FORWARD OPERATING BASE MARJAH, Afghanistah --
What began with the tedious process of filling sandbags, laying concertina wire and constructing posts from strips of wood, hammered together by nails scrounged up from the sand, has developed into the large scale construction and upkeep of Forward Operating Base Marjah.
Nearly two months have passed since the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment began the offensive to take the Taliban stronghold, and now, standing where coalition forces took rocket and assorted small-arms fire, is the battalion's new home.
But the struggle to take the city has been replaced by the struggle to keep the Marines and their Afghan national army counterparts in the fight, as they move into more of the holding phase of their operations.
During the first several weeks of fighting, supplies were delivered to Marines by helicopters during airdrops at night, now however, convoys pass through the gates of the base and along roads that are frequently mined with explosives in order to supply those outside of the wire, explained Gunnery Sgt. Steven Ellison, the logistics chief with Headquarters and Service Company, 1/6.
"We support and provide everything from; chow, water, ammunition, cooks, combat trains, resupply and equipment," said Ellison. "At the [forward operating base] it's the same concept as anywhere else, but we support everyone outside of the walls as well."
One of the key obstacles for logistics Marines is getting the supplies to the FOB, so in turn, they can get them out to Marines spread throughout the city, explained Ellison.
"Another challenge comes in the form of Helo drops," said Ellison. "Sometimes the loads don't [survive the drops] and Marines have to retrieve the pallets at night time."
In addition to dealing with the delivery and transportation of supplies, the Marines must make do with a shortage of man power. The 80 Marines who make up the logistics element of the battalion are responsible for supporting the entire battalion and its attachments. In effect, just one of those Marines is directly responsible for feeding, arming and supporting at least ten others.
Although the work can be grueling, some find comfort in the ability to make life a bit easier on their peers.
"We started providing hot chow for Marines in Marjah around mid-March," said Cpl. Andrew J. Koesling, a field mess non-commissioned officer, with H&S Company, 1/6. "We have to prepare food for approximately 400 people, plus Afghan National Army soldiers and attachments."
"It feels pretty good to be doing this, these Marines have been eating [meals, ready-to-eat] for over a month and a half," said Koesling who is on his second deployment, after serving with 1/6 on their previous tour in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan. "It makes a big difference to have a cooked meal; that and a cold soda. It helps make their day; at least a little."