Combat Camera: 2/8 Marines Tackle Key Taliban Re-Supply Point
Dispatches from the Front:
PATROL BASE LAKARI, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2009 -- Gaining the trust and support of the people of Afghanistan is essential to the mission in Helmand province. The Marines with Echo Company patrol the streets of Lakari to do just that.
Marines with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan completed two patrols covering the northern and southern areas of Lakari village, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 5.
With assistance from the Afghan national army, Marines built a rapport with the local population, opening lines of communication and adjusting to the roads in their new area of operation.While conducting operations here, the Marines are positioned between Lakari market and Garmsir District trying to stop insurgent movement.
"Us coming here was a big blow to [insurgent forces]," said Sgt. Nathan T. Donoho, a machine gun section leader with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. "Lakari market was one of their resupply points."
Marines worked alongside ANA soldiers on their patrols, enhancing the Marines' interaction with the villagers. Speaking in Pashtu, the ANA soldiers give International Security Assistance Forces an edge, making civilians more comfortable when they speak to and see their nation's army.
"In the end, we're here working together," said Donoho. "It's something that a lot of people look at and they see [both ANA and ISAF troops] together and I think it's working out well."
The reception here is much different than the one 2/8 received in Garmsir District, according to Donoho. In the north, the population was more hesitant around the Marines, whereas here they seem to be more inviting.
"The people here have been very open and welcoming to us," Donoho said. "They're actually very happy that we're here.
The enemy is not the Afghan people, but evidence of insurgent forces lies among them, said Donoho. Even with such warm hospitality from the local population, Lakari village, and its surrounding areas witnessed some of the harshest fighting in Helmand this past July. The biggest dangers facing Marines here include roadside bombs and small arms fire, according to Donoho.
"Most of the time we've been here, it has been firefights with the Taliban," Donoho said. "In the fields, you'll run into mostly small arms attacks, but going into the more populated areas, you start seeing more [improvised explosive devices]."
Donoho believes the insurgency uses IEDs in more populated areas to control the amount of damage caused to the general population. With small arms, one has to have accuracy in hitting their target causing stray shots that can hurt or kill civilians.
"Also, they know if they're too close to us, that we can engage them very quickly," Donoho said. "It's a mix of both these things here."
The Marines here have taken precautions ensuring safety at all times. 'The road less traveled' has a new definition for Echo Company. Rather than take paths common to the local population, they trek through corn, cotton and even eggplant or down less traveled footpaths.
"My biggest concern is making sure I get everyone safely back without encountering IEDs," said Cpl. Daniel P. Collins, a squad leader with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. "Mostly down here, it's been pressure plate IEDs we've encountered."
Collins hopes that insurgent aggression will continue to dwindle in Lakari District and that he and his Marines will continue to enrich their relationships with the local population. He says that would be a sign that the enemy is beginning to weaken here. He is confident that the protection provided to the Lakari citizens will push the Taliban out.
"We're providing security so that the locals can live their lives without fear from the Taliban," Collins said.
(Report by Cpl. Michael Curvin, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.)
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