News: Marines construct new position near Taliban marketplace
Story by Sgt. Scott Whittington
PATROL BASE LAKARI, Helmand Province, Afghanistan — Since the first raid on Lakari Bazaar in mid July which turned up thousands of pounds of drugs and bomb-making materials, the Taliban has continued to use the market as a staging area for illegal activity — launching more than 20 attacks against coalition troops in the immediate vicinity from there.
To stop this, more than 300 British troops conducted a second raid in the early morning hours of Sept. 30, seizing caches of weapons and killing several insurgents after receiving enemy fire. To ensure the Taliban didn't return to their illegal activity, Marines from Company D, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion and Combat Logistics Battalion 8 constructed a patrol base less than a mile from the bazaar. Afghan national army soldiers and Marines with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, will occupy the new base to disrupt Taliban activity in the area.
"The base will give [2/8 Marines] an opportunity to project their influence on the Lakari market," said platoon commander 2nd Lt. Mark H. Tetzel, Company D, 1st CEB.
The engineer Marines arrived here 18 hours after leaving Forward Operating Base Delhi, more than 40 kilometers away, and went to work immediately under the 2 a.m. moonlight. This patrol base, 90 miles from Pakistan's border, is the southern-most base controlled by Regimental Combat Team 3.
"It's all about survivability," said Cpl. Joshua M. Firth, heavy equipment operator, 1st CEB. "The bigger the berm, the safer the Marines are on the inside, essentially. They won't have to worry about direct fire."
A 13-foot dirt berm was pushed up around an already-existing wall in the new compound, and an outer, shorter berm was constructed outside the larger one to make standoff room. According to Tetzel, this gives another layer of protection from threats such as vehicle-born IEDs.
Inside the compound, engineers using head lamps pounded away with hammers in the darkness, driving nails into prefabricated guard towers, a shower, a hygiene area and field-expedient burnout toilets. Marines from 8th Engineer Support Battalion were responsible for the creating pre-made structures and a group of them were attached to CLB-8. They frequently accompany the CEB Marines on their builds.
"This is CLB-8's third time to come out with us," said Tetzel, a former corporal and University of Akron graduate. "Those guys are awesome and won't stop until the job is done."
Throughout the engineers' deployment, they've built four observation posts, seven combat outposts of various sizes, and three patrol bases in Helmand province.
Building these posts and bases in the middle of towns and open desert takes a lot of moving parts. This build alone used the efforts of several units. Two Combined Anti-Armor Teams and Marines from 1st CEB's Route Clearance Platoon lead the 37-vehicle engineer convoy from FOB Delhi, on the lookout for enemy ambushes and IEDs. At the convoy's tail, 60 Afghan national army troops in vehicles provided security from anyone trying to sneak up behind. Those attached units provided security for the engineers to, at and from the construction site.
"Security is important because it allows the Marines to build the best product they can without worrying about what's behind them," said Staff Sgt. Randy C. Jaekel, motor transportation chief, 1st CEB and a Lincoln, Mo., native.
It took the engineers almost 60 nonstop hours to complete the build. With the project completed, the Co. E Marines moved into their new digs with the intent on eradicating the Taliban in the area and giving the local Afghans freedom to shop and run their businesses in safe market.
"We come in, build it and leave," said Tetzel. "We want to give 2/8 a good product."