TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Squad leaders and team leaders with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, received their mission brief the night of Feb 3, 2013. They had submerged themselves into their training mission and prepped for the oncoming patrol during their stabilization week of the Integrated Training Exercise.
The facility was no longer Range 215 and California ceased to exist. The Marines of the “Thundering Third” found themselves in the Al Dakhli Province of Azanistan. They would be leaving Combat Outpost 3 the following morning with a group of support personnel acting as Afghan National Police to conduct battalion stability and counter-insurgency operations against the enemy, known as Jaysh Al Fatwah.
At 6:30 a.m. the following day, Co. L was staged. The squad leaders ensured each Marine in the squad was properly geared for the patrol. 1st Lt. Michael Dooley, platoon commander, Co. L, 3/4, introduced the ANP to the squad leaders.
Even though specific times are set for a mission, Marines have to stay vigilant for the threats around them.
Every plan needs a back up because something will fail, explained Cpl. Kyle Jackson, squad leader, 3/4.
Indirect fire hit COP 3 without warning in the early afternoon and the Marines took immediate action. Their patrol was delayed while the other companies continued their patrols through the Al Dakhli Province.
At 1 p.m., the Marines began their patrol.
“We’re going to set up a series of cordons around the town,” said 1st Lt. Robert Christensen, executive officer, Co. L, 3/4. “From there, we’re going to locate some of the key individuals, like the village elder and have a shura where hopefully they will give us some sort of information about what’s going on in town, both good and bad.”
Shura is Arabic for consultation. Marines and village elders come together to share thoughts, experiences and ideas about how to coordinate civilian and military efforts to improve their district.
“The one thing I push to my Marines is to be comfortable talking with the [Azanis],” Jackson said.
Communication helps build a relationship and bond which shows that they’re there to help, he added.
During the patrol, Jackson received notional shrapnel to his right leg from an improvised explosive device. Before his medical evacuation, he handed the squad over to his best team leader, Cpl. Ryan Castillo.
“Castillo!” Jackson shouted. “You’re taking over!”
“I sit through every meeting,” said Castillo after assuming control of the squad. “If a squad leader goes down and I can’t take over, the squad (goes down). We have to be pretty in depth in case this happens. We still have to set up a cordon on this sector, no matter what.”
Marines, along with their Azani counterparts, conducted biometric scans and tactfully questioned and searched local nationals. Co. L pushed through the town fending off JAF insurgents while gathering information from local nationals.
The goal was to restore civil order within the Al Dakhli Province, explained Jackson. Knowing how to speak to and interact with the Azani is the beginning of the mission.
The battalion finished ITX this week as part of their predeployment training before they deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom later this year.