News: 1st CEB, Coalition forces complete Outlaw Wrath, destroy more than 50 IEDs
Story by Cpl. John McCall
SANGIN, Afghanistan – Marines with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Forward), conducted an 8-day deliberate breaching operation, known as Outlaw Wrath, in the Sangin District, Nov. 29-Dec. 6.
Operation Outlaw Wrath was focused on clearing Route 611, a road known by the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, to be laced with improvised explosive devices. It is an important route used to keep Sangin District’s patrol base supplied with food and water.
Before the operation, most supplies were delivered via helicopter, or an alternate route that stretches around the 611.
At the conclusion of Outlaw Wrath, the CEB Marines successfully found and destroyed more than 50 IEDs, and for now, are able to call the route safe. A trip that normally took three hours or more is now done in forty five minutes.
“We’ve traveled that road plenty of times and every time we do, we get hit,” said Lance Cpl. Matt Dahlman, 27, a heavy equipment operator attached to 3/5 from Portland, Ore. “If eight days being stuck in a bulldozer is what it takes to stop that from happening then it was well worth it!”
Taliban checkpoints were established along portions of route 611, where locals were taxed for money and items bought at the nearby bazaar. The taxation became so serious the local economy was affected, causing prices to inflate on goods.
“Our engineers were not only able to open up the route for mobility purposes, but also better the economic problems that the citizens of Sangin were facing,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Niebel, the battalion commander for 1st CEB.
With 1st CEB’s heavy route clearance assets, 3/5 welcomed direct support to open up the route.
A mine clearing line charge, a rocket with a long line of explosives attached to it, was the main technique used to begin the clearing. The idea being that the explosive force from the MiCLCs would set off any IEDs buried in the road.
After shooting a MiCLC, bulldozers would push away the rubble and uncover any unexploded IEDs, a dangerous job for those involved in the process.
“I never stopped getting chills while I was out there working, but the training the Marine Corps gives you helps a lot when trying to manage your fear,” Dalhman explained. “It was easy to clear my mind and be unafraid. It is just one of those things that you have to deal with.”
While the road was being cleared by CEB, 3/5’s along with Afghan National Army soldiers provided security and overwatch to the left and right of the ‘611.’ Both groups worked together, ensuring that neither group got too far ahead or behind.
“It took a lot of cross communication to ensure that the mission was accomplished safely,” said Capt. Paul Bock, the commanding officer for Combat Engineer Company. “Without their help our task would have been much more difficult than it was.”
Local Afghans were friendly toward many of the Coalition forces and appreciated their work to remove IEDs and push the Taliban out of the area.
“It is important that we show them we are here to help them by keeping the roads free of IEDs,” said 1st Lt. Chris Thrasher, 28, a platoon commander from Angola, Ind.
Marines from all military operational specialties were brought together to support the main effort.
“Being part of a big ‘op’ like this really opened my eyes to a lot of the different things going on out here,” said Lance Cpl. Deonte Graves, 21, a motor transport operator from Washington, D.C. “I’m part of the headquarters platoon so we usually just hear stories from other people, but to actually be out here gives you a very different perspective.”
“It was rewarding work being part of something that gives 3/5 and the people of Sangin security,” Bock said.
After eight days of route clearing in Sangin District, the Marines of 1st CEB and 3/5, and the ANA soldiers have made Route 611 safe to travel again for the first time in three years, according to Bock.
With more than 50 IEDs found and destroyed, coalition forces have saved countless lives, and helped bring security and stability to one of Helmand provinces vital roadways.