NAWA DISTRICT, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
NAWA DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Marines patrol in full gear – a combat load of ammunition, flak jackets, helmets, rifles – and many must add communications radios, extra rounds or squad automatic weapons to their loads. These items get very heavy over the course of a three- or four-hour security patrol.
Add uneven terrain, countless irrigation canals, hills, dust, fatigue and rapidly-depleting water sources and circumstances become more severe. Temperatures of well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit add the final ingredient to this recipe for disaster!
For the Marines of Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, this set of circumstances has become a regular occurrence as they endure through security patrols in the scorching desert during the hottest days of summer.
“The heat, it kills,” said Lake Elsinore, Calif., native, Lance Cpl. Andrew Dalton, a fireteam leader with the battery. “When we first got here, just walking up the steps to get on post, you’d be winded. It’s the heat and the air – everything is just completely different (in Afghanistan).”
The heat and dust-filled air would send others indoors, but the Marines, who have been patrolling the area since arriving in country earlier this year, must maintain a security presence. The best they can do is stay hydrated to avoid heat-related injuries, a palpable reality to the troops in such austere conditions.
“I try to drink as much water as I can, about a bottle an hour,” said Jacksonville, Fla., native Matthew Yackee, a fireteam leader with Headquarters Battery. “You (also) have to keep an eye on the guy in front of you and behind you (on patrol).”
They can drink water all day, but sometimes the heat is so oppressive that doing the job comes down to willpower.
“The only thing you can do is get conditioned, get used to (the heat),” said Van Buren, Ark., native Lance Cpl. Adrian McCabe, an automatic rifleman with the battery. “It gets easier as you patrol on, and on and on – that’s really the only thing you can do.”
The Marines will keep patrolling, continuing to battle the heat as the mission requires. Recently, the Marines patrolled during the hottest part of the day to provide a security presence in the area. The heat did not slow them down.
“The heat today was pretty bad, most of us came back with our cammies soaked (with sweat),” said Yackee. “I know it was pretty rough on a couple (Marines), but they still stood up to (the heat) pretty well.”
Editor’s note: First Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 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, Marines push through scorching temps to provide security, by Cpl Tommy Bellegarde, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.