News: 1/8 Marines, ANSF foster relationships with local Afghans
Story by Cpl. Joshua Hines
MUSA QAL’EH, Helmand province, Afghanistan – The Afghan people are the most important factor in the fight against the Taliban. A fact well known by the Marines of 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, who are battling the Taliban and protecting the people of Karimanda.
“We’ve been hunting the enemy through the people. Right now we’ve established a great relationship with the people and it’s only continuing to grow,” said Sgt. David Ketron, a squad leader with Company A.
The most difficult issue in fighting the Taliban is finding them, because they are capable of blending into the population. Understanding the people is the best way to overcome this.
“It really pays off. We constantly get information on [improvised explosive device] locations, Taliban members, and when they come into the local villages,” said 2nd Lt. Jason W. Blydell, platoon commander with 2nd Platoon. "We’ve been able to push the enemy almost 2 kilometers to the north, identify multiple enemy firing positions, discover tunnel systems and set up ambushes in compounds. All the while helping the people south of our position feel safer knowing the Taliban have been pushed farther back.”
One of the ways the Marines reach the people is with a weekly meeting, known as a shura, held aboard the Marines’ patrol base. During the shura, Marines sit with Afghan soldiers, police and dozens of locals to discuss issues and problems.
“We have been letting the people know we can help, but they have to take it upon themselves to pull together as a village and help us so that we can better help them,” said Blydell.
Despite the Marines continued success hunting the enemy, they were recently dealt a heavy blow when Staff Sgt. Javier Ortiz-Rivera, platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, Company A, was killed by an IED blast.
“It’s been really tough; he was a huge part of the platoon, but we came together knowing that Staff Sgt. Ortiz would want nothing more than for us to continue the fight and accomplish the mission,” said Blydell.
“Even after such a heavy blow the Marines are determined to continue their hunt for the Taliban,” said Ketron. “Ultimately we know what our jobs as Marines are and we refuse to give up the fight.”