Photo Information

1st Lt. Marcos Ruvalcava, 33, rifle platoon commander for 1st Platoon, Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, talks to village elder on the western side of the Helmand River in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, June 14, where the Marines want to start making their presence known.

Photo by Cpl. Skyler Tooker

Marines establish new contacts in unchartered territory west of Helmand River

21 Jun 2010 | Cpl. Skyler Tooker

Marines from Company L, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, inserted along the unchartered western portion of the Helmand River Valley to conduct patrols and key leader engagements as part of Operation Ozark Mountain, June 14.

Prevented from traveling by foot due to the river’s depth, the Marines used air support to cross west over the Helmand River

The Marines were unable to physically cross because the water in the Helmand River was too high.

“I decided to try and get helicopter support in order to get us over there and figure out what’s going on over there with the people, engage the atmosphere, and try to interdict any of the Taliban ‘rat lines' going north to south,” said 1st Lt. Marcos Ruvalcava, a platoon commander with Company L, 3/1.

After the helicopters dropped the Marines across the river and departed, the Marines took off, heading down the river toward the villages. As the sun rose, the Marines headed into the first village, seeking out the village elders.  

“I wish we could have had more time. We didn’t anticipate the key leader engagements taking that long, and we ran into more village elders than expected,” said Ruvalcava, 33, from Fillmore, Calif.

Village elders should know when and where the local shuras are so they can go and seek help, knowledge or if it is just to let the Marines know of any Taliban activity in their area, said Lance Cpl. Steven Morones, 19, a rifleman with Company L, 3/1, from Earlville, Ill.

“It’s definitely a good thing for the elders to know about the shuras, but due to the Helmand River in between us and them, it would probably be more of a hassle for them to get over here to the shura,” said Ruvalcava. “Taliban are still active in the south, not too far away from them, and they are still intimidated by them.”

Marines stopped a random motorcycle to find one of the Afghans failed a gunpowder residue test. The Marines detained the Afghan and made their way to the helicopter pickup point.

“We accomplished a bunch of key leader engagements from Lt. Ruvalcava, and to get out there and see the elders and let them know that we are here to help aid their country in bettering itself,” said Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Dreyer, 28, Weapons Platoon sergeant, Company K, 3/1, from Dayton, Texas.

“I think the message was sent out there. We are able to get over to the western side of the Helmand River, and the river doesn’t divide us and them,” said Dreyer.