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Special Ops Marines Deliver in Southern Afghanistan

By Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr., USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan, March 17, 2008 – Special operations Marines deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand province operate at a fast pace.

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A special operations Marine examines a poppy plant handed to him by an Afghan National Army soldier (right) in Afghanistan’s Helmand province during a patrol through a village in which they were looking for Taliban fighters. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr.
  

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Accompanied by a small group of Afghan National Army soldiers, the Marines are constantly on the go: visiting villages, distributing humanitarian aid and always searching for insurgents. Their breaks between operations vary from 12 hours to three days.

Part of the 2-year-old Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, they thrive on missions that have them patrolling for enemy forces. “We don’t like being on the (forward operating base),” one MSOC Marine said.

In the northern part of the province, an MSOC leatherneck said, his Marines were attacked four times throughout a four-day mission. He described how they overcame enemy machine-gun positions, mortar attacks and rocket-propelled grenades. “Needless to say, we silenced their weapons,” another MSOC Marine said.

On their next mission, a three-day assignment in the province’s north-central region to visit villages, the Marines slept on the desert ground – in sleeping bags, but not on cots. On foot patrol through the first village with no schedule constraints, they took no shortcuts. In full combat gear, they searched all compounds, streets and paths in the village. When it was secure, they set up distribution sites for the humanitarian aid they brought with them.

On the second day, the unit came under attack within five minutes of arriving at a small village. Immediately, the MSOC Marines positioned themselves throughout the village and began engaging the enemy insurgents. Halfway into what turned out to be a nearly four-hour battle, a Marine who seemed to never rest said with a grin, “We’re not done yet.” He seemed unfazed that earlier a rocket-propelled grenade missed him by less than two feet.

Despite several other close calls, the Marines relentlessly pursued the insurgents until they secured the village, and the Taliban fighters were either killed or fled. Before they were done, the MSOC hospital corpsmen cared for and treated villagers injured by insurgents.

Afterward, Marine leaders met with village elders and committed to return with much-needed aid and support, as long as the Marines had the villagers’ support.

(Marine Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr. serves with Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs. He recently spent 16 days embedded with a Marine special operations company deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand province from the 1st Special Operations Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif. The names and specific locations of special operations personnel are not used in this article for their security and for the security of their mission.)

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Related Sites:
Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarines with a Marine Special Operations Company take aim on Taliban fighters in a Helmand province village. Afghan National Army soldiers and the MSOC Marines were visiting the southern Afghanistan village when they were attacked by Taliban fighters. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Afghan boy receives a school bag from Afghan National Army soldiers and a Marine Special Operations Company’s team member. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarines with a Marine Special Operations Company and an Afghan National Army soldier position themselves to fight Taliban fighters who attacked them a few minutes earlier. ANA soldiers and MSOC Marines were visiting the southern Afghanistan village when they were attacked by Taliban fighters. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr.  
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