Many military strategists have said the Northern Green Zone in Sangin could not be penetrated, but time and again, Marines have proven their worth and accomplished the impossible.
In recent years, Marines have triumphed in such cities as Fallujah and Ramadi. The Marines with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, took on a challenge to advance farther into the Green Zone than any Marine unit before them and did so.
The ground gained did not come without struggle.
“The enemy is tough and smart,” said Capt. Ryan Cohen, commanding officer of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.
“The enemy knows the terrain, a terrain where you can’t see more than five feet in front of you because of cornfields and tree lines.”
Cohen said the Marines proved time and again that they could defeat the enemy on his turf and on his terms, but not without a cost.
“Nine Marines from Kilo Company were seriously injured during the push,” Cohen said.
The green zone, a Taliban stronghold, is laced with improvised explosive devices, Cohen added.
“There were three improvised explosive device belts we had to cross in order to gain access to the area,” said Cohen, a 31-year-old native of Pompano Beach, Fla.
In addition to the dangerous mines, Cohen said the Taliban also had hundreds of insurgents in the northern area of the Green Zone stretching to Kajaki. During the push into the Green Zone, Marines were frequently engaged by these aggressive fighters.
“For about eight days, we were in sporadic firefights two to three times a day,” said Lance Cpl. Derek Hopkins, a mortar man with Company K, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines.
These attacks included mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and machine-gun fire, but the warriors of Company K pressed on.
“My Marines have fought during the day and fortified their positions at night,” Cohen said. “They are tired beyond exhaustion, but they continue to provide superior firepower and destroy the enemy.”
The Marines then pushed to the Helmand River, something no unit had ever successfully accomplished.
Though the ground was conquered, the fight was not over. Now, Marines are fighting to hold the ground they attained during the push.
“We go on patrols each day to maintain the security of the ground we have taken,” said Hopkins.
The Marines continue to fortify and defend the positions they have overtaken and have created a safe supply route.
“One of the most important things we did when we took this ground was clear an area for supply lines to come in,” Cohen said. “Not only did we take hard-earned ground, we have secured and maintained a route to supply and communicate with the Marines.”
Cohen said this line of supply allows the Marines to maintain their positions until the mission is complete. Even with recent success, the Marines of Company K still push through the day and maintain a watchful eye during the night.
“This mission is ongoing and we will continue to fight,” Cohen said. “But we must also build trust with the locals.”
Counterinsurgency operations are the heart of every mission in Afghanistan, and Kilo understands the importance of building relationships with Afghans.
“The key to the mission in the Green Zone is convincing the locals that we are here to help them,” Cohen said. “It is absolutely the most important thing in Afghanistan.”
One of the biggest ways to influence the locals is the Afghan National Army.
“The ANA soldiers are partnered with the Marines and fight up front with the Marines,” Cohen said. “They are the true factor in the equation for success.”
“The ANA will take ownership of this area, increase in size, and eventually bring law to the Green Zone,” Cohen added.
Marines continue to patrol the area alongside Afghan soldiers and complete other missions without complaint.
“The Marines of Kilo Company have displayed the most powerful form of courage under fire,” Cohen said. “I could not describe to someone how amazing these men are.”
Marines of K Company have earned their nickname of “Devil Dog” and will continue to make history, Cohen said.
“The non-commissioned officers in this company have written history in stone.”
Article by Cpl. Ned Johnson, Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs