PATROL BASE MEHRAJ, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
PATROL BASE MEHRAJ, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Marines from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, stand post along the base’s perimeter 24 hours a day, seven days a week, protecting those inside and allowing them to conduct business in relative safety within the base’s walls.
The Marines providing security take their duties very seriously, knowing they are the first line of defense against potential attackers.
“I’m at the (entry control point) post, so anybody coming too quick toward it, I’ve got to make sure that I slow them down, tell them to stop,” said San Fernando, Calif., native Lance Cpl. Javier Deleon. “I check everybody before they get too close.”
The Marines thoroughly scan the landscape during their shifts, on the lookout for potential threats, scrutinizing every detail within their view. They radio the Combat Operations Center on base if something catches their attention, which uses a camera perched atop an antenna to get a closer look.
“You get on post and watch your sectors of fire for anything out of the ordinary,” said Deleon, a dog handler with Fox Company. “For instance, if somebody all of a sudden is running somewhere, you’d call that in; guys walking around with yellow jugs – I know a lot of them use them for water, but you don’t always know, so you scope them out; guys with shovels – there are always a lot of guys with shovels, but you want to make sure they’re (not dangerous).”
Kinetic attacks directed at the base are not an everyday occurrence, but the threat always remains. It can be easy to lose focus, especially considering the Marines work many hours in austere conditions and are often tired. They must, nevertheless, stay attentive, so they are ready to respond appropriately to any potential threats to the base.
“I usually just sing songs in my head and keep looking at different stuff,” said Byron Center, Mich., native Lance Cpl. Clayton Todd, a rifleman with Fox Company. “You can’t stare at the same thing, otherwise you’ll just daydream and space out; you’ve got to always keep looking around different areas.”
Standing post for hours on end may be mundane most days but also has an upside: it has given the Marines a unique vantage point to watch people who live in the immediate vicinity of the patrol base, an education on Afghan culture one can’t receive from watching a television program or listening to a university lecture.
“You learn how people live. You just watch them throughout the day, what their routine is – what they do in the morning, what they do in the afternoon, what they do at night,” said Deleon, who is experiencing his first combat deployment.
“They drink from the well so they don’t have a water system like we do. I’m not sure if everyone has electricity, but they have power lines and when they went down, they tried to fix them right away. Most of them walk barefoot – I’ve seen that. I’ve never seen anyone walk around barefoot (in America), especially on ground like this – rocks and all kinds of stuff everywhere.”
Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8 in 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 maintain security 24/7, by Cpl Tommy Bellegarde, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.