COMBAT OUTPOST RANKEL, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
COMBAT OUTPOST RANKEL, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Every Tuesday, Marines aboard Combat Outpost Rankel wake up at 4 a.m. to beat thousands of Afghans to Safar Bazaar.
Tuesday, known as “Bazaar Day” here, is one of the most exhausting patrol days for the Marines in Charlie Company. They arrive early, partnering with the Afghan National Army and Police, to set up vehicle checkpoints and patrol the area for explosive material, weapons and drugs. It’s an all-day affair.
For Lance Cpl. Jose Contreras, Tuesdays bring mixed feelings.
“It’s the beginning of a new week for us,” said Contreras, a team leader with Charlie Company and native of San Antonio. “It’s our Monday because it is one of our longest days and inevitably comes every week. We patrol for five hours, come back [for lunch] and then go back out for another five. And when we’re out there, it’s hard because we are under the sun, baking away at the vehicle check points.”
“But at the same time, it’s cool to see all the different things they bring to sell,” added Contreras. “It’s even more interesting to see how they bring all their stuff. They might be driving a truck with stuff stacked 20 feet high in the bed.”
Safar Bazaar’s wares range from poultry to iPods. Live chickens are sold at an open-air butcher. A street dealer sells watches and electronics, and the local citizens can even purchase cars and motorcycles.
Tuesdays don’t just represent a new week for the Marines in Charlie; they represent progress in a place dominated by insurgents a year ago.
“What ‘Bazaar Day’ means is that we are winning this war,” said 1st Lt. Gregory Veteto, the executive office for Charlie Company and native of Corpus Christi, Texas. “It’s a major [infrastructural] model for the rest of Garmsir District ... It’s a model for the local people to see that their government cares more about them than [insurgent forces] and how efficiently [the Afghan government], Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police can take authority of an area.”
“It also decreases the gap of stereotypical Marines when they go to a foreign country,” added Veteto. “It shows that we really are no different from the local people here, and that they have the same cares and needs that we do … The local people love their families more than anything else, and I think allowing the Marines to see that increases their morale toward doing their job and the importance of our mission.”
The battalion supports Regimental Combat Team 1, under 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which serves as the ground combat element in Helmand. The mission of the division is to partner with Afghan National Security Forces to conduct counterinsurgency operations to secure the Afghan people, defeat insurgent forces, and enable ANSF to assume security responsibilities in the region. Ultimately, the partnered forces promote the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, ‘Bazaar Day’ a weekly milestone for Helmand Marines, by Cpl Colby Brown, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.