KHAN NESHIN, AFGHANISTAN
KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan – U.S. Marines are well versed in adapting to the ever changing environment inherent to counterinsurgency operations in southern Helmand province.
The warfighters of Weapons Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, have been utilizing this skill since they began operating here last October.
Weapons Plt. is composed of Marines holding the 0300, or infantryman, military occupational specialty code. Light armored reconnaissance vehicle drivers, crewmen, mortarmen, anti-tank misslemen and scouts form the platoon, which usually specializes in providing a fire to support those Marines most forward in the fight.
“Traditionally, my [mortar] section sits in a defensive area to provide indirect fire and battlefield illumination,” explained Staff Sgt. Joshua Chitwood, the Weapons Plt. commander and native of Tampa, Fla. “ The anti-tank section sits in an over watch position to provide support by fire and missiles for maneuver elements.”
Since transitioning authority of the Khan Neshing district with 2nd LAR five months ago, Weapons Plt. has stepped away from its traditional role and adapted to any mission that has come their way.
“We started off working for the [1st LAR] operations chief by escorting our command and staff to battlefield circulations,” said Chitwood. “We’ve also acted as a rifle platoon for Charlie and Delta companies.”
“We’ve pretty much worked as a maneuver element in every area of operation for the battalion,” added Chitwood.
The platoon has performed several functions as a maneuver element, escorting explosive ordnance disposal Marines to disable improvised explosive devices and perform blast analysis tasks, conducting patrols to interact with the population and sweep for weapons caches, and establishing overnight posts in the farthest corners of Khan Neshin.
The platoon’s motto, “Make it happen Weapons”, channels each Marine’s ability to improvise, adapt and overcome any challenges they come across.
“Any tasks that my Marines have been given, they find it as a challenge and they love it,” said Chitwood. “They’ll make it happen…whether it’s 72 hours in a night OP, coming back, pushing out again to a census patrol, there’s not a task that we’ve been given that we’re not going to be able to do.”
Adapting to these diverse missions requires some of the Weapons Marines to rely on experience from a previous deployment, while others were required to learn skills completely foreign to their primary MOS.
“I had to learn how to program a radio,” said Lance Cpl. John Amore, a team leader and mortar man with Weapons Plt., Alpha Co., 1st LAR, and 21-year-old native of West Plains, Mo. “I did a lot of dismounted patrols last year, so I was used to that.”
For the platoon’s newest warriors, their first deployment is a testament to the teachings of their combat instructors from the School of Infantry.
“There wasn’t much difference from what my instructors taught us [at SOI],” said Lance Cpl. Fabian Aguilar, an assistant gunner with Weapons Plt., Alpha Co., 1st LAR, and 21-year-old native of Aurora, Colo.
“They taught us to adapt and overcome and learn from the constant training that we conduct, even while we’re out here,” said Aguilar, currently on his first deployment.
As their current deployment begins to wind down, the Marines of Weapons Plt. will continue to answer the call in Khan Neshin, employing their versatile skill set to any mission that needs to be accomplished.
“There’s no such thing as being out of my element,” explained Amore. “I’m a United States Marine Corps infantryman.”
Editor’s note: First Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion is part of Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division (Forward), which 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.
||KHAN NESHIN, AF
||AURORA, CO, US
||TAMPA, FL, US
||WEST PLAINS, MO, US
This work, Make it happen: Weapons Platoon adapts, overcomes in southern Helmand, by Sgt Alfred V. Lopez, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.