CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- As Marines departed Sangin District, one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous areas, they were supported by British soldiers with Maneuver Battle Group who provided security to ensure a safe convoy to Camp Leatherneck.
To return the favor, Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, supported MBG during their turnover of Sterga II, a British base northeast of Lashkar Gah, May 12 and 13.
They aided the British soldiers by conducting mounted security patrols in order to deter insurgent exploitation of the coalition force withdrawal.
The company departed Camp Leatherneck and patrolled southeast though Gereshk. From there they proceeded south through open desert toward Kakoran, an improvised explosive device facilitation node and an area where attacks on coalition forces are often planned and coordinated.
As the company approached Kakoran, vehicles in the patrol were attacked by enemy fighters with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. Vehicles hastily moved to isolation positions to locate the insurgents and known caches. Marines were just beginning to remove civilians from a compound to engage an insurgent when they came under accurate and sustained small-arms fire from a different compound. Simultaneously, the Marines received intelligence that enemy fighters were moving weapon systems, to include machine guns and RPGs, to positions to engage the infantrymen.
The battalion has conducted dozens of missions since they assumed control of the battlespace March 15, but this was their first combat engagement with insurgents since their arrival in country.
For the average citizen, the situation may have been overwhelming, but the Marines of Weapons Co. had been training for that very moment since they first stepped on the yellow footprints at recruit training.
“Every time we leave the wire, we have to have the thought in our minds that we are going to receive enemy fire,” said Sgt. Sloan Seiler, a section leader with Weapons Co. and a native of Hanston, Kansas. “For us it was just another patrol. Just because we got fired at during this patrol and not the other ones doesn’t change the mission for us.”
Scout snipers began to scan the area for the enemy fighters. Insurgents will often fire from concealed positions for a brief moment and quickly move to new positions to avoid being detected. The scout snipers quickly gained positive identification of the fighters and began to engage them.
After hours of fighting, the crest of the sun began to disappear over the horizon and the fighting ceased. The company established a cordon position in the vicinity of the town to keep a presence in the area throughout the night. They maintained constant security and shot illumination rounds into the sky to disrupt the enemy fighters. The night was quiet and without gunfire, but fighters occasionally crept out and monitored Marines’ positions.
After long hours of maintaining security behind mounted machine guns, the sun began to rise and the company departed Kakoran. After receiving sustained enemy fire for nearly four hours the day prior, the company returned to the friendly lines of Camp Leatherneck with each Marine and sailor safe and unharmed.
“I was very pleased with the Marines’ performance during the engagement,” said Capt. Scott Stewart, the commanding officer of Weapons Co. and a native of El Cajon, Calif. “They understood their rules of engagement, obtained positive identification and verified there would be no civilian casualties or collateral damage. They relied on their training as well as their small-unit leaders and vehicle commanders.”