Combat Camera: 1/5 Marines at Patrol Base Fielder, Afghanistan
Dispatches from the Front:
PATROL BASE FIELDER, Afghanistan, Oct. 5, 2009 -- All servicemembers are trained to do a specific job -- their military occupational specialty. However, sometimes they are also asked to maintain their proficiency in another one, like the mortarmen and amphibious assault vehicle operators with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment here.
"You have to know how to do another person's job. If you lose one of your Marines, someone has to fill in for him," said Sgt. Andres Gonzalez, 26, a mortarman from Chicago. We still do our job if they need us to. Right now there is not a real need for mortars or AAV operators, so we just do the job of a rifleman, he said.
The Marines who live at PB Fielder consist of mortarmen, AAV operators and scout snipers. They have all been operating as basic rifleman along with their original skill set.
Patrol Base Fielder is a newly occupied position. It was opened to make communicating with the local populace easier.
"With this new patrol base, we can easily interact with people, and they can come to us if they have any problems," Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Hughes, scout sniper platoon sergeant. "It is closer for people to come talk to us."
Before, the Marines now living here were occupying another post known by Marines as White Hill. White Hill provided a constant watch position on a road called Route 605 that vehicle convoys regularly use to re-supply various positions. Improvised explosive devices are a common occurrence on the 605. Now, White Hill is used only as an observation post whereas this new location is now a platoon-sized base of operations.
"It has been hard trying to have an effect on such a large area," Gonzalez said about having to cover the ground prior to moving here." I think we can help, but it is going to take time."
To help address the IED issue, scout snipers have joined the Marines at Fielder to help. They set up observation posts at night to catch enemy insurgents doing their dirty work.
"It's a game of cat and mouse out here," Hughes explained. "When we do patrols, it doesn't always work. We try to figure out their (the enemy) patterns so we can catch them in the act."
To combat IEDs Marines have been using foot patrols as a way to meet with the locals and establish good relationships.
"We are trying to make our presence here very friendly. We invite people to come and talk to us if they have any problems," Hughes said. "Everyone knows me by 'Gunny.' People I have never met before seem to know my name. It's really the Marines though. They're getting out there doing patrols, meeting people and really staying focused," explained the Roseburg, Ore., native.
Hughes intends to eventually use the patrol base to hold shuras for local Afghans to attend -- giving them the opportunity to voice their opinions and resolve any issues.
"I am here to listen and then pass it on up to the command where people can make things happen," Hughes explained.
The Afghan national army has been a big help in getting through to the locals. Marines work together with the ANA. They show them how to keep the area safe and work with the populace.
"Having the ANA here really helped improve the disposition with the locals," Hughes explained. "It helps build our rapport partnering with them. They like seeing us working together with the ANA."
One of the goals tied into building friendly relationships with the people is for them to feel comfortable enough to work with Marines and Afghan soldiers by giving them information that will lead to better overall security in the area.
"I think information will start coming in after the people see that we can help them," Gonzalez said.
(Report by Lance Cpl. John McCall, Regimental Combat Team 3.)
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