MARJAH DISTRICT, AFGHANISTAN
MARJAH DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan – As they loaded gear into storage containers, climbed aboard armored trucks or into helicopters, the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment bade farewell to northern Marjah District and began their journey home to North Carolina. They leave the area in the hands of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, which participated in Operation Moshtarak, the initial push to remove insurgents from the city, last year.
In 2/8’s wake is a district showing signs of renewal and growth.
Certain areas like Trek Nawa, a portion of the district with a troubled past, have seen steady change, explained Cpl. William Fritsch and Sgt. Alfredo Mendoza, civil affairs Marines with the Marine Civil Affairs Detachment in the district.
“The support for the government of Afghanistan has improved,” said Fritsch, a Chicago native. “Trek Nawa never really viewed itself as part of the government, but now you see Afghan flags everywhere. They have expressed increased trust in the local police, and since we’ve been here, the elders have said they have a lot more trust in the local government. They have been a lot more willing to stand up to the [insurgents].”
Fritsch added that security has also been enhanced by a local security force called Interim Security for Critical Infrastructure.
“The [Interim Security for Critical Infrastructure] has helped strengthen that bond,” continued Fritsch, highlighting the advantage of having ISCI, which is run by community elders, contribute to the security of their communities. “They had a lot of difficulty seeing themselves as one country, but the tribes have really come together for security.”
The increased security helped pave the way for infrastructural development in the area, which in turn garnered further support from the community for both the city and national government.
“When we came here originally, we were working in all areas, but now we’ve focused on just a few, like Trek Nawa,” explained Mendoza.
Construction projects continue. The civil affairs Marines collaborate with local citizens to erect schools and dig wells throughout the city. Education centers stand where there was once nothing but rubble and vacant lots. Vocational schools help train local citizens in generator maintenance, engineering, welding and a host of other trades.
“Three weeks ago, we opened up a new school, and you could see an improvement immediately,” Mendoza said. “All of the children coming out, you could see how it was going to help them in their future.”
“The schools are what I am most proud of,” Fritsch added, recounting an opening ceremony he attended. “It was early evening and this kid came up and showed me his books. He seemed so proud of this education, one which he never would have gotten otherwise.”
Throughout the past year, such moments had been few and far between in places like Trek Nawa, but due to the efforts of 2/8 and their Afghan partners, they have become a more frequent and much welcome sight.
Editor’s Note: First Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 1, 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 Forces 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, 2/8 returns home, leaves Marjah better than found, by Cpl Phillip Clark, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.