COMBAT OUTPOST PAYNE, Afghanistan -- The Marines and sailors of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Forward), unfurled their unit’s colors for the first time during a transfer of authority ceremony with 1st LAR Bn. at Combat Outpost Payne, Nov. 20.2010.
Earlier in the month, the 3rd LAR, also known as the “Wolfpack,” deployed from its home station at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
With the TOA complete between the commanding officers of 1st and 3rd LAR Battalions, Lt. Col. Scott D. Leonard and Lt. Col. Ken Kassner, respectively, the men of the “Wolfpack,” officially began conducting security operations across Rig District, located in southern Helmand Province along the heavily vegetated Helmand River Valley.
According to Kassner, their operations throughout their battlespace consist of interdicting the movement of enemy forces, disrupting criminal activity associated with the drug trade in
Helmand province, professionalizing the Afghan National Security Forces, and energizing local governance and economic development.
This deployment is the battalion’s inaugural deployment to Afghanistan. The Marines and sailors of 3rd LAR returned only a year ago in October of 2009, after completing several months of sustained combat operations in Iraq.
They hold the distinction of being the last Marine Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion to serve in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, added Kassner.
From 2003 to 2009, the “Wolfpack,” deployed five times to Iraq, distinguishing itself during the initial invasion – the assault to secure the city of Fallujah – and supporting the drawdown of Marine forces in Iraq.
For nearly two years the Marine Corps’ LAR community has maintained a continued presence in southern Afghanistan, conducting and supporting coalition operations against Taliban and insurgent forces while developing the ANSF to eventually assume operational control of this region.
With 3rd LAR Battalion’s arrival in Afghanistan marks the first time that all four LAR battalions in the Marine Corps—three active component units and one reserve battalion—have deployed consecutively to the same area of operations since Operation Enduring Freedom began.
“In southern Helmand province, the ‘Wolfpack,’ looks to continue the proud tradition of its brother battalions that preceded it in this area. The 2nd, 4th, and 1st LAR Battalions distinguished themselves by combating the insurgent threat, strengthening security, and working to enhance local governance,” said Kassner, a native of Coupland, Texas. “Collectively, they have brought great credit to the LAR community, and we eagerly look forward to advancing LAR's already impressive reputation.”
While the relationship between all of the LAR Battalions is close and unique, the Marines and sailors of 1st and 3rd LAR Bn. share a special bond. Both battalions are members of the storied 1st Marine Division, and they are stationed only a few hours apart from one another, with 1st LAR Bn. stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Since the beginning of OIF in 2003, the two 1st Marine Division units have conducted five ‘relief in place’ operations together. This year’s transfer of authority is even more unique because the two battalion commanders, who completed a TOA in Iraq, are now leading their respective battalions again in Afghanistan.
“I can't think of too many instances in history when the same two battalion commanders conducted transfers of authority together in two different wars in two different countries. The expertise and experiences maintained by each of our teams in transferring equipment sets and working with one another so closely has made this most recent battle space transfer so seamless,” said Kassner at the end of the ceremony at COP Payne.
Until the end of their deployment in late May 2011, the Marines and sailors of 3rd LAR Bn will continue to conduct counter-insurgent operations across southern Helmand Province, setting the conditions for a stable environment the citizens of Afghanistan and an eventual transfer of responsibility to Afghan forces in many areas that were once held by the Taliban.
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