Article by Cpl. James M. Mercure
Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose
HELMAND PROVINCE, Sangin, Afghanistan â€“ When the Marines here are not busy fighting against insurgents, they are spending countless hours patrolling with the Afghan National Police (ANP) to make it better at effecting change within its own community.
The latter has turned out to be a full-time job for the Marines of Company E, Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan, as they find themselves constantly engaged in firefights against a relentless enemy.
Echo Marines are indeed in a serious fight â€“ one they are committed to winning.
â€œEverytime the Taliban engages in direct contact with Echo Company Marines, we make sure they pay a heavy price,â€ said 1st Lt. Brandon J. Schroder, executive officer and Sunnyvale, Calif., native. â€œWe take the fight to them instead of waiting for it to come to us.â€
Throughout its deployment, Echo Company has been responsible for conducting full spectrum operations in a vast area of the Helmand Province. Daily operations include counterinsurgency operations with a focus on police mentoring of the Afghan National Police. Although the focus of effort remains centered on helping the Afghan people and strengthening the ANP, increased attacks have resulted in more security patrols as the Marines remain vigilant against a dangerous foe.
â€œTask Force 2/7 has a lot of challenges, but the one that is tied most to the others is the enormous size of our area of operationsâ€¦ more than 28,000 square kilometers, or about the size of Vermont,â€ said Lt. Col. Rick Hall, TF 2/7 commanding officer and Mankato, Minn., native. â€œHow do we overcome this challenge? My answer is simple, Marines. We have delegated a tremendous amount of responsibility down to the squad leader level, and these very young Marines and sailors have proven themselves time and time again. I am continually amazed and always impressed by what they are doing.â€
As the Marines carry out their duties, they find themselves combating enemy forces in an unfamiliar territory. Located in one of Afghanistanâ€™s most remote and austere areas, the company must conduct patrols in a vast, dry and desolate area where the enemy doesnâ€™t play by the rules. In fact, the combat losses suffered have mostly resulted from Marines being killed or wounded by IEDs (improvised explosive devices) the enemy uses to harm Marines working with the countryâ€™s police.
While Echo Company has surely left its mark here in Afghanistan with its combat prowess, the Marines are equally proud of the significant strides they have made in training the ANP. As more policemen are trained and serving within their own communities, Echo Marines are confident they will overcome the Taliban threat.
â€œWhen we first got here the fighting was really bad, but itâ€™s starting to level off,â€ 1st Lt. Schroder explained. â€œThe Afghan National Army and the ANP are really coming into their own, both in combat and with day-to-day operations. The training programs we have in place are producing quality policemen. The ANP may be in its infancy, but it is continually moving in the right direction.â€
Since it deployed to Afghanistan in early April, Task Force 2/7 has achieved a significant milestone in bringing peace and prosperity to the Afghan people through various civil military operations projects and by laying down the groundwork necessary for follow-on U.S. forces to expand on the progress made throughout the Helmand and Farah provinces.
â€œBottom line, we want to give the Afghan people liberty,â€ LtCol. Hall said. â€œWe want to create a safe and prosperous environment where the people willingly accept the newly-trained and respectable Afghan National Police as a legitimate form of local governance, and to create the conditions where the people take responsibility for providing their own future.â€
Sent to Afghanistan to support Operation Enduring Freedom, TF 2/7 has conducted full spectrum operations, including counterinsurgency with a focus on police training and mentoring, in order to set the conditions for the successful integration and future assumption of authority by the ANP and to extend the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan authority and influence over security, stability and regional development.
*Photos and captions below*