HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Marines and Sailors with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, established a new patrol base in the area of Laki, Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 30.
A platoon from Weapons Co., known as Combined Anti Armor Team 1, moved into the large, concrete compound that was a former hospital, to more easily conduct patrols and operations in the more southern portion of their area of operations.
"Right now we control the open fields that we had to move through to fight the enemy," said Cpl. James P. Peterson, a section leader with Weapons Co., 2/2. "They like to have distance between us and right here they don't have distance between us."
One section departed in the middle of the night, the stalks of the poppy plants cracked underneath their boots as they crossed through fields and over canals. They occupied the building and waited for the second section to bring the vehicles.
"It's all about the path of most resistance," said 2nd Lt. Samuel E. Moore, a platoon commander with Weapons Co., 2/2. "They always put an IED right in the middle of the terrain you'd want to walk through because everything else sucks."
The following morning, the other section, along with support from Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians, moved with five vehicles down a road known as Route Giants. Route Giants is known for large amounts of IEDs that made the road unusable.
The Marines slowly moved down the road while using metal detectors to sweep the road ahead of the vehicles. They found a total of four IEDs during the ten hours it took them to clear Route Giants.
The Marines reached the new patrol base without incident even though they expected to be engaged by enemy fighters.
"I was very surprised," said Moore. "The experience we've had down here, every time we've come down here it's been a ghost town and all it was, was just a firefight every single time."
After arriving, they unloaded their gear, but before completely moving in they unfurled an American and Afghan flag over the side of the building.
"I think it shows the local populace that we have pride in our nations and we're here to stay and we're here to help them," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew D. Garrison, a corpsman with Weapons Co., 2/2. "It's just a big symbol saying hey we're here."
With thick concrete walls, multiple rooms, and accessible roof top, the compound has offered the Marines great force protection and observation of the surrounding area.
"This is the nicest patrol base we've had so far," said Lance Cpl. Stephen M. Earwood, a squad leader with Weapons Co., 2/2. "We're sleeping with a roof over our heads which doesn't happen very often."
The Marines hope that the patrol base will further the success they have seen in Laki so far.
"I define success in Laki as a lack of firefights," said Moore. "I totally expected it to be a brawl when I got down here; and there have only been a few shots fired. That's how we measure our success is the days without firefights.