Posted on Aug 26, 2014
Cpl Matthew Wall
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“On Nov. 25, 2001, we conducted an amphibious assault over 400 miles into the land-locked country of Afghanistan, becoming the first U.S. ground troops in the region,” said Spaulding. “We set new standards for Marine Corps amphibious doctrine. We landed at a remote airbase, 90 miles southwest of Kandahar, and occupied America’s first forward operating base, Camp Rhino, and maintained the first significant conventional ground presence in Afghanistan.”

Camp Rhino was an abandoned runway just southwest of Kandahar. The 15th MEU’s mission was to seal off the city, cut off incoming supplies and escape routes, and take over the Kandahar airport. At its peak, the Camp contained approximately 1,100 Marines and corpsmen under the command of, then, Brig. Gen. James N. Mattis.

“From November 2001 until the end of January 2002, we lived in fighting holes,” said Spaulding. “Literally, big holes we dug in the dirt, in a perimeter to surround the entire camp, and we went outside the wire and conducted different missions to gain objectives.”

Once they took the Kandahar airfield, the 15th MEU was replaced by the 26th MEU and the Marines and sailors headed back to their respective ships that were anchored and awaiting their return to the Arabian Sea.

Since his first deployment with the first Marine unit into Afghanistan, Spaulding has completed two successful combat tours. One with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, during 2003 as the United States invaded Iraq and during the intense battle in Fallujah, and then with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, during 2005 to 2006.

Now, 13 years later, Spaulding is once again deployed to Afghanistan as the senior medical department representative and serving with the last Marine unit in the country, Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan, under the command of Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo.

The missions have changed from counterinsurgency to security force assistance operations throughout the years, and the Marines and sailors currently have the responsibility of retrograding all personnel and equipment out of the country.

“It is such a substantial honor to be a part of the first group that was here as the War on Terror kicked off in 2001, and to now have an active role in the end of operations as the units exit the country,” said Spaulding. “It means a lot to me to be a part of this history 13 years later. I have two boys, and they will read about this in their history books and know that their dad was a part of it.”
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How cool would that be to be one of the first ones in to Afghanistan and then years later be able to say you were with the last ones out. That is pretty amazing that he is able to do this.

Side note: The last part where it talks about history books. I'm not sure this will be in the history books. This might be something that does not get added, especially since they are trying to take parts of our history out as it is.
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LTC Cavalry Officer
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I think with today's better communication techniques, and with so much online and otherwise retrievable, there will be many more 'sidebar' notes included in history. Not sure we are more historically minded, but with so much information recorded, there will be much more for historians to sift through, and without waiting as long as in the past.
Even in the end of the 20th century, so much was written down on paper rather than on digits. I am looking forward to reading, researching and learning about so much more because of the amount of information available. (Of course, there is bad information out there as well, so one still needs to be discerning.)
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Cpl Matthew Wall
Cpl Matthew Wall
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Agreed! Everything is put on record these days. That may be its downfall though. Way too much information out there and too much of it to sift through. Time will tell.
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