FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
Picture yourself in a foreign country full of sand, hot weather, and insurgents who want nothing more than to take your life. Your job is to drive and patrol through this combat zone and protect a commanding officer as he conducts his daily duties.
For the Personal Security Detachment of 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, it is their reality and they work diligently to ensure the best outcome possible of every mission the team executes.
The PSD, who is on charge of escorting the battalion commander and other VIPs through the unit’s area of operations safely, hit an improvised explosive device within their first week in Afghanistan. Fort Davis, Texas, native and PSD platoon commander, Sgt. Bryan A. Behan, said his Marines reacted to the situation like they’ve been doing it for years.
“Three days after [2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment] left, my vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. Luckily, everything was good and nobody got hurt,” said Behan. “Everyone did what they had to do and our drills were down 100 percent. I was a little bit out of it and one of my Marines stepped up and finished the job. It was amazing.”
He said what makes his team work so well together is that they come from all types of backgrounds and different parts of the unit.
“It was basically, ‘Hey, every company has to give us five [Marines],’ so it was a very quick group,” explained Behan, a 2001 graduate of Fort Davis High School. “The group was different out of each company, and everyone had never worked together, so it was my job to make sure that happened.”
It’s been four months since the PSD was formed and they’ve gone from a crawling phase to a full-on sprint, according to Behan and his Marines. He said he has full confidence they will continue to do great things throughout their deployment.
They’ve also quickly learned work alongside the Afghan National Army and Afghan uniformed police. The Marines work, sleep, and eat in the same patrol bases as the ANA and AUP.
According to Behan, the relationship has grown to be a healthy one as they continue to work together.
“We’ve been going out a lot with the ANA and AUP to the different bases out here,” said Pfc. Brendon Bretz, a Harrisburg, Penn., native and a PSD Marine. “Our Battalion Commander checks on his Marines and sees how things are doing and the ANA commander and AUP commander are doing the same things with their [troops].”
After visiting more than 25 patrol bases and outposts, the Marines with the PSD have quickly learned several missions may be similar, but never the same.
“One day we’ll be going to a patrol base out in the middle of nowhere, in hostile territory, to visit the Marines and the next thing you know we’ll be going to PB Jaker to have dinner with the [District Governor] of Nawa,” mentioned Cpl. Benjamin Bracero, 23-year-old driver with the PSD and a Milwaukee native.
Whether it is riding in convoys, having dinner with the DG, or enjoying downtime on the forward operating base, the Marines say their favorite part about the deployment is the brotherhood they’ve built in the four months the PSD has been together.
“I’d have to say that no matter where you go, the Marine Corps somehow molds everybody to be a really tight group,” said Behan. “I like to be able to depend on someone the same way they would be able to depend one me and I have full confidence in every single one of these Marines when a situation becomes difficult.”
The Marines have been able to complete every mission with success because of their fine teamwork.
“Without us, the battalion commander wouldn’t be going out. He likes how we do things and [he] trusts us,” said Bretz. “If he couldn’t get out to the Marines, he wouldn’t be able to see first-hand how they’re doing and what they need. We are the ones who make that happen and will continue to make it happen ‘til we go home.”
The 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward). The division serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations to secure the Afghan people, defeat insurgent forces, and enable ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.