COMBAT OUTPOST SHIR GHAZAY, HELMAND PROVINCE,, AFGHANISTAN
COMBAT OUTPOST SHIR GHAZAY, Helmand province, Afghanistan - First impressions are usually lasting ones and one Coram, N.Y. Marine will always remember the first sights and sounds of his initial introduction to the real war in Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl. Ronald Curaba, a fire team leader with 81mm Mortar Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, has been serving throughout the Musa Qal’eh district of Afghanistan, roughly 250 miles southwest of Kabul, the nation’s capital. The reality he faces in Afghanistan was different from the perception he had built in his head over the years.
“My initial perception of Afghanistan was a little bit different but I knew it wasn’t going to be everything that you see on the news because you can never actually put yourself in a situation; until you are actually in it,” Curaba said. “I thought it was going to be a little bit more hectic. I do see a lot of stuff. I have been through a lot and have done my fair share but I thought it was going to be a lot crazier; the way the media made it out to seem. I don’t know if it was just the training … if I was trained to be calm, but it is pretty easy to keep a clear head once you are out here in it and fighting.”
His squad performs an average of two patrols a day, every day. Approximately 15 of those patrols have resulted in a combat engagement for Curaba. The patrols are often routine security missions through the area, but occasionally they are called to go into situations that are known to be very hostile. Curaba has proven himself in stressful situations and exemplified why he was chosen to be a patrol leader above his peers, most of whom have been in the Marines Corps for the same amount of time.
“It [number of patrols conducted] is in the hundreds. Every single day, two times a day since I’ve been here... sometimes three," Curaba said. "I’ve done night ops before, mounted patrols, dismounted, everything.”
Curaba and his squad had been called into action by supporting a squad of scout snipers who had completed a mission and wanted to egress to friendly lines. They were expecting an ambush during their return journey. He found himself in position to lead and direct Marines in a manner beyond his billet and the capability of most young Marines.
“We got into a firefight with two guys at first and Curaba got an [M240B medium machine gun] gunner on target and started hitting them,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle McAfee, a mortar man in Curaba’s squad and a Fayetteville, Ga. native. “We suppressed those guys and the snipers finally made their way up to us. At that time we started to receive fire from a different location. We had the snipers on them and our squad leader had to go down there and get everybody [snipers] on target. While that happened, there was another engagement. I’m not sure how many insurgents there were, I think it was like three or four. Curaba got everybody on target, told them where to shoot, what was up, how many guys they had, everything. He was all over it. He was really quick about everything and really professional.”
Curaba’s proficiency and commitment have not gone unnoticed. He is well respected throughout the Marines he serves with. Respect and trust are essential in a profession as dangerous as a Marine infantryman.
“He’s done very good at his job and controlling his Marines under fire,” said Sgt. Gerardo Rosales, a Richfield, Minn. native, and Curaba’s squad leader. “He’s done very, very well in stressful combat situations. I can count on him, just push him out on his own, if need be, to do patrols. I have full confidence in him doing the right thing.”
Curaba's deployment is nearing completion, but he continues to keep his eye out for his fellow Marines and himself. The aspiration to return to American soil has not lulled Curaba into a state of complacency.
"I never forget that the Marines are out here putting themselves on the line," Curaba said. "I know guys that have been shot, guys that have been killed out here. I miss my friends and family; being around everybody that I grew up with all my life. I just wanna relax for once, I’ve been doing so much straight work, but I'm not going to drop my pack until it's time."
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, Coram, N.Y. native leads Marines in Afghan fight, by Cpl Clayton Vonderahe, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.