Marines and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers departed their outpost on a combat patrol August 13 that turned into the largest firefight in Helmand Province since 4 July, 2009. The Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, waged an intense six-hour battle with Taliban insurgents who opened fire on the patrol just after 8 a.m.
After moving only about one mile from their combat outpost, the Marines received a heavy volley of enemy gunfire from multiple directions. Without hesitation, the Marines and ANA returned fire to suppress the enemy positions, began to maneuver on the insurgents and called for fire support.
“We sent out the combat patrol anticipating contact,” said Capt. E.A. Meador from Laurel, Miss., the company commander. “They always try to hit us in that area.”
Within minutes, an AH-1W Super Cobra and a UH-1N Huey were on station overhead to help suppress and engage enemy targets. The Cobra fired several five-inch Zuni rockets into one of the compounds from which the patrol was receiving sustained fire.
The friendly forces maneuvered through thick corn fields slippery with mud while enduring temperatures that exceeded 120 degrees in the afternoon. The muggy heat rose from the corn fields as if it were a sauna, and the Marines sunk into the mud with each step, making it feel like weights were attached to their ankles. “I didn’t think it was possible to move so fast through mud like that,” said Lance Cpl. Timothy Daughtry, a squad automatic weapon gunner.
WIN A FIREFIGHT WITH 60 POUNDS ON YOUR BACK
In addition to those already challenging conditions, each Marine carried no less than a 60-pound combat load to include body armor, ammunition and water. Despite the potential distractions offered by these extreme conditions while under fire, the Marines executed sound judgment calls and made rational decisions without hesitation.
“At the squad and platoon level, the Marines are out there every day and do a phenomenal job,” said Meador. “They come back beat and tired, but they are always ready to do it again the next day.”
During the engagement, the squad leaders were encouraging and directing their Marines to ensure they were doing everything they could to stay effective and in the fight. No matter how tired they became as time wore on, the voice of experience could be heard across the battlefield.
“Push forward. Keep your dispersion,” called out Sgt. Jonathon Delgado, a squad leader from Kissimmee, Fla., as his Marines pressed through the cornfield to maneuver on one of the compounds hiding the enemy.