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    Bravo Company, Weapons Company conclude missions in Helmand province, Afghanistan

    Bravo Company, Weapons Company conclude missions in Helmand province, Afghanistan

    Photo By Sgt. Joseph Scanlan | Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, insert into Tagvreshk...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Joseph Scanlan 

    Regional Command Southwest

    CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – After six months of continuous combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, the Marines of Bravo and Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, concluded their deployment and returned to the United States.

    The battalion arrived in Afghanistan during the beginning of March and immediately began preparing to relieve 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, of their control of the battlespace.

    “Throughout the deployment, the Marines and sailors conducted more than 25 air assault and helicopter-borne vehicle interdictions, making this a very dynamic mission set,” said Maj. Peter Ankney, the operations officer for 1st Bn., 7th Marines. “The (Regional Operations Company) concept has been around for a few years now, but it was 1st Bn., 7th Marines, that took it the furthest and made a difference in the battlespace. Many tactical training procedures and standard operating procedures that have been validated here will be very relevant to crisis response operations in the next 10 years.”

    Before the battalion conducted full-scale operations, the Marines and sailors completed a preparatory mission at Forward Operating Base Juno. Although it was a training mission, there were still constant threats and dangers as it was outside the perimeter of Camp Leatherneck. During the Mission Rehearsal Exercise, the infantrymen were observed by Marines with 3rd Bn., 7th Marines, who gave advice on tactics and procedures that proved useful throughout their seven-month deployment.

    Following the MRX, the companies conducted partnered operations with Afghan National Army soldiers to disrupt Taliban insurgents. Throughout the six-month deployment, the battalion primarily conducted disrupting and supporting operations.

    Disrupting operations

    To prevent an attack on Camps Bastion and Leatherneck, a majority of the operations during the battalion’s deployment were designed to disrupt the enemy. The battalion conducted operations in the vicinity of Camp Leatherneck including nearby villages such as Larr, Gereshk and Shah Pusta. The disruption operations typically lasted three days and included mounted and dismounted elements who would remain in insurgent staging areas to conduct dismounted patrols, search intelligence-driven cache sites and assist Afghan National Army soldiers with searching compounds.

    “As Regional Command (Southwest) identified areas of concern or potential threats, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, was prepared and capably inserted into those designated areas to disrupt the enemy,” said Lt. Col. Seth E. Yost, battalion commander, 1st Bn., 7th Marines. “Depending on the target, we had the ability to task organize the battalion to achieve relative surprise and then exploit that to our advantage. Our training allowed us to operate as both a motorized and helicopter-borne force.”

    “Although very kinetic, I think this deployment was a lot different than previous deployments for us,” said Sgt. Maj. Chasen E. Getty, the battalion sergeant major. “During past deployments, the enemy would continue to fight, but this time the engagements really didn’t last long at all. They were more harassing than engaged, deliberate fighting.”

    On May 12, the Taliban launched its annual offensive, the 2014 summer fighting season, a time period of increased violence against coalition forces, Afghan National Security Forces and civilians.

    Even while engaging in several firefights during many of the disruption operations after the announced offensive, the Marines and sailors continued to accomplish their given mission.

    “Both companies executed their missions with competence, discipline and professionalism,” Yost said. “Their ability to work together and complement each other’s actions on the battlefield enabled the battalion to achieve success.”

    The infantrymen removed numerous caches, improvised explosive devices, weapons and insurgents from the battlespace. Bravo Co. Marines also managed to confiscate more than one metric ton of narcotics during a single security patrol.

    “There were a lot of times in which the company was tested,” said 1st Lt. Walter Mack, the executive officer of Bravo Company, and a native of New York City. “We had to regularly operate in excess of 20 kilometers away from any sort of logistical hub and that caused us to adapt, especially in a dismounted setting. I think it’s a testament most importantly to the Marines, but also to the small-unit leaders who were able to figure out some very expeditionary-focused means so that we were able to sustain the force and continue to go out there and do our jobs.”

    Supporting operations

    The battalion also conducted several supporting missions during their deployment. As many bases were being retrograded and turned over to Afghan National Security Forces, both Weapons Co. and Bravo Co.’s presence was vital to deter insurgents from harassing retrograde operations.

    As ground assault forces, both Weapons and Bravo Co. provided security for coalition forces retrograding from Sangin District, May 5.

    “One of the highlights of this deployment was the retrograde of Marine Corps’ combat power out of Sangin and the transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces,” Yost said.

    While providing security during the retrograde of Forward Operating Base Sterga II, a British base northeast of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, Weapons Co. engaged in its first firefight, coincidentally during the first day of the Taliban’s announced offensive. The company sustained fire from rocket-propelled grenades, under-barrel grenade launchers and automatic weapons. Without the company’s presence in the area, the insurgents could have likely harassed coalition forces in the area.

    Though the battalion conducted many disruption operations following the Taliban’s announced offensive, they also continued with supporting missions. A platoon with Weapons Co. provided security at Patrol Base Ouellette during the Afghanistan presidential runoff elections. Both Weapons and Bravo Co. also held security near Patrol Base Yahkchal in support of the retrograde of Provincial Support Platform-South.

    “We provided RC(SW) with whatever unit they needed to accomplish a given task,” Ankney said. “If they needed a ROC, we provided it; if they needed a unit to secure a stretch of highway, we provided it; if they needed someone to pick up and transport election materials, we provided it.”

    Unfortunately amidst the battalion’s success came two devastating incidents. The first incident occurred while providing security at Patrol Base Yahkchal on June 25, when Sgt. Thomas Spitzer, a scout assigned to the Scout Sniper Platoon was struck by enemy fire and killed in action. The second occurred on Aug. 9 during a dismounted combat patrol in Shah Pusta, when Staff Sgt. Brandon Dodson, a platoon sergeant with Bravo Co., stepped on an IED.

    Tragically injured, Dodson maintains a positive attitude and is committed toward his recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as a double amputee.

    Though the battalion suffered two casualties, both companies maintained a rigorous operational tempo and concluded their missions in early September. No infantry battalion will be replacing 1st Bn., 7th Marines, in Afghanistan as ANSF steadily assume security responsibilities.

    “I feel that Afghanistan is in good hands,” said 1st Sgt. Frank Robinson, the Weapons Co. first sergeant, and a native of Baltimore. “The Afghan National Army soldiers have the ability to take the fight to the enemy. The Afghans have come a long way and I think they are definitely able to protect the people of their country.”

    As the two companies pack their gear and prepare to return to the United States, they leave behind a legacy as one of the last infantry battalions in the Marine Corps to deploy and conduct combat operations in Afghanistan.

    “The ‘First Team’ has a rich combat legacy, and the Marines of this battalion demonstrated, once again, that they have the tactical skill and the courage to answer our nation’s call,” Yost said. “The list of 1st Bn., 7th Marines, alumni is legendary and includes such men as John Basilone, Chesty Puller, Chew-Een Lee, Al Gray and General Mattis. It may be a different fight today and we may use different equipment than the Marines of the past, but our Marines showed they are just as competent, courageous, disciplined and lethal as those who have come before us.”


    Date Taken: 10.02.2014
    Date Posted: 10.02.2014 10:13
    Story ID: 144016

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