News: Marines patrol, make friends in Helmand province
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The Now Zad region in Helmand Province has been the site of constant tension between coalition and Taliban forces. Both sides have realized the road to victory begins with winning the support of the region's civilian population.
While the Taliban has chosen to force support through intimidation, manipulation and unrestrained violence, coalition forces have chosen to gain support by showing support by protecting, listening and interacting with locals through security patrols to the area's towns.
That's exactly what the Marines and sailors of 3rd Platoon, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment did as they made their way by foot to visit with the local populace here Nov. 2.
The patrolling Marines arrived at Khwaja Jamal, a small town in the southern Now Zad region, where patrols are visiting the town's elders daily, to gain support for coalition forces and information about local concerns and Taliban activity.
"We are trying to get to the people, talk to them, find out what's most important to them, and how we can separate them from the Taliban and give a free country and free government to Afghanistan," said Capt. Andrew E. Terrell, the company commander for Co. L, 3/4. "They're really the critical piece. Without the people we can't stabilize this country and give them a free government."
The Marines handed out gifts, such as pens, pencils and other small trinkets, as they were welcomed by Khwaja Jamal's children upon entering the town's small marketplace. Locals slowly began to make their way into the marketplace as well and spoke with the Marines about local issues once security was established.
This constructive dialogue was made easier by the presence of Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, who made the long and dusty walk with the Marines.
"[The ANA] are important because this is their town. They know the area, they know what's happening out here and they get [information] from the civilians," said Lance Cpl. Carlifrederick Organo, a machine gunner with Weapons Platoon, Co. L. "The ANA were helping the Marines out by talking to the elders and little kids. We got a lot of info on the patrol."
The Afghan national security forces provided security, passed out the small gifts to the local and helped ease any tension that may have existed with their presence.
"I think the locals feel more comfortable with their own people being around," said Cpl. Alex Pirila, 22, a squad leader with Co. L, 3/4. "I know if someone came into my town I'd feel better if they were being shown around by someone I knew or someone I knew spoke my language."
Although 3/4 has only been in country in support of Afghan national security forces for a short while, advancement in Khwaja Jamal can be seen on both the short and long term spectrums.
"We've only been here a month, but it feels like the locals have definitely warmed up to us," said Pirila, a 22 year old from Phoenix.
"When I was here two years ago with the British, we couldn't even walk to Khwaja Jamal without being mortared," said Terrell, a 29 year old native of Tampa, Fla. "Now we can go down there, we can interact with the people and we can go to their shops. Everyone is willing to talk to us, and a lot of progress has been made."
Once conversations between the Marines of Co. L and local residents concluded, the Marines and their Afghan comrades began their trek back to their post, continuing to communicate and gain valuable information from their Afghan friends along the way.
Date Posted:11.08.2009 04:42
Location:HELMAND PROVINCE, AF
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