HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
From inside of a small compound, known as Patrol Base Khodi Rhom, the Marines of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, alongside a section of Afghan National Army soldiers, patrol an area once known for large amounts of enemy activity in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Marines sleep inside of one-man tents perched on top of cots, some stand post at different corners of the compound. One of the Marines pulls a tab on a unit ration to heat up the squad’s breakfast of biscuits, gravy, ham and raspberry swirls-the same breakfast they’ve been eating the past few days. Some Marines conduct physical training on a makeshift pull-up bar made from a tent pole; they do push-ups and jump rope on a cardboard mat.
On April 20, the Marines, along with their regular duties of post and patrol, had a simple mission; to walk two M-240G machine guns to a nearby observation post known as observation post two.
Normally vehicles would be used to move the machine guns from post to post, but because the road nearby Khodi Rhom had not yet been cleared of roadside bombs, the Marines must move most supplies by foot.
“If something happens like communication gear goes down, we need more batteries or need to move things like crew-served weapons, we have to hump it out there,” said Cpl. Aukai I. Arkus, a team leader for Easy Co., 2/2.
Helicopters have brought in food and water lately, but before they made the landing zone safer, the Marines had to carry it in.
To get the machine guns to the OP, the Marines have to move across rough fields full of wheat and poppy and through canals. There are bridges to cross the canals, but the Marines don’t use them due to greater risk of encountering an improvised explosive device.
“In that area, explosive ordnance disposal exploited lots of IEDs,” said Lance Cpl. Derek A. Tomlin, a designated marksman with Easy Co., 2/2. “They went to town blowing up and collecting IEDs.”
Once the Marines have moved the weapons, they return to the PB, crossing over the same kilometer of rough terrain that it took to get there.
The Marines quickly launched another patrol, this time to a small village near the PB, where they had established relationships with local shopkeepers before.
The Marines buy goods from the local shops, which pays off in other ways, since the relationships have been useful for gathering information on the area. They are willing to help out the shopkeepers who are more cooperative by buying more goods from them.
The Marines bring the rice and potatoes they purchase back to the base where a cook from the ANA prepares it, allowing the Marines to take a break from their usual unitized group ration dinner of chicken breast.
“It’s a nice change,” said Tomlin. “What we’ll do is get rice and potatoes and then we’ll have the ANA cook for us since none of us know how to cook.”
The Marines had manned the position for approximately five days and had planned to be relieved the next.
Though the landing zone has been declared safe, the Marines are rarely moved by air, so they have to walk back to Combat Outpost Koshtay once relieved of their duty by another squad.
They are returning to the relative comfort of Koshtay; though that is not to say that they hated their time spent at Khodi Rhom.
“The best thing about being out there is operating at our own pace,” said Arkus. “We can be as aggressive with it as we want. It leaves time for the squad leader to know what’s going on and make decisions. Also, being isolated like that allows the squad to pull together in more instances.”
The PB has allowed the Marines to saturate the surrounding area causing a significant decrease in enemy activity and an increase in locals’ willingness to assist in improving of their villages.