons of fuel, said 1st Lt. Nathaniel G. Miller, the air traffic control officer in charge for the 26th MEU.
The Army welcomed the assistance from the Marines, which has proved beneficial to the efforts in Afghanistan.
"A lot of our (special operations) missions have been run in the RC-Southwest in the Helmand River Valley," said Bowery. "The Marines have come online and offered FOB Edinburgh to conduct refuel and rearm ops to support our mission. Without the folks here at Edinburgh, we'd have to fly all the way to Camp Bastion for fuel, which is a half-hour away. It would decrease our response time and decrease our support of ground forces."
"We've done eight different deliberate operations supported out of FOB Edinburgh," he said. "The Marines are awesome. They provide great, fast fuel support. On the last few operations we've sent a number of our fuel and armament Soldiers out here to work at FOB Edinburgh and they've been welcomed on the team every single time, so it's been a great example of joint operations between the Army and the Marines."
Joint operations offer advantages to missions that a single-service operation might not offer.
"We take advantage of the skills of every service brings to the fight," said Bowery. "By operating this way, it extends our reach. We can operate farther from our home base at KAF because we know the Marines understand our systems. We share a common language in terms of air traffic control, and we share common procedures for refueling and rearming aircraft. When a Marine runs up to an Army Apache, he knows where the refuel nodule is - he knows how it works - which is not something you can take for granted. These guys have to be trained to do this, and they do a superb job."
"Our battalion's mission is to fly and support Aca,!A| special operations forces," said Bowery. "RC-Southwest is a Marine theater of operation, so they run all of the bases out here in Southwest. So, by its nature, every time we're out here, it's a joint op."
The Marines don't work with the AH-64 Apache helicopters very often, said Sgt. Jeff Neely, a bulk fuel specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, based in Miramar, Calif., from Yadkinville, N.C., so learning how to refuel them quickly was a skill they had to improve.
Special operations missions are particularly time-critical, which put the Marines under increased pressure.
"I never knew how critical missions were with special operations teams," said Neely. "I never worked with them before, until we got out here, and realized that timelines were so crucial to a mission."
Despite the newness of the mission in the beginning, Bowery said the Marines got the process down. In fact, he compared the speed with which the Marines worked to refuel the aircraft to that of a NASCAR pit crew.
The Marines found they worked well with the Army.
"We both showed each other equal amounts of respect," said Neely.
"There (are) no real differences," said Pfc. John A. Coleman, a bulk fuel specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, from Johnson City, Ill. "Everyone still follows the same safety rules. Everyone moves with the same intensity. I get along great with them. They had their job, and we had ours, but it was the same mission. We were able to work together with that, and we weren't stepping on each others' toes."
The combined efforts between Army and Marines seemed to have produced effective results for the mission in Afghanistan.
"The special operations forces that operate out here in the Helmand Valley have had an impact on the enemy as a result of the great support that we get from the folks here at Edinburgh," said Bowery. "We are really excited to come out and present some Army Achievement Medals to them to recognize them for their work."
The recognition for their hard work was not the only thing these Marines will be taking away with them - it's the pride in the accomplishment and experiences others may never have.
"I'm really proud to work with the Army," said Coleman. "Not too many Marines out here with our unit got a chance to, especially got a chance to work with the special forces, so I'm proud to go back home and say that. I'm pretty new to the Marine Corps, so I don't have a lot of rank, but now I have a lot more experience because I got to work with the Army, different birds and different missions."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16