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Georgian soldiers and U.S. Marines perform a ceremonial departure in front of their leaders, Maj. Gen. Vakhtang Kapanadze, Chief of Defense of Georgian Armed Forces, and Brig. Gen. Norma L. Cooling, deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, during a ceremony, March 24 in Vaziani Training Area. The Georgian 43 rd Light Infantry Battalion and U.S. Marines, who have worked together since October as part of the Georgia Deployment Program, will contribute to NATO’s Resolute Support in Afghanistan.

Photo by Sgt. Tatum Vayavananda

Georgians, U.S. deploy to Afghanistan to support NATO

31 Mar 2015 | Sgt. Tatum Vayavananda The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Georgian soldiers, alongside U.S. Marines, will deploy together as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan after a ceremonial departure ceremony last Tuesday at Vaziani Training Area, approximately 180 kilometers south of Russia’s border. 

“You are better trained, more experienced and better prepared for the task at hand than we ever had before,” said Maj. Gen. Vakhtang Kapanadze, Chief of Defense of Georgian Armed Forces.

Despite sustained tension in Eastern Europe between the West and Russia, Georgia’s contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission is the largest, in terms of troop size, since the beginning of their participation in the Middle East. 

“We don’t [get] the chance to choose our country, to choose our neighbors, or to choose when we serve … but by supporting international security, you guarantee the safety and security of your own country,” said Kapanadze. 

Georgia’s commitment to operations in Afghanistan are great; Georgia has annually deployed entire battalions to support the former ISAF mission since 2010. NATO’s Resolute Support in Afghanistan launched Jan. 1 of this year and includes 14 NATO allies and partner nations contributing more than 12,000 personnel to provide further training, advice, and assistance for the Afghan security forces. 

Distinguished visitors attending the ceremony also included Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi Nicholas Berliner, and Brig. Gen. Norman L. Cooling, deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. 

“It is truly impressive how far we have come together as a team in our ability to prosecute a mission on behalf of NATO and the international coalition,” said Cooling.

Officially known as The Georgia Deployment Program – Resolute Support Mission, formerly GDP-ISAF, the Marine Forces Europe and Africa program attaches Marine liaisons from a variety of military occupations, experience and backgrounds to Georgian infantry companies; they have been together since October preparing for their mission. 

“This Georgian battalion training has evolved and is among the most sophisticated of any force that will be fielded to Afghanistan or any global-security environment,” said Cooling.