News: 1st LAR Marines patrol area, meet the neighbors
Story by Cpl. Eugenio Montanez
COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Afghanistan – On a normal day Marines with the Police Mentor Team, attached to Company A, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, teach and guide Afghan Uniformed Police, but on some occasions these Marines take on a completely different type of mission – getting to know their neighbors!
“We’ve been going on patrols to get closer to the people and have them get used to seeing us everyday,” said Cpl. Josh Shanabarger, a military policeman with the PMT attached to Company A, 1st LAR Bn.
The Marines patrol twice a day around the villages near Combat Outpost Castle.
“The locals help us out whenever they can, so we try to give something back by providing them security and showing them that we’re here to keep them safe,” said Shanabarger, a Canton, Ohio, native.
Usually the Marines carry radios to give to the adults and candy for the children.
“Most people like the gifts we give them and in exchange they talk with us about how the village is doing and give us information of any Taliban activity in the area,” Shanabarger said. “The children always come out to see us and follow us around.”
With the radios, the locals can stay informed and listen to any broadcast coming from COP Castle’s broadcast station.
“We have a broadcast station here to notify the locals of any special events that we are conducting for them or just let them know important messages,” said Staff Sgt. Randy Fegert, a training chief for the PMT attached to Company A, 1st LAR Bn.
Over the past three months, since the PMT Marines started conducting missions in the area, they have noticed a significant drop in Taliban activity.
“Since we’ve been patrolling the area the Taliban haven’t bothered these people,” said Fegert, a Curwensville, Pa., native. “We are hoping for us to continue to provide a more secure area for the village locals.”
The Marines conduct many patrols throughout the west and east side of COP Castle to maintain a constant presence with the local population.
“We are here to gain their trust and support,” Fegert said. “But, most importantly, to let them know they’re not alone and we are here to help them, not hurt them.”
“The Marines have been able to create a good relationship with the locals,” Shanabarger explained. “The people like having us around, they tell us, ‘They just feel safer than ever before.”