News: Belleau Wood Marines reunite on Afghan battlefield
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELARAM II, Afghanistan – For the first time since World War I, the Marines and sailors of 5th and 6th Marine Regiments are fighting side by side.
Marines and sailors with Regimental Combat Team 5 are currently operating from Forward Operating Base Dwyer while the Marines and sailors of Regimental Combat Team 6 are currently based out of Forward Operating Base Delaram II.
The last time the 5th and 6th Regiments fought together was 94 years ago, during the Battle of Belleau Wood, one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history.
During the month of fighting, which started June 1, 1918, both French and Americans fought against the Germans. The two Marine regiments joined the battle on June 6. At the end of fighting on June 26, nearly 10,000 U.S. service members had died.
At the end of WWI, for their especially meritorious conduct in action, the French government awarded the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments the French Fourragere. To this day, Marines and sailors with 5th and 6th Marine Regiments, and their subordinate battalions, wear this decoration - a green and red braided rope with a golden spike - on their left shoulder in their Service Alpha and Dress Blue uniforms.
“This braided rope and spike embodies and recalls the courageous conduct and fighting spirit of Marines and Sailors who have gone before us,” cites the 6th Marine Regiment website about the French Fourragere. “It marks us as warriors.”
To this day, the Marines and sailors with both regiments continue to uphold the traditions of bravery, gallantry and honor seen in WWI.
RCT-5 has been living up to the rich history of their predecessors in their current area of operations in southern Helmand province.
“The people in Helmand are genuinely grateful for the opportunity to live their lives in peace, and they recognize it was our forces that created this environment,” said Col. Roger Turner, commanding officer, RCT-5. “This secure environment is allowing the Afghan forces to take an ever increasing leadership role in security operations.”
According to Turner, RCT-5 has helped create a more stable environment with productive farms growing wheat rather than poppy, schools opening their doors to more students, vibrant markets bustling with commerce and improved roads allowing the people of southern Helmand the best mobility they have seen in their lifetimes.
“All of the Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen who have taken part in this mission should be very proud of what they have accomplished thus far, as it is truly an essential undertaking,” Turner continued. “We feel honored to represent our nation and service here in Afghanistan and blessed to have such strong support from home.”
Since February 2012, RCT-6 has been conducting Operation Jaws.
“I would describe Operation Jaws as RCT-6’s bid for success in the … northern Helmand province of Afghanistan,” said Maj. Jonathan O’Gorman, who was tasked with executing one phase of the operation.
“The Taliban are still talking about the things we did up there and demanding some of their commanders they now see as incompetent get fired, because they either fled the battle or didn’t give them good enough advice,” O’Gorman continued. “The amount of insurgents that were killed was a huge morale blow to the insurgents that were left behind, so I would say that (the operation) was a huge success.”
Colonel John R. Shafer, commanding officer, RCT-6, has traveled around RCT-6’s area of operation to check up on his Marines and their execution of the operation.
“Operation Jaws is an enduring operation being conducted by battalions and the regimental combat team here in order to keep pressure on the insurgency in order to set the conditions for a successful transition to our (Afghan National Security Force) partners,” said Shafer. “I can tell you that the Marines are doing absolutely phenomenal work.”