News: Marines near end of deployment continue to patrol amidst Taliban attacks
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MARJAH, Afghanistan – Waking up in the early morning, the Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, mark down one more day until they can return home to wives and children, their families and friends and perhaps most importantly, leave the past several months behind them.
For some of the men, they can count the days they have left in Marjah, Afghanistan, on their fingers, for others it's a bit longer, but until they leave, they must continue to wake up, don their gear and head out on patrol.
The past month has been riddled with sporadic firefights and ambushes, frequently initiated by the blast of an improvised explosive device or by sudden insurgent sniper fire.
"With the last several weeks, these Marines have seen increased small-arms-combat, where the enemy isn't sticking around to fight," said Staff Sgt. Nelson Adames, platoon sergeant for the 81 mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 1/6. "The enemy is testing us, learning our tactics. They try to get mobility kills on vehicles or target foot paths and bridges in an attempt to hit dismounted Marines.
"They're attempting to coax us into firing when civilians are here, so the progress that has been made with locals will be lost," said Adames.
The increase in Taliban activity can be seen as a sign that they've begun their spring offensive. During this time, it is paramount that the Marines continue to place the safety of civilians as a top priority, lest they undue the months of work they've accomplished since the initial days of fighting to take the city from Taliban control.
"Taking contact this late into the deployment brings morale down, mainly because we haven't seen any proof from our enemy that we've made a change," said Cpl. Joshua T. Hurst, a section leader with 81 mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 1/6. "With it being as hard as it is now, all we can really do is keep pushing, keep going out, and keep bringing the fight to the Taliban. We're just trying to wrap, but keeping the people on our side is still the greatest challenge."
Staying focused and maintaining their momentum can be trying, but sometimes the little things can make the difference.
"Since the push and up until now, it can be hard to keep morale up, especially when you're counting the days until you go home, but you do whatever you can," said Adames. "Hot chow, cold water during the day and getting mail from home goes a long way. Try to keep them focused so they can do the little things and look out for their buddies.
"Their strength is tested day in and day out," said Adames. "A lot of times these Marines don't get the praise they deserve, but these are the best guys I've served with. Their families and friends back home should be very proud of them."
Even with the end so close, the Marines must maintain the same measure of professionalism they started the deployment with. They must continue to meet with locals, continue to forge bonds and win their trust, because although the Marines will return home, the city's residents won't be leaving, but they will be left with an impression.
Date Posted:06.08.2010 03:37
Location:FORWARD OPERATING BASE MARJAH, AF
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