8/23/2012 By Sgt. Jacob Harrer, 1st Marine Division
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Hours before sunrise, Amanda Saul waited at the barracks for her husband to return from Afghanistan. She had been awake for four days with excitement– the deployment was ending early.
Amanda, a 22-year-old native of Grand Junction, Colo., moved back to Colorado for the deployment and said she received much support from her family in the absence of her husband, Cpl. Jeremy K. Saul, an embarkation specialist with the 1st Marine Division (Forward). Though close to family, she appreciated her husband’s help with chores and was happy to finally have him back home.
“Being able to come home to someone every day makes a huge difference,” she explained.
Amanda is one of dozens of friends and families who gathered to welcome home more than 130 Marines and sailors of 1stMarDiv (Fwd). After serving for seven months as the command element for NATO ground forces in Helmand province, the Division returned during a homecoming event here, Aug. 22.
The Division was originally scheduled to stay in Afghanistan until 2013, but because of significant progress being made, the leadership decided to decrease troop levels, said Sgt. Maj. Terry L. Jones, the 1stMarDiv (Fwd) sergeant major.
Shortly after arriving in Afghanistan, the Division took charge as the command element for Task Force Leatherneck, which oversaw most multinational ground forces in Helmand province.
During the deployment, the Marines and sailors staffed a number of administrative departments at Camp Leatherneck, the largest military base in Helmand province. They provided a wide range of services and support, including legal, personnel, medical, logistics, supply, intelligence, and communications.
“We had a great group of professionals who didn’t need much [guidance], and when you have a group of individuals who are eager to do their best… it’s an easy fight,” said Jones.
Many service members traveled to other units around Afghanistan to support their efforts and train and mentor Afghan security forces and local governments.
The primary mission of Task Force Leatherneck was to prepare Afghan National Security Forces and local governments to assume responsibility for security and governance.
“We needed the Afghan people to understand and realize that we’re not an occupying force,” added Jones. “It was important for them to know that initially we fought the fight. As we assisted in their development and their training, it was important that the Afghan people saw an Afghan face leading in the fight because it is their fight.”
The Afghans took the lead on many combat operations during the duration of the deployment and were very successful during the transition, said Jones.
“They see there’s a chance for change, and they want that change,” explained Jones. “I believe that they will achieve the ultimate goal, which is freedom.”