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Sgt. Sergio Martinez Delefuente Tapin (left), a load master assistant and Pfc. Sarah Caldera, a motor transport operator, both with 2nd Platoon, Echo Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) strap down tow bars at Forward Operating Base Payne, Afghanistan, April 14. CLB-5 recently arrived in Afghanistan and is adapting to current combat operations.

Photo by Sgt. Michele Watson

Combat Logistics Battalions conduct “left seat, right seat” operations in Afghanistan

20 Apr 2012 | Sgt. Michele Watson

The war in Afghanistan is continuous, and while units may come and go, the mission never pauses.

With only a few days left in Afghanistan, Combat Logistics Battalion 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) has spent the past few weeks working side-by-side with CLB-5, 1st MLG (Fwd) as they prepare to take over the logistic support responsibilities in southern Afghanistan. To ensure the smoothest transition possible, the two battalions have conducted “left seat, right seat” operations.

“Left seat, right seat” operations occur when a few members of an incoming unit observe an outgoing unit while they conduct a mission. “Left seat” is the term used to describe the unit that is conducting the mission while the “right seat” describes the observers. It allows the incoming unit to ask questions and understand the environment before taking over completely. This process ultimately sustains the operational tempo.

When CLB-5 first arrived in Afghanistan, key leaders took the “right seat” and went on missions with CLB-1 to get a feel for current combat operations.

Although CLB-1 received turnover training at the beginning of their deployment, key leaders were only able to observe one mission conducted by the unit they were replacing before they took the reins. Conducting multiple missions with their replacement before CLB-1 leaves Afghanistan gives CLB-5 further familiarity with the area of operations.

“It is absolutely imperative that the incoming unit is receptive to advice from the outgoing unit,” said 1st Lt. Tyrel Campbell, 3rd Platoon commander, Charlie Company, CLB-1, who observed a recent mission to Forward Operating Base Payne, Afghanistan.

For the incoming unit, one of the best tools for a smooth changeover is the experience of the outgoing unit.

“Even the smallest tips can make the difference between a good deployment and a great deployment,” said Sgt. Jared Swofford, section leader, 3rd Plt., Charlie Co., CLB-1.

Just days before CLB-5 took over as the sole logistics provider in the region, they took the “left seat” and conducted their own mission to FOB Payne with a few Marines from CLB-1 riding along to observe.

At FOB Payne, CLB-5 provided tactical logistics support to members of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5. In addition to the regularly scheduled delivery of chow and water, CLB-5 supplied 3rd LAR Bn. with 15 Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles for use in future operations.

After a successful tour, CLB-1’s hard work has earned them a trip home, and CLB-5 is now prepared to provide support to multiple units.

“[Infantry units] have to have the supplies to get their mission done,” Swofford said.

CLBs are responsible for bringing water, food, fuel, gear and mail to FOBs throughout Helmand Province, but they also help with the retrograde of excess items in Afghanistan.

“On my last deployment, my main task was to provide supplies to our area of operations,” said Cpl. Raul Toledo, motor transport operator, 2nd Plt., Echo Co., CLB-5. “But now with the retrograde, I feel like my mission has a greater impact because the more gear we are able to take out of these FOBs, the faster the Marines can get out of there.”

Though it is only the beginning of the deployment, CLB-5 has already proven their competency. During their “left seat, right seat” operations, the unit visited FOBs Payne, Geronimo and Dehli and will continue to provide support to all Marine units south of Camp Leatherneck.

“This group did a lot of training before coming out here, and I think we’re prepared to provide the full support needed from us,” said Toledo.


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