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News | Dec. 3, 2010

Marines seek and destroy Taliban hold on Afghan locals

By Cpl. Ned Johnson , Regimental Combat Team 2


Lance Cpl. Zachary Allen, an infantryman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, walks through a corn field during an operation, Nov. 23. Allen, a 21-year-old native of Fruita, Colo., and his fellow Marines stayed in the Southern Green Zone for more than a day to observe and hunt the Taliban. (Photo by Cpl. Ned Johnson)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan (Dec. 3, 2010) — Marines know that one of the most important things to Afghan locals is the security of their village, and sometimes providing them with that security means putting the mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad to use: “Locate, close with and destroy the enemy.”

Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, conducted an overnight mission, Nov. 23, with a goal to kill the enemy and deny their ability to maneuver in the area.

“We want to push the enemy out, kill them, and deny them the ability to resupply,” said Sgt. David Doty, a squad leader with India Company, 3rd Bn. 5th Marines. “If we can do those things, it will make our job easier.”

The infantrymen set their sights on a few compounds where the insurgents often hide and shoot at the Marines. The Marines of first platoon quickly found the compounds and searched them for improvised explosive devices.

“We blew a hole in the wall and I sent in my dog, Mocha, to sniff for home-made explosives,” said Cpl. Jonathan Williams, a dog-handler with India Company. ‘”She found a bag that had 200 pounds of ammonium nitrate in it.”

The Marines cleared the area and then burned the bag to destroy its contents. At the next compound, Mocha found several IEDs. The Marines finished searching the compounds and began to move in a different direction when the insurgents unleashed an ambush from about 40 meters away.

“Two squads started taking contact first from the northwest and then the south and the southwest,” said Sgt. Gregory Wenzel, 1st Platoon Sergeant with India Company, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines.

The Marines immediately began firing at the enemy and gained superior firepower. The fight intensified as Marines were under fire from medium-machine-gun and small-arms fire.

The Marines then played their trump card, calling in 60 mm and 120 mm mortars and close air support. An UH-1 Huey and an AH-1W Super Cobra fired hundreds of rounds, and a KC-130J ‘Harvest Hawk’ fired a Hell-Fire Missile.

Artillery Marines played their part as well, firing multiple GPS-guided shells.

The firefight lasted about two hours and killed an estimated 8-10 enemy fighters, said 1st Lt. Stephen Cooney, the executive officer with India Company, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines.

The Marines then resupplied their ammunition and patrolled to a different area and set up a makeshift patrol base.

Throughout the night, Marines monitored the local area for enemy and local activity, said Wenzel, a 26-year-old native of Altoona, Pa.

The Marines woke early Nov. 24, to patrol an area, which rarely sees Marines.

“We want the enemy to know that they do not own this area,” Wenzel said. “We also wanted to show the locals we are here to protect them.”

The Marines did not engage the enemy on the second day, but Doty says the operation was a success.

“Any mission where you kill the enemy and every Marine comes home safe is a good mission,” said Doty, a 27-year-old native of Mokane, Mo.

Marines completed the mission and returned to their base, but the warriors know they will be on patrol in the same areas again.

“We aren’t afraid to go anywhere and we want the enemy to know that we will continue to go after them because we aren’t afraid,” Doty said.

The Marines are going to do just that and continue to fight through every day.

“The environment is tough here—crossing waist-deep water and dealing with the cold,” Wenzel said. “But the Marines keep their head on a swivel, do what they are trained to do, and continue to get the job done.”