MARJAH, HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan --
Marines from Company I, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, stepped into the scorching heat of Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, June 18, to clear their area of weapons caches, improvised explosive device-making factories and any Taliban insurgents in the area.
Approximately 70 Marines, sailors and Afghan National Army soldiers supported the mission which was carried out in a notoriously dangerous section of Marjah.
“The purpose of today’s mission was to clear out an area (of Marjah) we continuously take fire from every time we just try to do a simple patrol,” said Cpl. Joseph Figueroa, a fireteam leader with 2nd Platoon, Company I, 3/6. “Today was pretty much a major clearing (of the area): every little tree, bush, branch, table, house – everything.”
The Marines didn’t uncover any significant finds during the patrol in a place that has become a virtual ghost town due to the constant fighting.
“This mission pretty much proves the point that the Taliban are not stupid “They don’t just leave their gear lying around somewhere where we can find it.”
The Marines weren’t surprised.
“It’s like a playground. Kids don’t sleep at a playground. They go there to play. That’s the way I look at (this area). The Taliban don’t go there to sleep. They go there to fight with us,” said Figueroa, from Anaheim, Calif.
The Marines didn’t face any major resistance from the Taliban, considering the amount of contact they usually take in this sector. However, an IED did explode in front of the patrol as the Marines were entering the area.
“Luckily the blast went off about 25 meters in front of the patrol and it was a directional (IED),” said the 23-year-old Figueroa. “The fragmentation was directed in front of the blasting area, which we were behind. I think that the Taliban weren’t expecting to see the amount of Marines that we actually rolled out with. They probably got scared, blasted a little too early and ran (away).”
The Marines attribute the lack of Taliban resistance to the amount of troops they brought on the mission.
“Today was different because we had the numbers,” said Sgt. Robert C. Angellella, a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, Company I, 3/6. “We had a lot of military assets to back us up in case something was to happen. (The Taliban) saw a big presence out there today and probably left the area.”
Although the Marines did not uncover any major finds, nobody was hurt and they were able to maintain a presence in this treacherous section of Marjah.
“(The mission) went well, as planned,” said Angellella, from Long Beach Island, N.J. “It was a nice and smooth, methodic, clear. The Marines are doing a really good job trying to eliminate the Taliban and providing security for the local nationals.”