News: Marine unit new to Afghanistan conducts first large-scale operation
Story by Lance Cpl. Mark Garcia
MUSA QA’LEH DISTRICT CENTER, Afghanistan – As insurgents begin preparations for Afghanistan’s poppy harvest season, Marines, coalition forces and Afghan National Security Forces participated in Operation Jaws April 5-8.
Second Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment’s role in Jaws was to find and destroy weapons caches, improvised explosive devices and drug-producing facilities. The Marines focused on three key population centers: Barang, Mishmas Karez and Mama Karez, all of which are known passageways for enemy forces moving north and south through the area of operations.
While conducting operations, Marines from Echo Company, 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, partnered with members of the Afghan National Police. On the night of April 5, they inserted via helicopter, catching the enemy by surprise. By the time the blazing Afghan sun had risen, the forward combat operations center was fully operational, and the Marines had started their assault.
Over the next three days, the Marines deliberately and methodically cleared each of the villages. Marines from 2nd Platoon discovered and destroyed several enemy cache sites and fighting positions within Kuh E Khvajeh Khan Baba Mountain.
While clearing the villages, the platoons of Echo Company spent time talking with area key leaders to evaluate the situation and attitudes of the local people.
“The villages served as assembly areas and support hubs for the insurgency,” said Capt. Jonathan Frerichs, company commander, Echo Company, 2nd Bn., 5th Marines. “The villages are adjacent to the ‘grain belt’ of Helmand province’s poppy farming areas. Due to limited ANSF in the area, the insurgency receives significant funding because of unregulated poppy production and trade. Operations like Operation Jaws focus on removing or disrupting enemy leadership, infrastructure and financing in these areas. They are critical to allowing ANSF forces the ability to assume the lead and maintain the security bubble they have established in the surrounding areas.”
Frerichs, from Wheaton, Ill., praised his Marines’ ability to accomplish this mission.
“There is always a healthy respect level of the danger that accompanies attacking the enemy in his backyard,” said Frerichs. “Overall though, the operation was a success. The enemy leadership was clearly disrupted and we were able to deny them some of the key infrastructure they had been utilizing to facilitate moving drugs, money and weapons through the area.”
Operation Jaws marked the first time during this deployment that 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, used the full spectrum of capabilities a Marine Air-Ground Task Force affords; tanks, helicopters, artillery, and infantry put continued pressure on insurgent forces during a time of transition.
“When we arrived, the battalion decided we didn’t want to let up the tempo that 2nd Bn., 4th Marines, had established. They had set a blistering pace,” said Lt. Col. Jason Perry, battalion commander, 2nd Bn., 5th Marines.
U.S. Army route clearance soldiers also partnered with the Marines for the operation. Afghan National Army soldiers participated too, conducting their own missions.
“The operation was less about 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, and what they can accomplish and more about what the ANSF are able to accomplish,” Perry, from Flatrock, N.C., said. “Everything we do is centered on helping the ANSF secure the local population in Musa Qa’leh and Now Zad so they can be self reliant. From our perspective, these operations really enable the ANSF to continue to set up and run their own operations.”
Perry said conducting independent operations alongside the ANA, 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, will help ensure the Afghans are prepared to take control of their own country.
Captain Jordan Jones, assistant operations officer, 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, said Operation Jaws was a learning experience to find out how the battalion will conduct future operations.
“The Marines did an excellent job. I think they’re definitely starting to get a handle on what’s going on in the (area of operations) from how the enemy operates, to how the enemy thinks. That will help to shape how we conduct operations in the future,” Jones, from New Orleans, said.
Perry praised his Marines professionalism in the harsh environment.
“The Marines did an outstanding job. The Marines did what we ask Marines to do,” Perry said. “Sometimes that’s a difficult task to ask young men to go out and do, but they never fail to impress me with their maturity and their ability to make decisions.”