Combat Camera: 1/5 Marines Operate Out of Enemy Compound, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Dispatches from the Front:
KHOSRABAD, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2009 -- Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, have been using formerly Taliban-owned real estate as a base of operations for nearly two months now.
During their time here, the troops have seen many changes and learned a few lessons since their arrival July 2.
"When we first got here it was like a ghost town. We would go out on patrol and not see a single person," said Lance Cpl. Colin Newman, 20, a rifleman from Somerset, Wis. "Now, a lot of the locals that moved out are starting to come back. We're seeing much more activity around here."
Company C's 3rd Platoon is currently living in what was once a Taliban safe house. During the battalion's opening operation in Helmand province, Marines discovered the compound.
"There were sleeping bags lined up outside, and there was food recently cooked when we got there," said Sgt. Kevin Woods, 22, a squad leader from Early, Texas. "A few compounds away, we found a cache consisting of more than 20 pressure plates, jugs of HME (homemade explosive), anti-tank mines and anti-personnel mines."
Unfortunately, before uncovering the cache, one of the platoon's vehicles ran over an improvised explosive device, injuring two of their comrades.
"I don't remember much of what happened after the explosion. I just remember having a bad feeling about that compound," said Lance Cpl. Samuel Meyer, 20, a machine gunner from Pasadena, Calif. "The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital."
Meyer was the turret gunner in the vehicle during that patrol. After the IED detonated, he was ejected from inside and landed in a nearby canal. 21-year-old Lance Cpl. James Buttery, a rifleman from Las Vegas, was driving when all this happened.
"We were about to pass the compound and everything just went black," Buttery said. "I woke up in the driver's seat and saw the side doors had been blown open. Meyer was out of the turret and my face was covered in blood."
Buttery had smashed his face against the steering wheel during the explosion. Luckily, both Marines escaped with only minor injuries.
"I feel grateful to be alive. It could have been a lot worse," Meyer said.
After all the dust had settled, Marines searched the nearby compound, uncovering the enemy hideout.
Living in that compound today, Marines with 3rd Platoon conduct operations throughout the area surrounding it and work together with the local populace to keep incidents like the one July 2 from happening again.
"We do a lot of security patrols in this area. We go around to compounds and let people know that we are in the area and to come talk to us if they have any information about enemy activity," Newman said.
The Marines of 3rd Platoon have found a place to call home for the time being and will continue to get to know their neighbors for the remainder of their seven-month deployment.
(Report by Lance Cpl. John McCall, Regimental Combat Team 3.)
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