June 21, 2010 —
A Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, ground guides a vehicle into position near a temporary observation post in Southern Shorshork, Helmand province June 16.
KABUL, Afghanistan (June 21, 2010) — The Afghan National Army (ANA), in partnership with ISAF, successfully completed their first task of establishing an observation post in support of Operation New Dawn in southern Shorshork, Helmand Province, Thursday.
Operation New Dawn is a joint operation between the ANA and ISAF to disrupt enemy forces which have been using the sparsely populated region between Marjah and Nawa as a safe haven.
The ANA and their ISAF counterparts are responsible for establishing a defensive blocking position to deny enemy forces freedom of movement in the area.
“We are going to be conducting patrols, vehicle checkpoints and looking at the population, making sure there aren’t people from out of the area coming in and causing harm or issues for the local people,” said Capt. Luke Pernotto, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, L Company commander and ground force commander in Operation New Dawn. “We want to make sure enemy forces can’t be reinforced, and don’t fall back to regroup in this area. We’ve made extreme progress in Nawa, and to have it all go to waste, especially when we’re doing our last bit of clean-up in the Trek Nawa area, would be a shame.”
Following a nearly seven-hour convoy from Combat Outpost Toor Ghar, which took much longer than expected due to travelling on roads unused by international forces, and vehicle problems, an initial observation post was set up in a compound.
“We are here for Afghanistan to build up the area,” said Najibullah Bakht Beland, ANA 1st sergeant. “We are from this country, to serve this country.”
The elders allowed the ANA and international forces to stay in the compound for one night, before moving further south to a position on the edge of the desert, but close enough to interact with the local populace.
“We’re essentially on the line where the desert ends and cultivation and civilization begin,” said Pernotto, from Shreveport, Louisiana. “Once the population realizes that a lot of their fears are unwarranted and we really are here to help them, that’s when we can begin to work with them and show that the government of Afghanistan, along with the partnership of ISAF, are here to help them and here to make their lives better. We took some land, but we specifically chose unfavourable land out in the desert to establish an operating base.”
It became evident the area the ANA and ISAF now occupy has never been patrolled or observed. While sweeping the observation post, Lance Cpl. Steven B. Lowe, an engineer from Headquarters Company, 3/3, discovered a buried cache of materials needed to make two pressure-plates and improvised explosive devices.
“Anytime you take away a position that the enemy uses, or you occupy a position that’s known to be frequented by the enemy, you hope to yield positive results,” said Pernotto. “Those two pressure plates could easily trigger two 200 pound IEDs. Taking those off the battlefield, that alone, we’ve already contributed to Operation New Dawn and the overall security of this area.”
The ANA and ISAF have taken their time establishing their position and for good reason - they understand the importance of making a positive impression with the people here. The area has little electricity and few forms of distraction so the Marines have become the primary source of entertainment.
“All of our movements are watched by both those who support us and those who don’t, and that’s completely acceptable,” Pernotto said. “Even the guys that don’t like us, when they see us handling ourselves well and acting well, I think we can win over people who may originally not like us.”
“I’d like to continue to build up the area and provide the security to where we can get the elders together and start discussing the issues and having partnership with the elders and the ANA as they continue to improve life around here.”