Marines to relieve Green Berets in Georgia

10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) 

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Justin D. Pyle/Courtesy of U.S. Air Force
Members of 2nd Company, Georgian Commando Battalion fire upon an ‘advancing’ enemy during an exercise at a training range in Vasiani, Georgia. The Green Berets, who have been training Georgian troops through the Train and Equip Program, will be relieved by Marines. Army Brig. Gen. Gary Jones said the Green Berets need a break after a demanding training schedule.

TBILISI, Georgia — Marines will replace the Green Berets instructing soldiers when the Georgia Train and Equip Program resumes in February.

The commander for Special Operations Command Europe, Army Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones, said he would not discuss future operations but said the Green Berets need a break from a heavy training schedule.

SOCEUR spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. MJ Jadick said although a primary mission of Green Berets is to train soldiers of foreign militaries, they usually do not conduct as much training as the program in Georgia requires over the long haul.

The program, which will cost about $63 million, began in April and will continue until May 2004 with the goal of training several battalions of Georgian soldiers to aid in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Several of the Marine trainers have already arrived in Georgia so they could see the Green Berets on job, said Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, who spent last week overseeing the change over.

“We’ve done this all over the country. This is not a problem for us. We are ready,” Fields said.

The new training commander will be Marine Maj. Scott Campbell, who previously had helped train troops in Saudi Arabia.

“The transition should be pretty seamless,” he said.

The Marines have a long history of training that includes missions in Vietnam, Honduras and Nicaragua.

“We will accomplish our mission. We are Marines. We always succeed,” Campbell said Sunday during in interview at the training base a few miles outside Tbilisi, the nation’s capital.

The Marines handpicked the personnel they felt would do the best job, Campbell said.

They picked several Marines from the Corps Mountain War Fighting School in California.

The Green Berets just finished training a battalion of commandos, but the Marines will train a mountain battalion.

Campbell said his advance team has been trying to find the best area in the country to train in the mountains. The Georgian soldiers, who are essentially raw recruits selected to specifically participate in the training program, will be taught rappelling, how to build rope bridges and other skills like technical climbing, Campbell said.

Some of his instructors recently went to Fort Bragg, N.C., to receive training on Soviet-style weapons, which are the light arms the United States is providing to the Georgian military.

By David Josar, Stars and Stripes
European edition, 

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