CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
“I remember the day I heard that America was going into Afghanistan,” said Lance Cpl. Behzad Razzada, a member of the Embedded Partnering Team, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward). “My parents were happy because it was a chance for Afghanistan to unite and fight for freedom. They said it was the only way that injustice in Afghanistan would be finished.”
The idea of providing a better future for the Afghan people resonated with Razzada, a 24-year-old native of Afghanistan.
“I was born in Kabul and lived there until I was 10,” said Razzada. “I went to school there. It was just a normal school like anywhere else before the Taliban came. I studied until the fifth grade … and then chaos started. Everyone started leaving the country, all heading in one direction and hoping they didn’t get killed by the Taliban.”
Razzada’s family left the country after the Taliban implemented their harsh policies.
“I was pretty young, but I remember [the Taliban] beheading people, making people wear certain type of clothes and maintain certain hygiene standards,” said Razzada. “People who worked for the previous government were all in danger. Anyone who killed [employers of] the previous government would be rewarded, and my father had held a high position.”
Travelling to Pakistan with his family, Razzada spent the next three years attending school north of Peshawar City, where he studied math, science and English, while his family applied for permission to immigrate to the United States.
“We didn’t know if we were going to come to the United States. People used to say that the chances of successfully making the case to come to the United States were about 10 percent,” said Razzada. “When we left Afghanistan, we couldn’t stay in Pakistan because they were still killing members of the former [Afghan] government there … and that’s why we were accepted. We came to America with refugee status, so we were part of that 10 percent who got accepted.”
Razzada’s time in Afghanistan and Pakistan would serve him well both later in life when he returned to the region as a Marine, and more immediately when he began primary school in St. Louis.
“My English was decent, not very strong, but decent … so I started school right away,” said Razzada. “The culture was extremely different though.”
After graduating high school and attending Yuba College in Yuba City, Calif., Razzada joined the Marines.
“I joined the Marine Corps after two years in college where I majored in psychology,” said Razzada. “I am going to finish my school, so the Marine Corps is a good way to pay for college and be part of the military at the same time.”
CLB-4 was already training for their deployment to Afghanistan and when Razzada joined the battalion.
“I had to talk to my parents and tell them that I was going to get deployed,” said Razzada. “They told me it was a good chance for me to go there and be a helping hand because I was from the country. They told me to go there and do my best."
Razzada is in an ideal place to make a difference while assigned to the EPT.
“I speak Dari, a little bit of Pashtun, Hindi and Urdu along with English,” said Razzada. “I had the perfect chance to help, especially having the [chain of command] I did, who let me interact with the [Afghan National Army] as much possible."
The EPT worked with 2nd Battalion, 5th Kandak, 215 Corps as advisors and subject matter experts to assist in training, as well as planning for and executing operations.
“We were part of a Combat Service Support Kandak. Our mission was to train them... to support forward infantry battalions,” said Maj. Charles E. Parker Jr., officer in charge, EPT, CLB-4.
Taking such a hands-on approach to helping build a better future for the Afghan people suited Razzada.
“Like every other Marine on my team, he is mature beyond his years, and he was always looking forward to helping,” said Parker. “He had a strong bond with our interpreters … and I would bring him along sometimes to [meetings], and he could help fill me in on … the perception and mood amongst the ANA.”
Razzada brought his journey full circle when he returned to Afghanistan as a Marine and helped rebuild the country in the aftermath of Taliban rule.
“I’m extremely happy that I had this experience,” said Razzada. “What the EPT has done is make the ANA more confident in themselves and make them more capable when they are out there on their own. We accomplished our mission.”