Marines Track Down Insurgents in Afghan
By Cpl. Rich Mattingly, USMC
Special to AFPS
Afghanistan, Jan. 3, 2005 — U.S. Marines have been operating
at the forward edge of Operation Enduring Freedom, often in isolated
areas where support for insurgency against the Afghan government
and coalition forces remains.
In late December,
Marines from Company I, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment entered
the Korangal Valley in Konar province with the mission to capture
or kill terrorists suspected of conducting attacks against coalition
forces while working to win over the trust of local villagers.
intelligence that lets us know where the bad guys are," explained
2nd Lt. Roy Bechtold, commander of the unit’s 2nd Platoon. "After
we get grid locations, we work with our assets to plan the best
way to go in and get them."
valley is infamous for its inaccessibility and numerous defeats
the Russians suffered there during their ill-fated campaign to
inserting" in CH-47 Chinook helicopters, the Marines set
up blocking positions along the roads and maneuvered into their
best way to come in is on foot or by air," said Bechtold.
"We have to leave as small a signature as possible in order
to not spook the guys we’re looking for into running. If you come
in with vehicles, they’ll be long gone before you have a chance."
Bechtold admitted that Marines in the past have had difficulty
getting into villages sympathetic to anti-coalition forces without
having the targets flee.
Once in place,
the company’s mission evolved to house-by-house searches as the
clock started ticking on how long the Marines had until it was
unlikely their targets remained.
Up and down
the bluffs and rocky faces that double as paths between the stacked-up
houses of the valley, the Marines and their Afghan National Army
counterparts talked to village elders, shook hands, and searched
houses from top to bottom.
goes back to attention to detail," said Sgt. Shawn Kelly,
an acting platoon sergeant. "You can’t skip anything. It
could be that one cache or that one guy you miss that could help
us stop an improvised-explosive-device emplacement or attack on
attentiveness paid off on the second day of the operation, as
Lance Cpl. Sean Decoursey, a rifleman from Jacksonville, Fla.,
crawled through a small opening in a floor to find a cache of
weapons and ammunition hidden under a pile of hay.
the AK-47s and ammunition," said Decoursey, modest about
the find. "I almost didn’t look in that hole either. It looked
like maybe it only went back about two or three feet until I crawled
With the discovery
of the weapons, the Marines held one Afghan man for questioning
and confiscated his illegal weapons and ammunition. Their find
was a good one. After being questioned, the man named several
other anti-coalition militants operating in the area.
really good to be here and to be getting something done,"
said Decoursey, who has been in the Marine Corps just over a year.
"It feels like we’re really making a difference when we can
catch one of them."