News: Marine mentoring team and Afghan border police participate in trial by fire
Story by Cpl. Daniel Flynn
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Leaving Patrol Base Hasanabad, the Marines were expecting about an hour-long patrol with the Afghan border police they are mentoring, but their expectations were soon dashed.
The Police Mentoring Team, nicknamed "Rincon" after the surfer mecca in California, are made up of field experienced non-commissioned officers tasked with mentoring the local Afghan border patrol. This particular day was one to teach and observe the ABP as the combined units practiced patrolling techniques — a simple teaching opportunity that turned into a very real practical application.
About 10 minutes into the patrol Sept. 7, while walking through shoulder-high fields of corn, AK-47 gunfire rang out through the early morning silence.
Immediately the Marines sought cover from the incoming fire. While the Marines and ABP in the front ran for the corner of a compound, those in the rear of the patrol could only drop into the thick cornfield mud, hoping the enemy did not take advantage of their exposed position.
Before any of this took place that morning, however, a squad from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, had gone out on a different patrol before the PMT Marines and happened to be in a perfect position to provide supporting fire. Mere seconds after the PMT patrol walked into their ambush, the Co. F Marines laid down suppressive fire so those caught in the open could try to move to a more protected position.
During this exchange, enemy rifle fire began from a different location in an attempt to catch the patrol in a cross-fire. So the assault team from the PMT squad started suppressive fire on the new threat.
Knowing his Marines were pinned down, Sgt. Nathan Brannan, PMT operations chief, took three Marines and two ABP to clear the nearest compound and give the rest of his squad a chance to move out of the cornfield.
Only two minutes went by from the time the first shot was fired until all the PMT Marines were inside the compound cleared by Brannan's team. The muddy Marines, however, agreed that it felt like much more time had passed.
From the compound, the Marines and the ABP proceeded toward the enemy positions, clearing more buildings along the way to ensure no other gun-toting surprises were hidden there.
Once getting to where they believed the shots came from, the Co. F squad met up with them, and from there the two squads started moving through, systematically clearing compounds with one squad always maintaining overwatch for the other.
Cpl. Evan Snead, a PMT Marine originally from 2/8's personal security detail, said, "The firefight goes to show how you can expect one thing to happen and yet have something completely different happen."
"The Marines did well. Once we took fire, they did everything they were supposed to, and I am happy and proud of all of them," said 1st Lt. Colin Duffy, PMT platoon commander.
After clearing several compounds, and searching for weapons, the Marines' patrol returned to PB Hasanabad five hours after they had left that morning. Instead of walking, teaching and directing their charges, they had participated in a trial by fire.