Combat Camera: US Marines Conduct Raid on Lakari Bazaar, Face Enemy (OEF)
Dispatches from the Front:
LAKARI, Afghanistan, July 22, 2009 -- Marines with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, along with the Afghan national army conducted an early morning raid on the bazaar here July 18.
"The purpose of the raid was to disrupt freedom of movement with the bazaar and to exploit the enemy force logistic base," said Capt. Junwei Sun, commander, Company F, 2/8. "This seizure means we invaded Taliban territory, discovered their caches, disrupted their log operations and squeezed them out of the area."
The Taliban used the open-air market to store mass quantities of drugs, homemade explosives and precursor weaponry. Taliban insurgents also tax shop owners as a further means to make cash. Agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency flew in shortly after the Marines and ANA began clearing more than 300 structures in the bazaar. They seized approximately 270,000 pounds of poppy seeds, 33 bags of opium, 13 bags of hash, nearly 50 barrels of precursory explosive materials, bolt-action rifles and more than 20 improvised explosive devices. They also discovered 130,000 pounds of fertilizer that could be used for explosives.
One DEA agent said it was a good haul and a very clear message was sent to the Taliban.
"The Taliban needs to realize that this area doesn't belong to them anymore," said Sun. "If they choose to fight, they will be killed."
Clearing all the structures took approximately 12 hours and the Marines had to use explosives to gain entry into some stores. The stores ranged from a barber shop and garage to clothing and household items. Each room was marked to distinguish that it had already been cleared and whether drugs or explosive material had been found inside.
The raid was intended to only last four to six hours but due to the size of the seizure being larger than expected, the Marines set up security positions throughout the bazaar in order to stay overnight. The next morning, a platoon patrolled through and around the bazaar.
Approximately four hours into the patrol, first and second squads were ambushed from a tree line 800 meters across open farmland. Members of 3rd Squad were to the south along the road and canal to Lakari village when shots began firing toward the other two squads.
"This was the first fire fight for most of my guys," said Cpl. Brian Short, 23, squad leader and a Mount Vernon, Ohio, native. "They did really well."
Short, a Mount Vernon High School graduate, maneuvered his squad toward the other two under fire. Jumping over a wide stream, navigating through grapes vines, okra plants and a cornfield, Short's squad spotted the other two squads and the enemy tree line. With the entire platoon supporting each other, the Marines began squad and fire-team rushes to within 300 meters of the enemy position.
"I wasn't really that scared. I just wanted to destroy the enemy so my guys wouldn't get hurt," said Lance Cpl. Shane M. Lantry, a 3rd Squad team leader and Floyd, N.Y., native. "All the training we get really helped."
Marines responded to the enemies' fire with hot lead and grenades of their own. Once the Marines pinned down the insurgents, a call came over the radio telling them an AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey were inbound to make a heliborne attack. One of the Marines launched smoke toward the enemy's hiding spot from his M203 grenade launcher while a message was radioed to engage the enemy enveloped by the smoke.
The Cobra gunship launched hellfire rockets and 20mm machine gun fire followed closely by the Huey and its machine gun. The helicopters made two passes over the enemy's position in the trees and hay stacks.
"It was a great example of combined arms," said Lance Cpl. James O. Ivy, SAW gunner, 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon and a Lawrence, Mich., native.
The Marines returned to the bazaar and continued their mission with the company.
"Overall I was very happy with the Marines' performance," said Staff Sgt. Michael Garrett, 29, platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon and a Toledo, Ohio, native. "To motivate the Marines, I kept yelling out the mission of the rifle squad. To locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver."
The Marines had no casualties but pilots confirmed at least two dead insurgents.
(Report by Sgt. Scott Whittington, Regimental Combat Team 3.)
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