PATROL BASE BOLDAK, Afghanistan –Early each morning aboard Patrol Base Boldak, a team of infantry Marines with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, dons their gear and prepares to leave for a daily patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Patrolling is dangerous but necessary. Every detail comes into play, so much so that a single out-of-place rock could mean the difference between life and death.
Infantry Marines are adequately trained what to look for during pre-deployment training. During several improvised explosive device classes, they are taught what IED indicators they might see, as well as the protocol for coming across a possible IED.
“It’s just what we do,” said Lance Cpl. Zachary Solomons, an infantry Marine with Charlie Co. “As infantrymen, we’re taught through multiple classes what to expect out here. It’s all about attention to detail. It can be daunting at times, but that’s what makes it great.”
Many of the Marines with 1st Bn., 9th Marines, have encountered IEDs and gone on dismounted patrols for further investigation. A dismounted patrol is when a small team of Marines leaves their vehicles to get a clear picture of the situation by sweeping the immediate area on foot with mine detectors.
Patrolling Marines and a Navy corpsman, if one is available, observe the area around a patrol base or consistently traveled roadway to make sure it is safe for supply convoys to travel across.
“Every day is a learning experience,” said 1st Lt. Jake Ryan, rifle platoon commander, 3rd Platoon, Charlie Co., and The Woodlands, Texas, native. “It’s up to us to go out and make the most out of each situation.”
It is necessary to have a known military presence in the surrounding outskirts of Camp Leatherneck to build familiarity with the local Afghans.
“We’re seeing a lot of results from our operations right now,” said Ryan. “It’s a great morale booster for the Marines to see how far the local population has come since we arrived here.”
In October 2013, there was an elevated insurgent influence in the surrounding areas. Insurgents would continually tax the locals on their harvests. Since the arrival of Charlie Co., a firm decrease in insurgent interaction with local elders indicates the steady military presence in the area is making a difference.
Infantry Marines stationed at PB Boldak continually patrol an area approximately half the size of Rhode Island. They go on force protection operations daily to ensure a secure perimeter around the patrol base and the surrounding areas.
“Patrolling is about disrupting insurgent activity and protecting the Camp Leatherneck area from possible threats in the future,” said Ryan. “A continuous presence in our immediate area prevents large planned attacks from the southern region of Camp Leatherneck.”
Although they work strenuous hours day after day, they are properly trained and ready for any task and future operations.
“Every time we go out it’s a new adventure,” said Solomons. “It’s something everyone here looks forward to. The fact that I can trust my life to the guys on my left and right is more than enough for me.”