MIAN POSHTAY, Helmand Province, Afghanistan — Around here, some Marines say a quiet day is a boring day, and a day they clash with the enemy, while unwelcome, is more personally satisfying.
A squad of Marines with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, patrolled southeast from here Sept. 6, 2009, prepared to encounter the enemy while also hoping to identify some of the post's blind spots.
When they stepped off, they had received information that told them the enemy might show themselves. Since their July 2 helicopter insertion, only 14 of their nearly 70 days here have been empty of enemy contact.
"Even though the Marines have suffered some losses here, the Marines are still completely motivated about their jobs," said Capt. Eric A. Meador, Co. E commander.
After crossing an open field with irrigation trenches, members of E Company's 2nd Platoon reached a deep canal with a foot-deep stream running through it.
Meador explained, the majority of his area of responsibility doesn't have regular enemy contact, but this particular piece of real estate was notorious for being an enemy ambush site.
But the Marines were ready as they scaled the embankment on the canal's far side. As reports had predicted, the enemy was waiting and greeted them with an improvised explosive device blast that injured no one and a spattering of small-arms fire that only heightened their alertness.
To the south, in front of the crouched Marines, was a wind-swept cornfield with nearly 8-foot-tall stalks and broad leaves in motion making enemy movement difficult to see. Despite the limited visibility affecting both sides, the enemy had positioned themselves into an arrow head, facing the Marines in the middle. As one side would shoot, the other would attempt to advance farther onto the Marines' flank. The bad guys maneuvered as close as 75 meters — their muzzle blasts getting louder with each bound.
Squad leader Cpl. Evan Steele called a halt. With rounds whizzing overhead, Lance Cpl. Michael R. Webb, 22, the squad-automatic weapon gunner from Louisville, Ky., and the rest of his team countered the enemy push by moving up along a tree line.
"I don't think too much about what I'm feeling during a fight," Webb said. "I just fight."
Seeing their movement, the insurgents prematurely detonated a second IED, thinking the Marines were closer to it than they were. Steele then radioed for mortar rounds to blanket both enemy positions. "Shot out," Marines yelled as they heard the tubes launch 81 and 60 mm mortars from a mile away. A few seconds later, the rounds splashed on target with a sound like a rapid-fire, kettle-drum solo.
Pushing along the tree line, the Marines spotted one insurgent, and engaged him causing his quick retreat. The Marines then turned to engage a second tree line ahead of them where more insurgents had taken position in and near a building. Cpl James Greenlee, 23, machinegun squad leader from Coppell, Texas, fired a deafening light-anti-armor weapon into the corner of the structure the enemy was popping out and firing from.
Shortly after that explosive thud, the enemy fire stopped. Some of the insurgents left the area on motorcycles. Two were captured not too far away.
"It's always good to get HE (high explosives) down range," said Pfc. Janos V. Lutz, 21, machine gunner and a Davie, Floridian. "It definitely shut them up."
The Marines, not knowing what else lay in the cornfield ahead, pulled back to Combat Outpost Sher under the whopping rotor sounds of an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter and a UH-1N Huey gunship overhead.
"They come back wet and muddy with a smile on their faces, because they know they're doing what they joined to do," said Meador, a William Carey College graduate. But he stressed there have been no civilian casualties reported here, "The Marines understand the balance between counterinsurgency and building relationships. They are very aware of what they are shooting at."
E Company still has more work to do before the people of Garmsir will be able to pursue their life and livelihood without fear of the Taliban. However, if the results of this recent action are any measure, the Marines here will continue to make quick work of the enemy and soon replace the sounds of gunfire and explosions with playing children and farmers in the fields.