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    Marines interact with locals in new territory



    Story by Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson 

    Regimental Combat Team-7

    HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Laki, a village in Afghanistan, located in the southern portion of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment's area of operation in the Garmsir District of Helmand province has never had a conventional coalition force visit or even walk down its streets.

    The Marines and sailors of Weapons Company and Jump Platoon, 2/2, were the first to break this streak as they entered the village and patrolled the streets of Laki Jan. 4-7, 2010, to familiarize themselves with the local populace and to begin providing security in the area.

    One such patrol began in the midmorning hours of Jan. 5, as Marines and local members of the Afghan National Army set off with the hopes of meeting with the local village elders of Laki.

    Their first stop on the trip across the muddied roads and fields of Laki was at a local physician's office and pharmacy where Navy Lt. Malcolm Brown, the battalion surgeon, met with the doctor to find out what kind of medical equipment and medicine he needed.

    The office was a small, white compound located down a road that connected to one of the main roads that went through the village. Surgical equipment sat on a small metal tray next to the front entrance. Off to the side, in a smaller room, the doctor and Brown sat talking to one another about the hospital, what equipment or medicine it may need, and how to get it to Laki.

    "I think initially he was nervous with us being there," said Brown. "Fear of the unknown from us and the Taliban a little bit."

    Along with the main doctor, the office also employed a doctor who administered injections and female nurses which allowed them to also care for female patients. Having two doctors and a few nurses enabled them to see around 50 patients a day using the provisions provided by their government.

    "He seemed well equipped with the exception of not many medications," said Brown. "He seemed pretty satisfied with the process of asking the central government for funding and supplies."

    After the meeting with the doctor the Marines set off across the fields of alfalfa, through tight alleyways, and one-lane roads, stopping for anyone who would stop working long enough to talk to them. They eventually ended up in an open area, surrounded by compounds, where a group of men sat drinking tea.

    "We're (International Security Assistant Forces) and we're here to ensure that the Taliban are not destroying anyone's way of life," said Capt. Matthew J. Kutilek, the commanding officer of Weapons Company, as he began a short dialogue with the men.

    The older men identified themselves as the village elders of Laki and discussed with Kutilek the current security situation in the area and how they could help one another with the searches of the compounds.

    With respect to their culture, the elders simply asked that the Marines inform them when the searches would be done so that they could call their farmers in from the fields.

    "We are happy about this," said one local elder. "There was 20 to 30 years of conflict in this area. We are happy you are here."

    The short conversation brought about positive results as the Marines and elders took the chance to get to know each other.

    "The elders here are very strong people with good leadership skills who have the respect of the local populace," said Kutilek. The people here do not support the Taliban. They were just under their control. They don't like the Taliban."

    With the hot afternoon sun overhead, the Marines passed through more alleyways and fields and talked to farmers in the fields and groups of men meeting beside the roads.

    As they continued their patrol they came across an older man sitting on the road with two of his kids. After speaking to him for a few minutes he informed the Marines of a possible improvised explosive device in the road ahead because of wire he had seen laid and buried across the road.

    "We've had multiple people tell us about locations of weapons caches, IEDs, and command wire," said Kutilek. "The people here have been very helpful."

    After a thorough search of the surrounding area the Marines located and gathered up the command wire but were unable to find any roadside bombs. However, it showed that the locals had a willingness to help the Marines despite being in an area where Taliban intimidation was expected.

    "I believe they see the U.S. as liberators from the oppression of the cowardly foreign Taliban," said Kutilek. "I think most people here desire peace and the Taliban does not offer that; they offer instability."

    With one more day done, and one more possible IED found the Marines of Weapons Company will continue to establish a relationship with the Laki locals and continue to work to provide security.

    "I think we're well on our way to providing security for this area because the elders have not allowed the Taliban to have a stronghold, which is a welcome surprise," said Kutilek.



    Date Taken: 01.10.2010
    Date Posted: 01.10.2010 04:18
    Story ID: 43617

    Web Views: 864
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