Saturday, September 12, 2009

Latest From the Helmand Province

Just a couple days ago marked the one-hundredth day of being in Afghanistan for the Marines of the MEB or the Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan. The MEB, which was nicknamed Task Force Leatherneck, was transferred control of the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. The name leatherneck originated from the uniform Marines wore from 1775 to 1875. This uniform consisted of a thick leather strap that went around the neck of the Marine. It is said that the leather was designed to protect the Marine from sword strikes to the neck and to always keep the Marine’s neck erect.
Task Force Leatherneck is 10,000 strong and began planning operations while securing perimeters to provide defense for crews creating forward operating bases. Nearing the 100th day in the Helmand province, a lot of progress has been made thanks to the efforts of the MEB with conjunction with Afghan National Security Forces. On July 2nd Operation Khanjar (Strike of the Sword) was initialed to protect the people of Afghanistan from insurgents, criminals and drug lords who, until now, have destabilized the region. The MEB has also created training programs for the Afghan Police and army forces as part of the Marines effort to create a positive relationship with the civilian population. Thousands of hours have been put into working with the Afghan troops and police officers, training them in different combat and security operations. There have been a lot of behind the seen support of the main advance. Aviation maintenance personnel have put in almost 18,000 maintenance hours since they arrived in the Helmand province. Their hard work was in support of the pilots and aircrews who conduct assault support, close-are support, strikes on targets and resupply operations. All of the air support is for the boots on the ground. Sgt. Maj. Eugene Miller gives his opinion of the Marines in the Helmand Province, “The Marines have performed superbly. The further you go out from Camp Dwyer, the higher the morale. These Marines want some and are getting some. They’re doing the exact things they came into the Marine Corps to do – to fight, win and accomplish those things they thought of when they joined.”
Lt. Col Matthew Kolich is Commander of Regimental Combat Team 3 in the Helmand Province. “The local nationals are starting to come over to our side,” said Kolich, assistant operations chief for RCT-3. “The Taliban are on their last legs in some areas ... Locals are capturing Taliban and turning them over to Afghan security forces. Over the last few weeks, we have been able to make huge strides in freedom of movement.”

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