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    Marines in Kajaki Sofla begin transition in Operation Eastern Storm

    Marines in Kajaki Sofla begin transition in Operation Eastern Storm

    Photo By James Clark | Marines with 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, conduct...... read more read more

    KAJAKI SOFLA DISTRICT, AFGHANISTAN

    10.31.2011

    Story by Cpl. James Clark 

    Regimental Combat Team 8

    KAJAKI SOFLA DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Just weeks after the outset of Operation Tofan Sharq (Eastern Storm), the Marines and sailors of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, are turning their attention to strengthening relationships with local leadership in the vicinity in an effort to further eliminate insurgent forces in the area.

    The operation is a major offensive to root out the Taliban-led insurgency in the Upper Sangin Valley region of Kajaki. The battalion began in Sangin and pushed north to Kajaki along Route 611, working with Afghan national security forces to push the insurgency out of the once-terrorized Kajaki area. The operation is bringing security to the isolated district, making it safe for local residents to return to their homes and allowing much-needed contract work to continue on the Kajaki Dam, which has the potential to provide a great deal of power for northern Helmand province.

    “Future operations planners have been looking at this area for years, mainly because the Kajaki Dam was built by American engineers back in the ‘50s,” explained Capt. Paul Tremblay, company commander, Bravo Company, 1/6. “It’s something we gave to the Afghans that is no longer working, but the timing was never right until recently. Based on the success in Sangin, mainly from 3rd and 1st Battalions, 5th Marine Regiment, the decision was made to capitalize on those successes and surge 1/6 up here.”

    Landing two platoons on the outskirts of the green zone, a veritable oasis, and pushing one platoon into the heart of the area, the company was able to pull off “a modern day aerial blitzkrieg,” Tremblay explained.

    “The scheme of maneuver could not have been executed any more professionally or skillfully by the Marines of Bravo, 1/6,” Tremblay said. “We were able to overwhelm the enemy on multiple fronts in a very nonlinear fashion in a rapid succession he could not cope with. When they got overwhelmed and saw the size we were bringing into the area, the majority of [enemy] commanders fled to the north, leaving their mid-level commanders in place.”

    Marines now move through the bazaar outside Patrol Base Pennsylvania, a former narcotics hub in the region, and speak to the area’s residents, who previously feared reprisal from the roughly 300 insurgent fighters who have since fled the area.

    With the threat of direct fire engagements dwindling, the Marines now fight a political battle for local support, in which they contend with insurgent cells returning to the area.

    “What’s critical now is we have this momentum; we have some time to get established into our fixed sites to start a sustainable battle rhythm,” Tremblay explained. “There’s a lull in violence that we can capitalize on, integrating [Afghan national security forces] and police forces. Basically, it’s a race how fast we can get Afghan solutions into the area versus how fast Taliban can reintegrate. The reality on the ground is more disrupt, isolate, overwhelm, integrate ANSF, and then transition, and at any point in time, at any day, any hour, we can be at any one of those. The point is to generate a tempo and a presence where we’re able to do all of those things simultaneously.”

    The Marines of Bravo Company perform patrols at a ceaseless pace, moving through the bazaar and pushing out to the farthest boundaries of their area of operations.

    The goal is to keep a constant presence, and, in doing so, send a message to the local populace that coalition and Afghan forces are the dominant power in the area, not the insurgency.

    Switching from a tactical mindset, in which the goal is to insert into an area and directly engage enemy forces, to working with local leadership and building rapport can be a challenge, but it is one the Marines are up to, according to Marines like Lance Cpl. Peter Hulme, a 60 mm mortarman from Herndon, Va., who serves with 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company.

    “When we first arrived we were pretty edgy, but since getting here, we’ve found the [local populace] is a lot more accepting,” explained Hulme, a 2010 graduate of Herndon High School. “We expected them to be more standoffish than they are.”

    Operating in this situation, the Marines and sailors on the ground serve as goodwill ambassadors while still maintaining a tactical mindset.

    Though the patrol rotation is grueling, Tremblay speaks with confidence about his junior leaders and their ability not only to keep up the pace, but also to operate independently and with minimal guidance - a necessity in counter-insurgency operations.

    “I’m a firm believer in maneuver warfare and a firm believer that as long as Marines understand the intent, they can go out and execute,” said Tremblay. “I have phenomenal squad leaders and unbelievable team leaders. We are able to generate more momentum because we are able to operate decentralized, because I trust them and they trust me.”

    For more information concerning Task Force Leatherneck operations, please contact Task Force Leatherneck public affairs officer Maj. Bradley Gordon at bradley.gordon@afg.usmc.mil.

    The 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division (Forward)/Task Force Leatherneck. Task force Leatherneck 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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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 10.31.2011
    Date Posted: 10.31.2011 13:03
    Story ID: 79333
    Location: KAJAKI SOFLA DISTRICT, AF

    Web Views: 1,375
    Downloads: 1

    PUBLIC DOMAIN