During a time when insurgents typically bed down for the winter, Marines and coalition forces engaged multiple enemy forces during Operation Helmand Viper, Oct. 19 through 27.
Tanks with Bravo Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 7, led the support mission for special operations forces. The operation’s focus was to find and destroy weapons caches, improvised explosive devices and drug producing facilities. Coalition forces localized their efforts to Zamindawar, a known insurgent hotbed between Musa Qal’ah and Kajaki.
Marines with Bravo Co., 2nd Tank Bn., along with various supporting units, convoyed through the night and were prepared to attack by first light, Oct. 19. By the time the sun had risen to a chilly Afghan morning, the assault was under way. Throughout the next eight days, Marines provided sustaining firepower and resupply missions for the special forces.
“The operation was in support of (a task force) which is an element of the special operations task force here in Afghanistan,” said Capt. Matthew Dowden, the commanding officer for Bravo Co., 2nd Tank Bn., from Moreauville, La. “The objective was to go out and disrupt the insurgent activities in the area to give the Afghan National Security Forces room to operate this winter. We provided the sustainment and firepower they needed to go through some of the areas they were going to be in and have that staying power they might not typically have.”
Dowden credited the success of the operation to his Marines’ ability to accomplish the mission at hand.
“Initial indications are that the operation went very well,” Dowden said. “They found a significant number of both narcotics assets and production facilities, as well as lethal aid in the forms of weapons and ammunition. Watching my Marines was a humbling experience. It seems like every time we go out there’s a challenge that we don’t account for. There always seems to be something strange and unexpected that pops up. These guys rise to the challenge and figure this stuff out on the fly every single time. Their performance was outstanding in an environment that is extremely austere and remote.”
Since a majority of the insurgents are still in the area, it was necessary to conduct the operation now as opposed to later in the winter.
“It was a timing thing because this is the back end of the fighting season where the insurgent fighters are still here and haven’t gone to spread out and do their poppy production,” Dowden said. “The majority of the guys they bring in from different places around the region are still here at this time, but if you wait much later they start to go away and bed down for the winter. If you want to have the effect you desire you need to go and do stuff when they’re in the right spot. You want to basically deny them the ability to have that place to rest their heads during the winter. If they don’t have those places, then they really can’t be effective come springtime, and that’s really the end state.”
1st Lt. Robert Paradis, the executive officer for Bravo Co., 2nd Tank Bn., noted his Marines’ ability to stay calm while being fired upon from insurgents.
“It was definitely the most kinetic area we’ve been in so far this deployment,” said Paradis, from Londonderry, N.H. “I think they responded very well. From what I saw, they were calm, cool and collected throughout the entire operation. It makes me extremely proud to be able to see my Marines encounter all these various situations and just react like Marines should and get the mission done.”
Article by Cpl. Mark Garcia, Regional Command Southwest