SAN DIEGO — Sgt. Nathan Burrell was part of the surge of Marines into southwestern Afghanistan in 2009, when Camp Leatherneck was just being built and Burrell’s unit was running resupply missions to dozens of forward operating bases and combat outposts throughout Helmand and Nimroz provinces.

Now, Burrell is back, this time planning convoys to bring people and equipment back to Camp Leatherneck from the forward operating bases and combat outposts as part of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward)’s retrograde effort in Regional Command-Southwest.

In the last year, 223 bases have closed in RC-SW. Just five remain.

Burrell volunteered for the deployment so he could get back to Afghanistan with the last major Marine command to deploy to the country, he told Stars and Stripes via video call from Camp Leatherneck. He also deployed to Iraq twice — in 2006 and 2008, with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

Burrell is headquarters platoon sergeant and assistant operations chief with Headquarters Platoon, Transport Services Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 7. He said he has been excited about every deployment, and is enthusiastic about his current assignment because he has more planning and coordination responsibilities in his unit.

“They are all equally exciting regardless of the amount of times you have deployed,” Burrell said.

Burrell said he had always wanted to join the military, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — when he was a freshman in high school in Bloomingdale, Ill. — solidified his decision.

“I came from a very patriotic family, so the idea of serving my country was always something that I looked forward to doing,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges Burrell said his unit will face is “retrograding the remaining bases while still dealing with a high risk of attacks,” he said. On a personal level, this deployment will be different because it is the first for his wife and two children.

“Obviously the worst part of my job is being away from my family for seven months,” he said. Twitter: @jhlad

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