During a time in which Marines are continually withdrawing from Afghanistan, Marines and Afghan National Security Forces put continued pressure on the insurgency during Operation Sangin United Horizons, a battalion-sized operation that took place, May 17-20.
Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, was responsible for finding and destroying weapons caches, improvised explosive devices and drug-producing facilities. The Marines focused on two key population centers, Western Wushtan and Zard Ragay, which serve as passageways through the mountains between Sangin and Kandahar.
Marines from Dog Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, partnered with Afghan National Army soldiers and were inserted by helicopter in the dead of night. By the time the blistering Afghan sun had risen, Marines had started their mission. Within hours they had established a patrol base as a hub for continued partnered operations.
Throughout the next three days, the Marines conducted partnered patrolling missions with the ANA. While patrolling, the Marines assessed the area and set up a cordon while the ANA deliberately and methodically cleared compounds in each of the villages. Throughout the operation, Marines along with their ANA partners assessed the population through key leader engagements to evaluate the situation and attitudes of the local populace.
“The ANA was the main effort and the assault force as the Marines provided a lot of cordons and security for them,” said 2nd Lt. Kenneth Conover, 1st platoon commander for Dog Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, from Fallbrook, Calif. “The ANA went in and did a lot of compound searches, a lot of local national engagements. They were able to identify some key leaders and sit down and talk with those key leaders in the villages.”
During the three day operation, Marines along with ANA conducted day and night patrols and searched approximately 50 compounds with the ANA searching the majority of them.
“This operation’s purpose was to go into a known enemy safe haven were they bed down and try to mask materials and coordinate for operations into district centers and population centers,” said Capt. John Collins, company commander for Dog Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, from Toledo, Ohio. “So our mission was to go into those areas and conduct cordons and searches to disrupt the enemies’ ability to wage a coherent fighting campaign.”
Collins noted his Marines ability to accomplish the mission at hand.
“The Marines did an outstanding job. The nature of a night insert followed by a night infiltration means that you’re going to be sleep deprived,” Collins said. “Anytime you insert by helicopter you have to take a lot more sustainment supplies so you have a heavier ruck. If you’re sleep deprived with a heavy ruck patrolling at night through a potentially improvised explosive device laden area it’s no easy task, but the Marines did an outstanding job they also did an awesome job with the partnered patrols.”
Collins said operations such as these have had an increasing effect on the insurgent forces.
“I think that at this point in the Afghan war, and in the Helmand province in particular, the ANSF and coalition forces partnered together have done a very effective job in pushing the enemy forces out of the population centers and out into these isolated safe havens,” Collins said. “I think by going into these places, it lets the enemy know there’s no safe place they can hide. It also builds confidence and increases the capacity of the partnered force as well as the ANSF.”
Article by Lance Cpl. Mark Garcia, Regional Command Southwest