Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Say a Prayer for the 3/5 Darkhorse Marines in Afghanistan

Tim King Salem-News.com
They are fighting it out in Afghanistan & they have lost 9 marines in 4 days; 13 since October.

(SALEM, Ore.) - "We are asking everyone to say a prayer for 'Darkhorse' 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and their families." That is how an email from our writer, Chuck Palazzo, another former Marine veteran living in Da Nang, Vietnam.
The Department of Defense along with the Marine Corps itself, are releasing information and concerned Marines all over the world are spreading the request for Americans to pray for this hard hit military group.
The San Diego Union Tribune reports that 13 Marines from Darkhorse have been killed in this region since October.
What we know is that a 21-year old Marine, Lance Corporal Randy R. Braggs of Sierra Vista, Ariz, who was attached to Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was killed in action in Afghanistan, the Pentagon released the information regarding the loss of Randy Braggs on 8 November 2010]. He died two days earlier during combat operations in Helmand province.
Randy Braggs was the 13th member of 3/5 killed since the battalion moved into the Sangin area of northeastern Helmand province in October, including four felled in a single bomb attack on their mine-resistant all terrain vehicle.
Two other Marines were fatally shot at a patrol base in Sangin last week, the Marine Corps reports. It was initially indicated they were attacked by a rogue Afghan soldier who then fled the area, according to U.S. and NATO officials in Afghanistan. An investigation into the incident is continuing. I reported the extremely high desertion/attrition rate among Afghan Army recruits in 2006 and 2007 from Afghanistan. This obviously continues to be a serious problem, because the recruits who desert often join the Taliban or other ACM's (anti-Coalition Militaries).

Not only do they abscond with information about the inner workings of the ANA (Afghan National Army), but they also steal the U.S. manufactured Woodland camouflage uniforms that make them virtually indistinguishable from ANA regulars.
This is the Associated Press account, from the area of Afghanistan in which the 3/5 is operating. As we have reported many times in the past, Helmand, a particularly violent area, is regarded as ka key region in this fight:
U.S. Marines who recently inherited this lush river valley in southern Helmand province from British forces have tossed aside their predecessor's playbook in favor of a more aggressive strategy to tame one of the most violent places in Afghanistan.
U.S. commanders say success is critical in Sangin district — where British forces suffered nearly one-third of their deaths in the war — because it is the last remaining sanctuary in Helmand where the Taliban can freely process the opium and heroin that largely fund the insurgency.
The district also serves as a key crossroads to funnel drugs, weapons and fighters throughout Helmand and into neighboring Kandahar province, the spiritual heartland of the Taliban and the most important battleground for coalition forces. The U.S.-led coalition hopes its offensive in the south will kill or capture key Taliban commanders, rout militants from their strongholds and break the insurgency's back. That will allow the coalition and the Afghans to improve government services, bring new development and a sense of security.
The "Darkhorse" 3rd Battalion 5th Marines Commanding Officer, LtCol Jason Morris, made this statement to Marine families on the Battalion's Website:
After a very difficult first two weeks in Sangin, the Marines and Sailors of the Battalion have learned some hard lessons and adapted to a challenging operational environment.
Marines are patrolling daily and moving out into areas of the Sangin District that the Taliban have used as their sanctuaries for years. Some areas of the District have never had any central government authority and have been under tribal authority for centuries before the Taliban came.
So, our mission of clearing out the Taliban and protecting the people from their oppression and violence is a challenging one. Nevertheless, your Marine or Sailor is bravely mounting up and operating every day in these areas with confidence in his buddies, his equipment, and his training—and he is making a difference.
Already we are noticing that we are able to go farther into the rural and urban areas than last week and that resistance has waned in the areas we are aggressively patrolling. It helps that every time the enemy tries to resist us he loses, and we are getting more and more efficient at finding and destroying his IEDs.
And while the enemy has sent reinforcements into the area to shore up his losses, there is a definite sense amongst the people that the Taliban’s dominance is waning where there are Marines and they are more willing to talk to us and provide us information about their activities. Make no mistake this will be many months of hard work, but there is a positive shift in momentum that is palpable and the Marines’ confidence grows daily.
Another Associated Press report from November 2010 described the difficulty (and heavy casualties) the Marines were encountering during operations in that region of Afghanistan:
The Marines patrolling through the green fields and tall mud compounds of Helmand province's Sangin district say they are literally in a race for their lives. They are trying to adjust their tactics to outwit Taliban fighters, who have killed more coalition troops here than in any other Afghan district this year.

"As a new unit coming in, you are at a distinct disadvantage because the Taliban have been fighting here for years, have established fighting positions and have laid the ground with a ton of IEDs," said Lt. Col. Jason Morris, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. "You have to evolve quickly because you have no other choice."
Many of the younger Marines also have had to cope for the first time with seeing their best friends die or suffer grievous wounds. Fifteen Marines have been killed and about 50 wounded since the battalion arrived in October [2010] — many by improvised explosive devices or IEDs.
So what can you do? Jason Morris says these Marines are living lean, "We are currently living on MREs and UGRs (tray-rats), so anything that can help break the monotony would be warmly welcomed."
Many people picture Afghanistan as a land of blazing sun and endless sand dunes, and that is not an accurate view. there are sand dunes, and in the south it gets very hot in the summertime, but for the most part Afghanistan is mountainous and cold.
Morris said, "The weather here continues to cool, with lows in the low 40s and highs in the mid 60s. I believe the rain will likely start in the next few weeks, and then our camps will probably turn into mud and turn everything the same shade of brown."
And as this Marine officer relates, once the rainy season sets in, it is likely that the rivers will rise and the wadis, used to maneuver vehicles during the dry season, will become impassable.

"Fortunately we have plenty of cold and wet-weather gear to keep up dry and warm, so don’t worry about us not having enough," Morris said. "Time is moving quickly, and the days are long, but the weeks fly by. Before we know it the holidays will be upon us and it will be 2011."
Want to help? Learn more visit the Website for: 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the link is listed below.
God Bless you and the members of the Darkhorse who are crushing the Taliban and demonstrating to the Afghans how to kick some tail. Don’t forget about MotoMail, and sending an extra pair of socks, some good ground coffee, and some etc.

Hat Tip to Mr. I
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