OBSERVATION POST 22, HELMAND PROVINCE,, AFGHANISTAN
OBSERVATION POST 22, Helmand province, Afghanistan - Thoughts of those left home during a deployment can weigh on a young man’s mind when he enters a combat zone for the first time.
Fortunately he is not alone. His fellow Marines step in to become new confidants for each other and through training and leadership a new brotherhood and family is born.
Such was the case for Lance Cpl. Ash Marshall, a machine gunner for 3rd Platoon, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. This 19-year-old Marine joined the Marine Corps in July 2010.
“I came from a city that was very pro-military,” said Marshall, an Austin, Texas native, with a smile. “There’s a war going on. So, I said why not?”
The Marine began his journey and graduated the School of Infantry West in January and then received his orders to 3/4. Almost immediately he began training for Afghanistan and in April his unit deployed to Combat Outpost Sharks Tooth in Gereshk, Afghanistan.
Marines in leadership positions get to know the ones in their charge during the training leading up to a deployment and combat actions bring the relationships even closer. The Marines of 3rd Platoon have seen their share of combat through patrols, numerous improvised explosive device and direct fire attacks and the relationships built from the common experiences springs forth the brotherhood mentality. His platoon immediately went into harm’s way on a daily basis trying their best to disrupt enemy movement and protect local innocent civilians. Now, patrols have eased and the Marines spend their time in defensive positions spread across the Gereshk Valley.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is you have to take care of each other,” said Marshall, with a slight Texan drawl. “If you take care of them, then they take care of you. This is home.”
The home he refers to is just one of the many observation posts in the area. With a larger base close by, Marshall said often the Marines can’t wait to return to their smaller posts.
“We go to Sharks Tooth every four days; get full of cold water and some hot food and then we want to come back out here.” said Marshall, an Austin High School graduate of 2010. “We would rather be out here with all the guys, our family, than be stuck back there. It’s just simpler.”
Typical days for the Marines at the observation posts include providing security from guard posts lining the compound. When Marines are not on security, the daily routine kicks in of hygiene time, and then possibly finding a board game to play or a book to read.
“We hang out and talk and let the days go by,” said Marshall, with sweat and dirt marks lining his face. “We listen to one another and when one Marine has a problem, more than likely someone else has encountered it as well. We have to be there for each other.”
The Marines of 3rd Platoon often gather around for an occasional movie and sometimes dig through care packages looking for canned goods to create a meal for their brothers at the post.
“It’s amazing what you can put together with a few cans of Spam and a bag of rice,” said Sgt. Jesse Sanger, the machine gun section leader attached to 3rd Platoon, with a smile.
Sanger, a Seattle native, and a few other Marines woke up early the next morning. Using Spam from a care package and rice bought from a local market, the Marines created a welcomed warm breakfast for their fellow Marines.
The Marines also located pancake batter and quickly mixed and poured. The breakfast seemed to be a welcomed wake up to the platoon.
“You take what you can get,” said Lance Cpl. Cody Milton, a Granite City, Ill., native while he was cooking the Spam. “It’s the little things out here that count.”
Milton had almost a year of culinary school under his belt before joining the Marine Corps in 2009. “I didn’t think I would have to bust out these skills while deployed to Afghanistan, but I think the Marines appreciate it,” he says with a smirk.
“Family is important to me no matter where I’m at.” said Marshall. “This is my Marine family and they are just as important as my family back home. I would do anything for any of them like anyone back home.”
Editor’s note: Regimental Combat Team 8 is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, Bonds of brotherhood help 3/4 Marines focus during deployment, by SSgt Ryan Smith, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.