Lance Cpl. Niko Azucenas, a police mentor with the Regimental Combat Team 5 Police Advisory Team, talks to children before giving them packets of food from his Meal, Ready-to-Eat.
MARJAH, Afghanistan (March 05, 2012) — Cpl. Trey James, squad leader, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, smiled and waved to the approaching Afghan child.
“La La, how have you been? Do you remember me?” James asked the boy.
La La, the Afghan boy, walked up to James and the pair pounded fists. James, 22, a native of Atlanta, took a knee and began talking to La La and before long a small crowd of children gathered.
This is James’ second deployment to Afghanistan. He was here in 2010 as a part of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
When James first came to here in 2010, the area was not as secure as it is today.
“I would definitely say Marjah has improved,” he said. “The first time, you couldn’t go a whole day without hearing gunfire. Kids weren’t out as much. It was a completely different place.”
James is a member of Regimental Combat Team 5’s Police Advisory Team. He and his fellow Marines have trained their Afghan counterparts to take control of security operations here.
“The Afghan Police are definitely well prepared,” said Lance Cpl. Niko Azucenas, a police mentor with the PAT. “We are just here for support and to advise.”
There are still risks associated with the job, but La La and the other children can help James and his Marines avoid some of those risks.
“Kids know more than we think,” James said. “Kids here know everything. They know when an area isn’t safe and they’ll let you know.”
But for James it isn’t only important to interact with the children of Afghanistan.
“The adults embrace us as well,” he said, “these people aren’t too much different than we are. If they like you they are going to look out for you and make sure you’re safe. They do these things because they consider you a friend.”
James waved goodbye to the children before he climbed back into his vehicle.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” James said, “to know that I have a friend on this side of the world. I come over here as a Marine and I have someone who remembers me as a friend. I think that’s pretty awesome.”