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    Victory in Nawa: the final chapter

    Victory in Nawa: the final chapter

    Photo By Sgt. Jeff Drew | Los Angeles native Cpl. Matthew Noel, a dog handler with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Jeff Drew 

    II Marine Expeditionary Force   

    Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a four-part series chronicling a trek across Nawa district called the Nawa Victory Walk, a four-day, 30-mile patrol by U.S. Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers.

    NAWA DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Sailors and Marines with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, slipped from the relative warmth of their sleeping bags, braving the morning chill, and began to prepare for the day. The final day of the Nawa Victory Walk was upon them, and the Marines were excited to finish the four-day, 30-mile patrol. The trek brought together Mercer Island, Wash., native Lt. Col. Tyler Zagurski, the battalion commander, and Afghan Lt. Col. Gul Ahmad, the kandak commander of 1st Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, in a patrol across the district to promote confidence in Afghan security forces and talk to residents.

    Los Angeles native Cpl. Matthew Noel rose from the ground and gave his bomb-sniffing dog, Sgt. Ringo, a pat on the head. Ringo had slept comfortably on the cot while his owner chose the cold ground, a testament to the dedication Noel has for his dog’s health and performance. Noel dressed quickly, shook the cold from his bones, joined the other Marines, and stepped out the front gate of Patrol Base Kharaman.

    Ringo was taking the morning off and rode in a vehicle at Noel’s recommendation. In the past three days, Ringo had helped lead the patrol, searching for improvised explosive devices for more than 25 miles.

    “He needed a little bit more time to cool down,” said Noel. “I don’t think any dog has gone this far in this short of a time span; it’s a lot for a dog. The average IED dog can work for (a time determined by) how hot it is and if there is water in the canals where the dog can cool off. If there’s water, he can go all day. A lot of that has to do with the conditioning of the animal and how well you take care of him. I had time to build his stamina and his endurance, which has helped out a lot.”

    Noel said patrolling without Ringo was different and uncomfortable. “It feels like you’re walking around and you don’t have your weapon,” he explained. Noel also mentioned the benefits of a well-rested animal.

    “If the dog gets winded, anything he passes he may not check, and you’re really putting yourself and everybody else that’s behind you in danger,” said Noel. “I don’t want to be responsible for that.”

    The final day marked the shortest distance the Afghan National Army soldiers and Marines would cover. They passed cornfields and canals, meeting with local Afghan residents and taking time to hear their concerns along the way. The men made one stop at Patrol Base Kochnay Prong, where key leaders joined Afghan security forces to enjoy tea. Rested and relaxed, the Marines and Afghan soldiers made their final movement to Patrol Base Norzai, where the Nawa Victory walk drew to a close.

    “The walk was a success. I think we saw a lot of people and they saw us, and the fact that we were able to walk the distance of a very long district in relative security and visit with other security positions – it highlighted the level of cooperation we see in Nawa between the (Afghan) army and the police,” said Zagurski. “We were greeted and welcomed at every position, even impromptu stops led to offers of lunch. We stopped and had food several times with important elders and other members of the community who welcomed security forces with open arms into their homes, offering respite, rest, chai, and good conversation.”

    When the security forces arrived at Norzai, they realized what they had accomplished. Over the course of four days, the Afghan soldiers and Marines met with residents in the district, heard their concerns, and demonstrated the discipline and motivation of Afghan security forces.

    “It was a sense of satisfaction to see a mostly Afghan National Security Forces patrol walking with relative security through the streets of Nawa, enjoying the people and enjoying visiting other ANSF posts,” said Zagurski. “I took a backseat to nearly every engagement we made – I wasn’t the highlight of the patrol; it was ANSF-led, and the people recognized that. There is a sense of satisfaction as we step back one level and we allow our ANSF partners to take the lead responsibility. I saw them take that step – they weren’t hesitant at all to take the lead. Whether it was the clinic ground-breaking, engagement with elders, or discussion in the market, our ANSF partnership stepped right up to the role of lead responsibility and the people are accepting that.”

    Editor’s note: First 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 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.



    Date Taken: 11.23.2011
    Date Posted: 11.23.2011 12:39
    Story ID: 80496

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