News: Afghan security forces, 3/6 establish security in northern Marjah
MARJAH DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment recently swept through the Badulla Qulp area of northern Marjah during a clearing operation Oct. 1-4.
The operation, dubbed Zangle Washat, allowed Afghan and coalition forces to increase their presence in the area and, in turn, deny insurgents the ability to move freely with narcotics, weapons or IED making materials.
Badulla Qulp contains multiple canals, numerous fields, thick vegetation and an assortment of compounds. The unforgiving terrain is a key reason why the enemy has chosen to exploit this area, using it as both a safe haven and hiding place for illegal materials.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 1, while still under the cover of darkness, 1st Platoon, Lima Company, 3/6 inserted via helicopter southwest of their objective. The platoon hit the ground running, forming a defensive perimeter and looking for any dangers lurking in the surrounding tree line. Once communication with nearby friendly forces had been established, 1st Platoon began pushing toward the first compound on their list of objectives.
After securing the compound, Afghan National Army soldiers and Afghan Uniformed Police went to work, interacting with local residents. They then proceeded to clear and search buildings in the compound for any illicit material hidden by insurgents.
During the clearing portion of the operation, the ANA took the lead while the Marines conducted what the 3/6 battalion commander Lt. Col. Daniel Schmitt refers to as “Biometric Clearing.”
“Biometrics is our way of documenting who belongs here and who doesn’t using the HIIDE system (Hand-held Interagency Identity Detection Equipment),” said 1st Lt. Brian Smith, a infantry officer with 3/6 and a native of Gainesville, Fla. “If the people are documented with the HIIDE, the system will let us know if their fingerprints or information have ever been associated with IEDs, weapons or the Taliban.”
The HIIDE system records an individual’s fingerprints, a photograph of their face and a retina scan. Additionally, Marines use tactical questioning to compile family information, such as the name of an individual’s father and grandfather, to determine if an individual’s family is linked to the insurgency.
As word of the joint force’s presence spread throughout the village, an impromptu shura was held by ANSF leadership and Schmitt to explain their presence to village elders.
“We know there are some things we can do to help you. You see the Marines around this morning because we are here supporting the police in their efforts of bringing security so we can help bring prosperity,” Schmitt said. “We believe the Afghan people should have a chance at security and prosperity.”
Schmitt took the opportunity to remind the village elders why the U.S. initially sent forces into Afghanistan a decade ago.
“Some people ask why we are here and they haven’t been told the whole story,” said Schmitt. “Originally Marines came to Afghanistan to find the individuals who attacked our country and restore our honor.”
He left the village elders with some final words emphasizing the importance of the continued presence of Afghan and coalition forces.
“After we destroyed the enemy who attacked America we were asked by the Afghan people to stay here to help bring security and help build schools and roads and hospitals,” Schmitt continued. “You will hear lies that Americans are here to steal from you and steal your religion. Watch our actions and make your own decision. We are here to give to Afghanistan.”
After many hours of patrolling, clearing and searching compounds and documenting the locals they encountered, the platoon pushed forward to set up a hasty patrol base. The unnamed PB they established offered sufficient size and force protection for the platoon and will serve as a launch pad for future operations in the area.
As the sun faded beneath the horizon and day one of Operation Zangle Washat came to a close, Marine snipers went to work.
“The primary objective for me and my team is to provide overwatch,” said Cpl. Mark Trent, 3/6 Sniper Team Leader and a native of Columbia, S.C. “Sometimes we patrol, and other times we take to the rooftops, but we are always watching all movement.”
The snipers provide security for the PB during both day and night operations. Some sit at elevated positions peering into the darkness, looking for anyone wishing to do harm to the Marines resting inside. Other Marine snipers head out on patrol hours before sunrise. Their mission is to observe insurgent movement during the hours of darkness, allowing them to provide follow on ANA and Marine patrols with additional security and information on suspected enemy positions.
The platoon pushed south on day two. The joint force continued to increase its presence, targeting compounds where intelligence reports suggested suspicious activity. Clearing and searching these compounds allows ANA soldiers and Marines to confirm or deny intelligence reports, and better prepare the area for follow on forces.
“Increasing our footprint in this area helps to begin the security process because we are denying [insurgents] freedom of movement, and weakening their ability to influence the locals,” Smith said.
“Throughout the entire evolution it is important to keep the ANA out front doing the majority of the clearing and interaction [with locals] because they know the culture and people better than we do. The endstate of everything we are doing in Afghanistan will lead to Afghans being in the lead roles.”
Day three of the operation involved a two-pronged approach. Smith and the Marines of 1st Platoon pushed into Bon Jor village to monitor a bazaar. Their focus once inside the village was interacting with locals, looking for weapons caches and staying alert for any insurgent activity.
Simultaneously, a second team was inserted north into Haji Lalai village, where Schmitt conducted another shura with the village elders encouraging them to stand up for themselves and provide their own security.
“I am thankful for the help from the Marines and other international security forces. The presence of the ANA here will be a good impression on the local people,” said ANA 1stSgt. Nebi Jen, a squad leader. “They will find that the ANA is helping their country and they may come forward to join the ANA. The success we had here would not have been possible if not for help from the Marines.”
The Marines of 1st Platoon concluded their work on the fourth day of Operation Zangle Washat, after clearing all compounds and ‘biometrically clearing’ all local residents in their area of operation. Their patrol base and authority over the area was transferred to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, who will now continue to work alongside their ANA and AUP counterparts to bring further stability to the area.
Editor’s note: Third battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
Date Posted:10.13.2011 12:58
Location:MARJAH DISTRICT, HELMAND PROVINCE, AF
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