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Patrolling with U.S. Marines builds Afghan troops' skills

By STEVE MRAZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 25, 2005

ALINGAR, Afghanistan — U.S. Marines and Afghan National Army troops had just finished meeting Thursday afternoon with local police officials in the eastern Afghanistan town of Alingar and were getting ready to continue their combined patrol through Laghman province.

Then, toward the rear of the several-vehicle convoy where an impromptu roadside checkpoint had been set up, Afghan soldiers found bomb-making equipment during a vehicle search.

Upon further inspection, Marines uncovered more material — some of it hidden under vegetables. In all, the troops found dozens of detonators, a large spool of wire and related electrical equipment.

The men in the vehicle were searched and questioned. Marines took their pictures and wrote down their names.

The man who claimed to own the items said he was going to use them for demolition work, blowing up rocks in a nearby province. When asked through a translator why the items were hidden under vegetables, the man hesitated and could not provide a clear answer.

The detonators, wire spool and related items were seized. Marines told the man — who did not appear upset that the items were taken — that if he had paperwork from his company proving that the equipment was for rock demolition, he could reclaim it at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam.

This was just one incident during a roughly 32-hour combined patrol of Afghan National Army troops and U.S. Marines of Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division out of Hawaii.

Earlier that day, with Afghan troops leading the way, Marines hiked to the hillside village of Salaw to meet with village elders. They wanted to check out reports that a polling station was attacked in the area during the Sept. 18 Afghan parliament and provincial council elections.

They did not encounter any enemy forces at the village. And at the end of the visit, a medic provided a village elder with a handful of pills to help with his arthritic knees and hips.

The aim of such patrols is to get the Afghan Army used to visiting towns in preparation for the day when U.S. forces are no longer in Afghanistan.

“We’re just trying to let the Afghan National Army do as much as possible,” said Marines 1st Lt. Carl Gregory, Company F executive officer. “We let the Afghan National Army lead, and we’re here for support.”

The troops camped Thursday night on a hillside overlooking an Alingar district village. Early the next morning, they were back on the bumpy, dusty roads patrolling the district. During the drive throughout the Laghman province, Afghan children and adults waved to the convoy and gave troops the “thumbs up” sign.

After meeting with more village elders Friday afternoon, the Afghan troops and Marines made it back to Mehtar Lam. No one was injured during the mission.

Following their return to the base, 2nd Lt. Stewart Geise, commander of Company F’s 1st platoon, said he was pleased with the way things had gone.

“We’re working well with the Afghan National Army,” Geise said. “Good job.”

And with that, the dust-covered Marines broke from their semicircle, removed trash from their vehicles and began awaiting their next mission.


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