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    Providing personal security in perilous places

    Providing personal security in perilous places

    Photo By Sgt. Marco Mancha | Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Wetzold (left) of Annapolis, Md., stands beside the 1st...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Marco Mancha 

    II Marine Expeditionary Force   

    PATROL BASE WHITE HOUSE, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Nestled in the rolling mountains of Afghanistan near the Helmand River are the fighting warriors of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. They battle the threat of a waning insurgent force and bring peace to the local residents of Afghanistan one patrol, convoy, and firefight at a time.

    Within their ranks is a special group of Marines dedicated to keeping the battalion’s highest-ranking officer safe when he leaves the relative safety of the base. Marines with the Personal Security Detachment for 1/6 provide security for their commander, a particularly important task during Operation Eastern Storm.

    The ongoing operation, dedicated to eliminating the insurgent threat along Route 611 from Sangin to Kajaki in the Upper Sangin Valley region, is proving successful as Marines have taken control of the area ahead of schedule.

    The unit’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. George Benson, wanted to see his Marines’ progress in person throughout the operation. His PSD made sure the Cedar Point, N.C., native was able to travel through the area of operations safely and comfortably.

    “I travel with my PSD everywhere I go,” said Benson. “They make sure I get where I need to go in the quickest, safest manner possible. Having them is a great asset to this battalion.”

    The PSD is made up of a melting pot of Marines from different military occupational specialties. Although the majority of the 21 Marines are infantrymen, they also have a Navy corpsman, motor transportation operators, a mechanic, an improvised explosive device detection dog and his handler, and a radio operator.

    All the Marines play a vital role in protecting Benson, as well as any VIPs who visit their area of operations. Annapolis, Md., native Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Wetzold leads the PSD on every mission they do.

    “My guys have been outstanding throughout the deployment,” said Wetzold, the PSD commander for the unit. “We all come from different backgrounds -- some even come from a different battalion -- but in the end we have a job to do, and my guys do it well.”

    The PSD conducts convoys up and down Route 611 almost every day now and have completed dozens of mounted and dismounted patrol missions. These hard-working warriors spend an average of 12 to 14 hours a day executing convoy missions, conducting maintenance on their six combat vehicles, cleaning weapons or planning.

    Other Marines in the PSD, like Arvada, Colo., native Cpl. Joshua Johnson, take on several responsibilities. Johnson works as the radio operator for the team and maintains all communications systems on the vehicles, as well as the radios carried by the battalion commander, sergeant major, and the vehicle commanders.

    “I make sure I keep up the communications for the PSD (and) run radio checks before every mission we head out on,” said Johnson, 23. “I also check for any other communication problems, or if people have issues (providing) a report -- I’m usually the duty expert on that. I help some of the junior marines on how to do (proper reports via communication lines).”

    Something as simple as learning how to issue a proper casualty report can mean the difference between life and death for any Marine on the battlefield. Having a knowledgeable person like Johnson to take care of communications for the team really helps out the entire PSD, according to Wetzold.

    Wetzold and his team of Marines all agree they focus on protecting the battalion commander, but are very versatile as well. They’ve helped out on logistics missions, transported detainees, and even provided security overwatch for the unit’s Bravo Company, who inserted into the area via airborne assault in the initial stage of Operation Eastern Storm.

    Johnson said he knows the PSD doesn’t always get the “coolest” missions, but understands the importance of every Marine in the mission and knows other people depend on him for their safety.

    “We bust our butts every day to do our part and provide the best security for any Marine or other personnel that ride with us,” said Johnson. “We get them to where they need to go, protect them along the way, and provide a secure presence for the Afghan people.”

    Operation Eastern Storm has cleared Route 611, making it safe for local residents, Afghan officials and coalition forces. The PSD’s average 30 mile-a-day trips along this route recently included an escort for the Kajaki District Governor, the battalion commander and the 2nd Marine Division (Forward) commanding general from the Kajaki Dam to the Kajaki Bazaar and back.

    The Kajaki district governor, Sharif Udin, hadn’t been to the bazaar in more than seven years because of the stronghold the insurgents had on the area.

    “I’m proud of the things we’ve been able to accomplish as a team out here, but I’m especially proud of my guys,” said Wetzold. “I had only two weeks to work with my team before deploying, and despite the small differences between them, they always seem to know when its time for business. I have full confidence in all of them and their abilities to get the job done.”

    Editor’s note: First 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.



    Date Taken: 11.10.2011
    Date Posted: 11.10.2011 05:06
    Story ID: 79830

    Web Views: 991
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