News: Operation Golden Shillelagh: 3/5 Cracks Down on Insurgent, Drug Activity
MALMAND, Afghanistan - Early twilight hours at Forward Operating Base Inkerman are abruptly disturbed by the loud rumble of mine resistant, ambush protected vehicles. The lead vehicle of the movement pulls out and the others fall in line, thus beginning a long serpentine across the eastern desert.
Malmand sits amid two key passes through the mountains between Sangin and Kandahar. This makes the town a key insurgent bed-down area during movement to and from the city centers.
The convoy flows into the valley surrounding Malmand, encircling the town with firepower aimed in on the village. The mission is to isolate and interdict insurgent activity in the area, effectively sealing off the area from anyone coming or leaving. Operation Golden Shillelagh is now in effect.
Then over the horizon, two CH-53E Super Stallions come in for a landing, pouring the Marines of 2nd Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 8, and their Afghan National Army partners onto the dry, dusty landscape. The main rotors spin up quickly as the Marine egress is finished.
The Marines move swiftly into the first village compound and begin to clear the area, looking for illegal drugs, weapons or suspected insurgent activity.
“They genuinely want to find the [insurgents] and get them to come out and play,” said 1st Lt. Charles Broun, the platoon commander for 2nd Platoon. “The insurgents talk a big game but they are a bunch of thugs…like a bully who hangs out at the mall. They’re all tough until you land a big punch to the face and then they quit.”
The Marines cleared compound after compound and soon moved into what they have affectionately called Patrol Base Lopez, named for a fallen member from their unit lost earlier in this deployment.
“Sleeping in different compounds each night then waking up and going hunting for insurgents; this is what (infantrymen) sign up for,” said Broun, a native of Atlanta.
With the Marines of 2nd Platoon moving throughout the village, insurgent activity has come to a considerable lull.
“This is a change of pace coming out to an area where the insurgents are more cowardly,” said Broun. “A lot of their leaders don’t want to get caught.”
Even hiding isn’t working for some of the suspected insurgency leaders in the area. Within the first five days of the operation, the 2nd Platoon Marines have already captured two known insurgents.
The local populace has gone out of its way to talk to the Marines concerning the conditions of the village and concerns for the future.
“The people don’t mind us being here,” said Sgt. Ryan Sotelo, a
squad leader for 2nd Platoon. “They come out and openly talk to us.”
“The people are friendly enough,” added Sgt. Joel Bailey, the machine guns section leader for 2nd Platoon. “They like to approach the Marines and sit down and talk.”
“Their economy is based on poppy,” said Bailey, a Camarillo, Calif., native. “Once coalition forces can set a good presence in this town and help bring them roads and power, the people will move away from the opium trade.”
Even with all the success, the Marines rely on camaraderie to push through the hot days and long patrols in Malmand.
“The Marines are doing well,” said Broun. “They’re a good group. They are like brothers; they take care of each other. They’ll complain about the heat and the sanitation, but they get by. It keeps them on edge.”
“It’s good if they’re grumpy…a little pissed off; it makes you fight harder,” added Broun. “We don’t need a whole lot -- water, fresh batteries and bullets. Water and the ability to call for bigger guns if we need them, that’s all we need.”
With those tools in hand, the Marines of 2nd Platoon look forward to completing the operation and returning to their base knowing they have put a sizable dent in enemy activity in the area.
“The Marines have never lost their focus,” said Sotelo, who hails from San Mateo, Calif. “We hope we are making a difference. At the end of the day, it comes down to taking care of each other and coming home alive.”
Date Posted:03.24.2011 05:01
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