Combat Camera: 2/8 Marines Mortarmen Shower IED Planters, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Dispatches from the Front:
COMBAT OUTPOST SHER, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Sept. 14, 2009 -- With no regard for civilian life, the Taliban have been placing improvised explosive devices in roads, farmland and canals. The weapon has proved to be one of the most effective weapons in the Taliban arsenal.
Marines have been using their keen eyes and intelligence gathered from the civilian populace to locate bomb emplacements and the planters in the act.
Marines with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment observed a group of Taliban IED planters, placing the explosive mid-morning Sept. 9. In reply, mortarmen with Weapons Company fired a series of 81 mm mortars in concert with Howitzers fired by Marines from 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.
"The enemy could be clearly seen planting the explosives, lacing a tree line and rolling out wire," said Capt. Eric A. Meador, commanding officer. "They were also carrying AK-47s."
"It's nice knowing I'm getting rid of the enemy," said Cpl. Christopher R. O'Rourke, mortarman, Weapons Company, and Mobile, Ala., native. "It's one less enemy that's around to hurt our guys."
Following the shots, an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter and a UH-1N Huey gunship flew over the area and rained down 20 mm machine gun fire and rockets on the insurgents' location. Once the dust and smoke had cleared, it was estimated four insurgents had died in the attack. The ones that survived the initial attack were seen fleeing the area. A squad of Marines and a few attached elements trekked outside the wire here to investigate shortly afterwards. An hour later, those Marines detonated the first of six IEDs they found. They also discovered a house containing IED building materials.
"The enemy doesn't seem to care who they hurt," said Lance Cpl. Mathew C. Price, 21, a squad automatic weapon gunner from Springville, Ala., who was on the patrol. "I'm just glad we found them before one of us or a little kid tripped them."
This attack came just four hours before the district governor and 2/8's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Christian Cabaness, were to attend a shura here to address villagers' concerns and discuss the future of the area.
"Security for the shura is more important than killing Taliban," said Meador. He added that building relationships with the people is the most important mission for the Marines.
This area of Helmand is notorious for Taliban activity and one of the major concerns of the villagers is road safety and the Taliban presence. Marines have engaged enemy targets nearly every day since the battalion's helo insertion July 2 at the beginning of Operation Khanjar.
So far, the Marines have found more than 35 IEDs in the area, using scanning equipment and information provided by the local villagers.
"It was great that we caught them in the act," said Gunnery Sgt. William C. Broadbent, company gunnery sergeant. "We saved Marines' lives."
Last week, a Marine Combined Anti-Armor Team captured five IED planters in the eastern desert area and with today's attack, the Marines grow closer to ridding the area of Taliban insurgents and restoring peace to the region.
(Report by Sgt. Scott Whittington, Regimental Combat Team 3.)
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