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NEWS | Sept. 8, 2010

Afghan soldiers add mortars to repertoire

By Sgt. Mark Fayloga , Regimental Combat Team 7

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Lance Cpl. Cletus L. Eicher, a mortarman with Combined Action Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and Din Mohamad, an Afghan National Army soldier, swab a mortar tube at Range Juarez, Afghanistan Aug. 28, 2010. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)

RANGE JUAREZ,  Afghanistan — The U.S. Marine and the Afghan soldier may speak different languages, but as 60 mm high-explosive mortar rounds sailed through air eventually reaching their fiery conclusion a few hundred meters away, the men reacted the same way — with awe and motivation,  brothers in a warrior culture.

Marines and Afghan soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment’s Combined Action Company, trained with mortars at Range Juarez, Afghanistan, during a mission rehearsal Aug. 28.
The company is comprised of Marines and sailors from 3/3’s Lima and Headquarters Companies, and Afghan soldiers from 1st Kandak,  1st Brigade, 215th Corps. The men train and conduct combat operations alongside one another.

The mission rehearsal was a welcomed training opportunity for the company’s joint weapons section. Before coming together six weeks ago, Tthe majority of the Afghan soldiers training had been with their rifles, before coming together six weeks ago,.

They haven’t done much training with crew-served weapons,  and the majority of them have never fired high-explosive mortars, said Sgt. Alan W. Smith, weapons section leader.

Smith, from Chattanooga, Tenn., said the Marines have the Afghan soldiers run through firing drills almost daily, but the routine can become monotonous. Firing live rounds is a rare opportunity.
“It’s a good experience for them to get a dose of motivation,” Smith said.

Afghan soldier Din Mohamad especially appreciated the motivation. The last time Din fired mortars was more than a year ago, and before the training, he’d never gotten the chance to shoot high-explosive rounds.

“I liked firing the HE rounds,” Din, from Badakshan province, said. “We’ve learned a lot. The training is very good and we’re thankful to work with the Marines.”