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    New base takes battle for Sangin north

    New base takes battle for Sangin north

    Photo By Sgt. Benjamin Crilly | PATROL BASE FAHEEM, Helmand province, Afghanistan - Lance Cpl. Gregor M. Phillips, a...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Benjamin Crilly 

    II Marine Expeditionary Force   

    PATROL BASE FAHEEM, Helmand province, Afghanistan - Faheem is now one of the northern most company positions in the 1/5 battle space. The patrol base allows the Marines to more effectively secure north of Sangin by engaging fighters farther away from the District Center. The district of Sangin is located roughly 300 miles west of Kabul, the capitol of Afghanistan.

    The patrol base was named for an Afghan National Army officer who was killed. Captain Faheem was the commander of the Heavy Weapons Tolay, 2nd Kandak, Afghan National Army, and was killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations in the Northern Sangin Green Zone.

    “It is important for us to have PB Faheem up here. Now we are meeting the enemy further north and denying them the ability to keep pushing down south. Instead of clashing with the enemy so close to the District Center, now we are clashing further north,” said Sgt. Jacob P. Nelson, a squad leader for 3rd Plt. “PB Faheem was named after an (Afghan National Army) soldier who gave his life. It is important we honored his memory by naming it that because they are the future of this country, and they need to feel like their presence is important.”

    Before the new patrol base units from 1/5 were forced to conduct longer patrols in an effort to keep the insurgency at bay. The Marines are able to immediately step off into their objective with the new base.

    “We were too far south,” said Lance Cpl. John F. Farias, 20, an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gunner for 3rd Plt. “It was important for us to push north and be right in the enemy’s backyard. This is where they are centrally located, so we are able to be constantly breathing down their necks. The more we show our presence up here, the more we can start swaying the people to our side.”

    Being closer to the enemy means the Marines are more likely to be engaged in firefights. They have to be ready to take on insurgent fighters the moment they leave the base. The Marines have to use various tactics to maneuver under fire due to the heavy fighting in the area, said Nelson, 27, from San Diego.

    “PB Faheem acts as a stable base where we can stay and have relative security,” said Lance Cpl. Gregor M. Phillips, a designated marksman for 3rd Plt. “From there we try to keep the enemy from moving south along the river.”

    Up here the enemy is drawn out and has to expose themselves to engage the Marines. The insurgents have to fight every step of the way as the Marines close with and expel them from the valley. The Marines are engaged in firefights on a daily basis when patrolling in this part of Sangin.

    “3rd Platoon really is the tip of the spear as the most northern element in the 1/5 battle space. We are in firefights every day. The minute we pass the first tree line there is a 90 percent chance we are going to get contact, which is good because we are here to draw them into contact,” said Farias, from New Braunfels, Texas, who was killed in action in the Upper Sangin Valley when his squad came under fire. “We are acting as a shield for the guys down south and keep pushing the insurgents north.”

    Fighting tooth and nail with the enemy is nothing new for coalition forces operating in the Sangin Valley. U.S. Marines and British troops have fought insurgents in the area and had a similar battle in the District Center 14 months ago.

    “We have the exact same fight that (3rd Battalion, 5th Marines) had, but further north. Now we are continuing to push north and running into the same problems as them, being able to only patrol 200 meters and being shot at,” said Nelson, a 2002 graduate of Waukasha North High School. “We came in here with the mindset that they told us that the only safe ground is the ground you are standing on. You have to be aggressive but cautious as well.”

    Farias took his mission to heart and is remembered by his brother Marines continuing the fight and the mission. The success is seen every day in other parts of the battalion’s area when Marines from other parts of 1/5 work on the build stage of the counterinsurgency strategy – clear the enemy out, hold the area and build governance and security.

    “We are making progress. Taking contact 100 meters outside the wire doesn’t happen at Jackson (the battalion headquarters in the district center) anymore. We are stopping the enemy up here,” said Phillips, from Lancaster, Pa., and a 2006 graduate of Pequea Valley High School. “14 months ago down in Jackson they were in the clear phase. Now they have moved into the hold/build phase, whereas up here we are still in the clear part. We are looking to just push the enemy up out of the Valley all together.”

    PB Faheem is just one more way that the Marines are showing their tenacity in pushing enemy fighters out of the Upper Sangin Valley.

    “When we come up here and patrol out of Faheem we show the enemy that we own this area,” said Nelson. “We don’t have to fight every time to get to this point and can be more effective in our patrolling efforts.”



    Date Taken: 07.12.2011
    Date Posted: 07.12.2011 08:42
    Story ID: 73579

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