Two local men serving country in Afghanistan war
Afghanistan — In a country most have only seen on the evening news, two local service members are getting a first hand view of the war in Afghanistan.
Helping protect freedoms that in this country are sometimes taken for granted, 1st Lt. Eric Pendleton of Rockport and Marine Lance Cpl. Stephen Widdecomb of Camden serve different purposes in their roles in the war, but both serve with pride and distinction none the less.
In his second tour, Pendleton, a 2000 graduate of Camden Hills Regional High School, is a member of the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment providing logistical and tactical support to Special Operation Forces operating in southeast Afghanistan.
Widdecomb, who graduated in 2011 from Camden Hills, is a machine gunner in his first tour, is a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Marine Division serving in the Helman Province.
“Our mission is to assist Special Operations Forces in conducting Village Stability Operations,” Pendleton said. ”Long story short, the goal is to help the smaller outlying areas establish their own security and infrastructure while being supported by district and provincial level government, thus, tying in all echelons of leadership from national down to village level.”
He added, “A good majority of the time was spent training Afghan local police forces, which provided the stepping-stone into continued development projects that helped expand education for kids and supported stimulus of the local economy. At the same time, we also mentored and assisted the local government officials in providing the best possible support to their districts and villages.”
A lot of what Pendleton is responsible for is provide planning support to operations, as well as a six-month stint as a Battle Captain. At his level of command, they were able to ensure the teams had all the possible support, equipment, food, etc. to be able to conduct their missions.
Working with the local population certainly has its times of tension but according to Pendleton, most locals are receptive to assistance.
“For the most part, the locals generally pay no mind to us, since most of the focus has been on Afghan lead programs and security,” he said. “This is not to say there aren’t interactions going on with the local populace, but we have become a common sight here. There are, however, some remote parts of Afghanistan who believe we are the remainder of the Russian Army who came here 20 years ago.”
Widdecomb, son of Stephen E. Widdecomb of Camden and Stacie L. Woodman of West Palm Beach, Fla., has been in Afghanistan since late winter/early spring 2013. He said that his parents' support, along with the support of other family members and friends has made his first deployment easier.
The life of a marine on the ground in country is one of constant guard and keeping their eyes open for any possible threat. Widdecomb said he feels for himself, and the majority of his fellow marines, satisfaction comes in the form blood, sweat and tears shed in helping bring changes in the world and supporting the United States military.
“We have been out here grinding away, it’s hard work but it’s for the right reasons,” Widdecomb said. “It’s all worth it when you look at the big picture and know your contributing to changing the world.”
“It’s a brother hood like no other,” he continued. “Any one of us would put our lives on the line at the drop of a hat for each other. We live, sleep, eat and work together spending all day and everyday with one another.”
Widdecomb added, “You have to know you can depend on each other. We are all that each other has out here. We are our family; we defend each other, as I would any one of my relatives.”
Pendleton’s tour ended and he returned to the United States July 17. Widdecomb is still serving in Afghanistan.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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