KHANESHIN DISTRICT, Afghanistan – As the morning sun rose, the sound of helicopter rotor blades could be heard from the flight line at Forward Operating Base Payne, July 21, 2012.
Carrying their gear and enough food and water to sustain themselves for 48 hours, Marines with Bravo Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, awaited their turn to board Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters that would insert them deep into the Khaneshin District of Afghanistan.
The main purpose of the operation was to disrupt enemy movement in the area. The Marines where accompanied by four members of the Afghan Border Patrol.
According to 1st Lt. Ted Rose, platoon commander, Bravo Co., 3rd LAR, the presence of Marines and Afghan forces helps deter the enemy from using the area for trafficking.
“This area is a known area for facilitation and trafficking for the enemy. They’ll move people, drugs or weapons through here,” said Rose, from Germantown, Tenn.
Once the helicopters landed, the Marines ran out and began their patrol to what would be their makeshift base for the next two days. The patrol base was nothing more than a sandy area concealed by sand dunes and small vegetation and tan netting they carried with them.
After the Marines made it to their patrol base’s location, one group left to patrol the local area while another group set up the netting to provided shade from the sun.
One challenge Bravo Co. Marines faced was they were out of their comfort zone. Since they are a light armored reconnaissance battalion, they are used to moving inside of light armored vehicles, not being inserted into areas by helicopters. Without vehicles, Marines must carry everything they need for their operation with them. Packs weighed more than 70 pounds.
“Being an LAR unit, we usually have vehicles to carry all our gear,” said Staff Sgt. Larry Kochevar, platoon sergeant, 2nd Platoon. “Trying to carry water, food and shade for ourselves to sustain for two to three days gets pretty heavy. It’s pretty tiring for the Marines.”
Kochevar said another challenge was the temperature.
“One of the hardest parts of this operation, just like the other ones, is the heat,” he said. “It’s hot, really hot. You can’t really get out of the heat, and you have to keep hydrated.”
During their 48 hours in the Khaneshin district, the Marines with Bravo Co., conducted four patrols. They walked through villages, talked to locals and gathered intelligence.
When the Marines first arrived, not many people wanted to talk to them mostly because Marines were viewed as outsiders. But by their last patrol, children were running up to them with smiles. A village elder asked for medical help from them, which was provided by a Navy corpsman with the platoon.
On the morning of the third day, the Marines once again waited for helicopters to arrive. Except this time they were being taken back to their home away from home at Forward Operating Base Payne. As they boarded the helicopters they talked about how they were that much closer to being home.
EDITOR’S NOTE: 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion is a part of Regimental Combat Team 6. RCT-6 falls under 1st 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.