CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- The April 5 presidential elections in Afghanistan proved to be tremendously successful yielding the highest voter turnout of recent years. A runoff election was required to determine a final victor, and the Marines of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, stood by ready to assist their Afghan Counterparts if needed, June 14.
The Marines departed Camp Leatherneck for Patrol Base Ouellette, an Afghan National Army post in southern Helmand province, June 12.
“Our mission was to guard the route to and from PB Ouellette while establishing a coordination point between the British and Marine Corps advisor teams,” said Capt. John Dove, the commanding officer of Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, and a native of Annapolis, Maryland. “This coordination point was a central location where we could share information and assist each other as needed to enable the Afghan National Security Forces, who secured the neighborhoods and polling sites in support of the elections.”
The convoy of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles arrived at the patrol base after a few hours of driving. Infantrymen immediately dismounted and began manning security posts with M240B medium machine guns.
“We identified positions that were most likely to receive enemy contact and had good visibility on a main traveled route,” said Gunnery Sgt. Gerald Furnari, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Co., 1st Bn., 7th Marines, and a native of Franklin Square, New York. “Our positions were also located nearby our support assets and a helicopter landing pad in case we had to have a casualty transported out of the patrol base.”
The infantrymen constantly manned the security posts since arriving at the patrol base and continued to do so during the day of voting. Although the Marines were staged at PB Ouellette, they were merely acting as advisors to the ANA soldiers.
As the crest of the sun began to rise over the horizon, the day of voting began. Insurgent attacks in the local area were a possibility due to the high-profile event, but the runoff election turned out to be placid and the local populous was not harassed.
“The lack of enemy activity was a direct result of the Afghans, not coalition forces,” Dove said. “The ANSF proved their ability to rid neighborhoods of a majority of enemy fighters, which allowed the Afghans to participate in the runoff elections. The Afghans are in control now, and we’re just advising and assisting them.
“The mission was ultimately a success. We weren’t called to assist the ANA in any way. Our quick reaction force for the ANSF was not needed, and we made it back to Camp Leatherneck safely,” Dove added.