TREK NAWA, HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
The men of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have spent enough time in Trek Nawa, Afghanistan, to understand some of the workings of the Taliban presence there.
There’s no denying they’re fighting a crafty enemy. Combatants will usually engage the American and Afghan forces from a well-concealed position, and then dispose of their weapons as they flee. They don’t stay for long-drawn out battles.
They shoot and run.
And so during Operation Black Tip, Oct. 14, India Company saw much of what they’ve grown accustomed to — shooting and running. Except this time, it was a little different.
When Sgt. Bryan Brown’s squad started taking fire, they were the ones who ran. They ran toward the bullets. They ran to the enemy’s position to take away his ability to flee.
“It’s always impressive to see Marines running toward fire,” said 1st Sgt. William Pinkerton, the India Company first sergeant.
Not that the enemy didn’t try to run away, but a well-placed sniper team left them with limited escape options. The snipers suspect they killed one enemy combatant and wounded another, Pinkerton said.
Black Tip was a one-day clearing operation, during which the Marines, partnered with Afghan soldiers from the 1st Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, detained four men suspected of combatant activity and removed a weapons cache from the area.
“I believe the possible enemy wounded in action, detainees, and psychological impact of having to flee while desperately avoiding capture has a demoralizing effect on the enemy’s spirit across the area of operations,” said Capt. Francisco Zavala, the India Company commander.
During the partnered clearing mission, the Afghan soldiers performed the majority of the searching and were the first to enter any compound.
“They performed rather well,” Pinkerton said. “They bridged the cultural gap for us and during the firefights their fires were very disciplined.”
Sgt. Jason Mathews is a member of Embedded Partnering Team 1-1-215. His time in Afghanistan has been committed to working alongside Afghan soldiers, mentoring and training them. During Black Tip he got to see what all his work has amounted to.
More than 100 men spread on line across three kilometers to clear a portion of Trek Nawa. The southern most squad made enemy contact first. Shortly after, the northernmost squad, Brown’s squad — the one that Mathews was with — also engaged the enemy.
Rounds began impacting immediately near Mathews and a group of Afghan soldiers. The most forward soldier instantly fell into the prone position, located the source of fire and began shooting back. Then, with a wide grin on his face, he looked back at Mathews.
“He was looking at me for approval, like, ‘did I do good,’” Mathews, from Roberta, Ga., recalled. “I said, ‘Yes. Great. Keep shooting.’”
The soldier kept shooting along with his fellow Afghans, and so did Mathews and the rest of Brown’s squad. They shot and ran. Because they ran toward the fire, the enemy didn’t have time to run away.
“A lot of credit goes to the Marines on the ground,” Pinkerton said. “We got weapons off the battleground and accomplished it all without taking any casualties. It shows that when you go into that area, a well developed plan pays dividends.”