News: Afghan National Army, ‘Bad Company’ break insurgents’ will
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
TREK NAWA, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Members of the Afghan National Army joined Bravo Company, also know as “Bad Company,” 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, to conduct Operation Crack Back in southern Trek Nawa to increase the security presence in the area and disrupt insurgent activity.
The ANA soldiers and their Bad Company counterparts were tasked with two of the five objectives while carrying out Operation Crack Back August 27.
“Objective 1 was to clear a large compound — we call it Wal-Mart because it is a huge compound,” said 1st Lt. Brendan Nobel, a Chicago native and the platoon commander for Bad Company’s 2nd Platoon. “Objective 2 was to clear a strip of compounds to the north of Objective 1.”
Nobel, a 2009 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., said Objective 1 is comparable to a fortified structure with a number of canals surrounding it. He explained in the past, insurgents fired at his Marines from the compound and used the eight-foot-deep canals to escape to Objective 2, a known enemy rally point.
“(We wanted to) disrupt the enemy to the north of us. Pretty much every time we get about two kilometers north, we take contact. It seems to be kind of a safe-haven for the insurgents,” said Nobel. “(The mission) was to get a strong presence up there and disrupt their ability to move about freely in the area.”
Both objectives of the operation are located between Bad Company’s and Weapons Company’s areas of operation.
“Right now with the patrol bases the battalion has within the area, (we have) the enemy somewhat confined into an engagement area,” said Capt. Scott M. Silva, an East Bridgewater, Mass., native and the commanding officer of Bad Company. “We have our patrol bases completely (surrounding) it. What we are trying to do is dictate how we meet the enemy on the battle field.”
The ANA and Bad Company know they have the enemy in a vulnerable position and use this to their advantage.
They came from the south ready to fight and quickly realized the atmosphere in the area was unusual compared to previous visits to the area; a multitude of local residents were out farming, performing chores, or just socializing with their fellow Afghans.
Whether it was from the heavily armed 40-plus coalition service members patrolling toward their positions, or the fact it was the last week of the Islamic month of fasting known as Ramadan, the insurgents operating within the area did not show their faces. There was not one round fired during the whole operation. The Marines did not expect this, but it enabled them to make strides in other areas, such as interacting with local residents.
“Before we got to our first objective one of the (local residents) came up and gave us that tip (about an improvised explosive device). That is the second time a local resident has approached us and given a tip about an IED,” said Nobel. “That proves the (people here) are pretty much feed up with the insurgents, don’t want them around — they prefer the Marines and ANA for their security.”
Silva added events like this show the confidence the local residents are gaining in the Afghan National Security Forces, as well as the other coalition forces operating in Nawa.
“We were able to actively engage with the (citizens here), and they were happy to see us. I think just being able to do that, where the people would come out and talk to us, being open about the enemy in the area, telling us their disposition, really did show that what we’re doing makes a difference in the area,” said Silva, a graduate of Bridgewater State University. “We are trying to ensure Nawa stays free of any insurgent influence and keep the enemy outside of Nawa.”
The operation was successful in several areas, not only in security efforts, but also in supporting the Afghan soldiers as they begin to take the lead in the area. The ANA and Bad Company cleared approximately 20 compounds while interacting with local residents during the operation, while their brothers with Weapons Company just north of them also cleared approximately 20 compounds. The Marines were able to locate and destroy two IEDs from the tip they received; the ANA found a Soviet shotgun in a known insurgent safe-house and destroyed a marijuana field.
“The ANA usually lead the charge with clearing the compounds once we help them out with clearing the doorways,” Nobel explained. “Missions like Operation Crack Back will enable the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to spread its footprint in the area, which will help establish legitimacy with the residents of Trek Nawa who have had little interaction with the government.”
Silva said right now the people in Trek Nawa do not have a significant government representative, so the ANA’s and Marines’ efforts demonstrate the Afghan National Security Forces’ ability to provide security and GIRoA’s ability to ensure safety vice being intimidated and strong-armed by insurgents.
“I think the enemy, just like any force, has specific areas they want to influence. With the progress that has been made in Nawa, the enemy definitely does want to smear that progress and try to influence it in a negative way,” said Silva. “As much as we can keep the enemy out of that area and let Nawa continue to grow, (allow) the Afghan Uniformed Police to establish itself, we’re helping them out by keeping the enemy out of the area. The insurgents will eventually see they can’t influence this area.”
Editor’s note: Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 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.