FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan -- In support of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Marines, Soldiers and Sailors wrapped up Operation NIGHTENGALE, a joint operation designed to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
The operation consisted of civil affairs visits to several villages in Oruzgan, a province in central Afghanistan. Part of the motivation for conducting NIGHTENALE is supporting the new government of Afghanistan in establishing credibility with the Afghan people.
"A lot of the programs we do, we do to legitimize the government," said Maj. Alvalee Cook, 486th Civil Affairs Officer. "We want to the people to think this is a good government."
Cook leads the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which is responsible for being the go-between for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and the Afghani people. What the PRT does is sponsor construction and medical assistance programs to help develop the infrastructure of Afghanistan. Programs the PRT has conducted in the past include the building of a radio tower for a police station, and the construction of water wells for drinking and irrigation.
During NIGHTENGALE, the PRT delivered school supplies, grain and vegetable seed, and water tanks, and also conducted medical examinations for the sick and injured in the village. They PRT also followed up on approved contracts for the construction of wells, and nominated another village for a new well.
After years of conflict, first with the Soviet Union and later, under Taliban rule, much of what little infrastructure the country had was destroyed. The need for assistance is great in Afghanistan, particularly in their educational infrastructure.
"When you think things are bad, you come out here," said Marine Sgt. John Croce, a Springfield, Penn., native and civil affairs noncommissioned officer for the 22nd MEU (SOC). "It's worse than Iraq. In Iraq, they have buildings, chairs. Here, everything is on the floor. They have nothing as far as supplies."
Croce acts as a liaison between the Army PRT and the Marine Corps, helping them integrate into the 22nd MEU (SOC) way of conducting operations. Marines also supported the PRT in other ways.
Marines from Golf Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, provided additional security to augment the PRT's resident security teams. Navy Corpsmen from the 22nd MEU (SOC) also supported the medical side of NIGHTENGALE, assisting with examinations and working side-by-side with Army field medics.
In addition to providing supplies, the PRT also gathers information about the areas they visit in the form of village assessments. The PRT sit down with village elders to find out demographic information about the village and its livestock. They also ask questions concerning the general health of the population and what ailments they may have. All the information is compiled into a database to help planners decide what projects to fund.
Elements of the PRT have been in-country since January, and will remain to continue its civil affairs missions when the 22nd MEU (SOC) eventually leaves AFghanistan.
The 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22, and is in Afghanistan conducting combat and civil military operations as Task Force Linebacker.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.