Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Hoa Nguyen, a field radio operator with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and a native of Seattle, provides security at a landing zone at night during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 6, 2014. The company conducted disruption operations in a known Taliban bed-down location for two days. During the previous mission May 29, the company discovered a drug production lab and removed more than one metric ton of narcotics from the battlefield. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan / released)

Photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan

Marines confiscate more than one metric ton of narcotics in Helmand province, Afghanistan

19 Jun 2014 | Cpl. Joseph Scanlan

Nearly a month into Afghanistan’s summer fighting season, Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, continued a series of disruption operations in Now Zad District. The battalion has established a continuous presence in Now Zad since April, conducting numerous disruption operations in the surrounding area to prevent potential attacks on Camps Bastion and Leatherneck. 

One of their most successful missions yet took place May 29. During a patrol in the district, Marines with Bravo Company discovered a drug production lab which contained more than a metric ton of narcotics. Although counternarcotics is not the Marines’ mission, they did not turn a blind eye from the situation at hand. The tremendous discovery was removed from the battlefield and thwarted a large amount of funding to Taliban fighters, which could have been used to purchase weapons, ammunition and improvised explosive device materials.

Under the cover of night, the company inserted into Now Zad via CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and swiftly patrolled into the town.

“I noticed a couple spotters as we were moving into the area,” said Cpl. Cody Evans, a squad leader with Bravo Company and a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Spotters are often used as inconspicuous methods to monitor coalition force movements and can aid with targeting.

“About an hour after we set up our security positions, an insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade and it exploded next to my truck,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Grassl, the Bravo Co. first sergeant and a native of Vesper, Wisconsin. “And that’s when things kind of started.”

The infantrymen began maneuvering into the town and a squad quickly discovered an emplaced IED and additional IED materials. The infantrymen cordoned off the area and within minutes came under enemy fire. They tactically maneuvered toward the enemy fighters in an attempt to return fire, but the fighters retreated before the Marines could close the distance.

“We soon discovered that the enemy fighters were maneuvering through underground wells to run away after shooting at us,” Evans said.

The squad continued to move north through the town and ultimately discovered the sizable narcotics lab. Again the Marines cordoned off the area and came under enemy fire. 

“The enemy definitely valued the narcotics lab we discovered,” Grassl said. “They continuously tried to keep us away from the compound by engaging us with small-arms fire.” 

Ultimately the Marines deterred further enemy fire and removed the narcotics from the battlefield and concluded the operation.

“Our success is attributed to the Marines and their hard work and efforts,” Grassl said. “What we accomplished shows that steady tactical patience and steady operations pay off. It’s not every day that we hit a home run, but it just happened to be the right time and the right place.”

With the mission an enormous success, the company returned to Camp Bastion with each Marine and recuperated before departing to a known Taliban bed-down location, June 5. The infantrymen patrolled the area for two days without encountering any enemy fire or IEDs.

“Between the two operations, we’ve kept the insurgency on their toes,” Grassl said. “They don’t know why we keep coming up there and harassing them, but we’re harassing them to the point where they don’t feel safe where they live, so they’re on edge.”