The office is a pressure cooker, with planners putting in 12-16 hour days every day of the week. What keeps them going is a bottomless coffee pot and a great sense of shared humor among the members of the group.
This command's particular region of interest lies within the Helmand Province, one of 34 provinces in Afghanistan. It is one of the largest Afghan provinces and arguably the most unstable. To make matters worse, the Helmand province yields the highest quantity of illicit opium, morphine, and hashish in the country, all of which funds the insurgency and the Taliban via illegal "taxation" of the farmers. The illegal flow of narcotics out of Afghanistan destabilizes the government and hinders the transition of military operations from coalition forces to the Afghan National Security Forces, or ANSF.
Each regional command (RC) has thousands of soldiers, Marines, and coalition forces working as mentors/trainers and partners to the ANSF. The ANSF not only includes the Afghan military, but also incorporates the various Afghan National Police forces, including the Afghan national police, civil order police, counter narcotics police, and even local and tribal police. The poppy problem alone is enough to keep the police forces busy, which make the training and mentoring piece a huge task as we lead them to self-sufficiency.
Back to the officers of the FOPS section - one particular Marine officer assigned to assist in the transition of counter-narcotics operations from the coalition forces to the Afghans is Major Sean Dynan, an Annapolis grad who has is on his 5th deployment. A former company commander right here in Helmand, his company operated only a few miles away from where we currently work. In 2008, Maj. Dynan had a PBS reporter embedded with his company. Although reporters often sensationalize their experiences or inaccurately portray their subjects, this particular PBS reporter appears to have conveyed a very realistic and accurate portrayal of what is still occurring on a daily basis in Helmand Province. The report shows how military operations have radically changed from the WWII, Korea and Vietnam eras, when the military man was simply a war-fighter. Today, our Marines are not only war-fighters, but also peace-keepers simultaneously filling military, civil, law enforcement and humanitarian roles.
Although the video is nearly 3 years old, it could have been filmed yesterday. The situation portrayed in 2008 remains the same in much of the Province. You'll see The blurred civil-military mission continues in Afghanistan today.
Here's the link: Reporter Embed in Helmand