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    U.S. Marines provide British forces security in Afghanistan during Operation Backstop

    U.S. Marines Provide British Forces Security in Afghanistan During Operation Backstop

    Photo By Lance Cpl. Brian Jones | A mounted U.S. Marine patrol returns from patrolling nearby villages during Operation...... read more read more

    By Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones
    Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan

    HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Marines and sailors with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, successfully completed the first phase of Operation Backstop in Helmand province Dec. 7-12.

    Under the request of Regional Command South, the SPMAGTF-A command element supplied Co. I to provide security for a large British logistics convoy that moved supplies from an area in transient with NATO forces.

    During a previous operation, British and Estonian combined forces under Task Force Helmand retrograded from the Now Zad area in order to redistribute forces in a realignment of battle spaces. In turn, Marines of 3/8 have filled the battle space in Now Zad.

    The British and Estonian forces that previously moved from the forward operating base to maintain presence elsewhere in Afghanistan left behind military equipment and supplies that accumulated over the past few years. The British convoy of more than 30 large vehicles was sent to retrieve the military equipment and supplies there. The security Company I provided allowed the British free, uninterrupted passage through the area as they collected and relocated the equipment.

    As part of a combined team effort, the U.S. Marines of Co. I coordinated with British units for a successful operation. The British supported Co. I with extra communications assets and intelligence. Co. I supported the British with force protection through its lethal firepower and maneuverability.

    "It's always so satisfying to be so welcomed by you guys," said British Royal Marine Commando Cpl. "Britney" Piers Stacey, the liaison officer working with Co. I. "We really do appreciate what you guys do for us, and it's no more true as it is today as you all provide this force protection. There are really great guys here, great set up and a great command structure."

    Along the route from Camp Barber to Now Zad lie a number of choke points and well-known enemy positions. The Marines' objective was to aggressively confront insurgents along the route before the British convoy passed through. Fully equipped with sniper teams, explosive ordnance disposal teams and engineers, the Marines pushed their way through.

    "In order to let the [British] convoy pass through safely, we [Marines] decided to take a route where we would most likely meet enemy activity and neutralize it," said Capt. Mike Hoffman, the commanding officer of Co. I.

    After successfully clearing the route with little interference from insurgents, Co. I set up a deliberate defense to maintain security along the route for the five-day operation. They picked an area on a map that best fit the mission based on terrain analysis and conducted leadership and engineer reconnaissance to ensure mission success. The defense site was on a slope overlooking a distant view of flat land and small scattered villages. The defense was set up for survivability as the Marines kept the area secure with the use of extra firepower, aggressive patrolling and a good defensive posture.

    "That was probably the most impressive thing to see these guys do," said Hoffman. "It was a great opportunity. It was something the Marine Corps hasn't done a lot of recently in combat, just training."

    "The last five days the Marines stayed out there in the elements, and they stayed as safe as they would have in any FOB, maybe safer because of the work they put into the defense. The operation was completely self sustaining."

    As the convoy pushed through without incident, several local Afghans stood outside of their homes observing.

    The operation also marked the first time Co. I had operated as a company team during its deployment to Afghanistan.

    "It went very smoothly and I could not be prouder of the entire team," said Hoffman. "For something that complicated to go this well is not surprising, but it is impressive."

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 12.14.2008
    Date Posted: 12.14.2008 05:08
    Story ID: 27661
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