Baker is manning an observation post (OP). It's a duty that lasts several hours, in which Marines watch for suspicious activity, and serve as the first responders in case of an enemy attack. Today, the only attack is coming from the hundreds of flies dive-bombing Baker’s face.
“I’ve killed like 80 flies…at least it seems that way,” said Baker. “They don’t go away. You can keep killing them, and they just keep coming.”
When the Marines here wake up, they shave, shower and conduct other morning necessities. However, there is no plumbing on Boldak. The Marines hygiene using bottled water with a hole punched in the cap, and rear-view mirrors broken off armored vehicles to see their reflection. They shower using baby wipes, or by grabbing some bottled water and stepping inside a room that looks like a telephone booth made out of plywood. Once they're done with hygiene, the Marines quickly eat breakfast, which consists of Pop-Tarts, packaged muffins or dry cereal. From there, they go to work. If a Marine is not standing post, he's on a patrol. If he's not on a patrol, then he's cleaning or maintaining some part of the base, filling the generators with fuel, or finishing a project like building a new kennel for the military working dogs. If the Marines have any free time, they exercise in the “prison gym,” which is a collection of free weights located in a dusty, dimly lit tent. At dusk, the Marines gather around a large wooden table and eat dinner together. On rare occasions, meat is taken out of a freezer and prepared with some canned vegetables, in a makeshift barbeque grill made out of a fuel drum. Paper plates piled with food are delivered to the Marines who are standing post. The conversations at dinner are reminiscent of friends meeting together at a tavern. In distinct New England accents, Marines can be heard griping about work, and about the Red Sox losing their last few games of the season. They frequently burst out in laughter from the ruthless joking and needling going back and forth. “We’re all from the same area,” said Arsenault. “We all love the same sports teams. We all know the same places. It’s different in the fleet where you have people from different backgrounds. Here everyone is almost the same person.” If there's a patrol going out the next day, the Marines will gather around a map to plan and discuss where they'll be patrolling. Once the meeting is concluded, the Marines retire to their tents to watch a movie. Some prepare the armored vehicles for patrolling the next day. At night, the Afghan sky is filled with stars, and the occasional helicopter or jet flying by. To the north are the bright lights of Leatherneck. To the south are the districts of Nad’Ali and Nahr-e-Sara, where firefights between U.K. troops and insurgents can be seen from time to time. The next morning, the routine starts over again. About once a week, a convoy will come in from Leatherneck carrying mail and care packages from home. Marines trade snacks and magazines sent from family and friends with each other, and throw the rest underneath their cots. Other than traditional mail, there's really no other way to contact home. Periodically, the Marines will rotate back to Leatherneck for a week of quick reaction force (QRF) duty. There they'll be able to use the wireless internet to get on Facebook and email. Staff Sgt. Jeremy Greenfield, a plt. sgt., and a native of Wash., enjoys being in the austere environment that he and his Marines have made home. “I like Boldak,” said Greenfield. “I wish I could stay up here. There’s less going on; no phones or computers. It’s more of a sense of pride and ownership, because we own it. The Marines have been working to make it our own piece of home.”
Cpl. Mackenzie Richards, a military working dog handler, and a native of R.I., conducts physical training with John, an explosives detection dog.
Cpl. Russ McDonald (left) and Lance Cpl. Justen Kazan, both mortarmen, and natives of Mass, exercise in the “prison gym.”
Airmen with the 58th Sqdn, Royal AF, prepare to go out on patrol at PB Boldak, Sept. 30. Marines frequently partner with UK and Afghan troops, to conduct patrols throughout TF Belleau Wood’s area of ops (AO).
Lt. Col. Angela Quintalla, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., assigned to the Forward Surgical Team attached to 3rd BCT, 25th ID, TF Bronco, stands at the 9/11 Memorial on FOB Fenty, in Nangarhar prov., after running the Army Ten Miler Shadow Run, Oct. 2.
NANGARHAR PROVINCE – For many, running ten miles might be a daunting pursuit, but few consider how hard it would be to run a 10 mile race with only leg, or while deployed to a combat zone. For Angela and Peter Quintalla, running the Army 10-Miler was a different experience than it was for other runners.Lt. Col. Angela Quintalla ran the race this year while deployed in the Eastern region of Afghanistan, while her husband, a former Special Forces soldier, ran on the Nine-Line Team, a group of Wounded Warriors, in Washington, D.C. It's the third time he has run the race with a prosthetic leg. But running a 10 mile race was not always an option for Peter. Peter was wounded in a training accident in 1997, but did not lose his leg until 2004. Peter’s initial prosthetic was not very accommodating. “After soldiers began to return from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq with more war injuries, prosthetics got to be more advanced,” said Quintalla. “Initially it was a bit more difficult for Peter, because he had to get used to what they gave him. But now, through Care Coalition, Peter has gone from basic amputee to high-functioning.” Care Coalition is an org., which provides services for injured Special Forces warriors in any phase of a recovery, to include various services such as education programs, and benefits for family members who may have lost their soldier. The org. caters not only to SF, but to injured Rangers, Delta Force, and Navy Seal service members. “He was able to find Nine-Line through Care Coalition, and they sponsored him going to the race this year,” said Angela. Aside from sponsoring Peter for the race, there are various other amenities Care Coalition has provided. “Although Peter is now a very functional member of regular society again, and is out of the military, he continues to have certain medical needs,” said Angela, “and Care Coalition provides that.” As a couple, the Quintallas have had to re-arrange their lives in various ways, but the one thing which has not changed is their determination to succeed together. “We're the same as we've always been. There were just little things we had to change,” said Angela. “We have to make sure we take a little bit of extra time to plan trips, and make sure they've the proper amenities for Peter, but we just do what we have to do, and have gotten used to it. This is our life and we're living it like any normal family would, but with certain differences.” As for the race, Peter adds that he's amazed at those who come to run, who have it much worse than him. “There are those running the race with multiple limbs missing,” he said. “It’s always an inspiration to see them out there.” “I, of course wish we could've run the race together, but when I was in those last few miles, and needed a little extra push, I thought of those running against much more adversity, and I believed it gave me an extra push,” said Angela. The story of Angela and Peter is one of perseverance and caring. Angela still says Peter is her “rock,” and Peter still worries about her while she serves in a war zone. This year, the Quintallas will continue to draw from each other and their supporting orgs, such as Care Coalition to get through their time apart, but mostly on each other. “He has always amazed me,” she concluded.
Cannons Help Gain Territory in Operation Eastern Storm
Story and photos by Cpl. Clayton Vonderahe
FOB ZEEBRUGGE, Helmand province -- Howitzers recently fired over the mountains of Kajaki, striking targets they couldn't even see. Marines with Btry E, inserted themselves into an abandoned compound, under the cover of night to establish OP New York. The cannons rang out in support of the insertion, eliminating enemies holding positions against the Marines.The btry. is currently supporting Op Tofan Sharq (Eastern Storm), a major offensive op to root out the Taliban-led insurgency in the Upper Sangin Valley region of Kajaki. The unit is working to push insurgents out of the area, ultimately increasing their ability to connect with 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regt, moving north from Sangin, and rid the “Green Zone” along the Helmand River of insurgents. "To put it into perspective, Kajaki is kind of split into 2 parts," explained 1st Lt. Daniel Ealy, an artillery officer and W.Va., native. "Kajaki north is called Olya, and Kajaki south is Sofla. All the insurgents are in Sofla. We went down to where the border of Oyla and Sofla are, and we set in there. We essentially blocked them off from the north." The Marines are blocking off the insurgent presence along Route 611, which is a north-south route from Sangin along the Helmand River, where the Marines, ANA, and AUP maintain a commanding presence. In this area, Route 611 is a winding, dirt road, pock-marked with craters where IEDs have detonated. It's the width of a standard 2-lane street, but the only place safe to walk along the road, is a narrow path of no more than 2 feet wide, mainly identifiable by the unmistakable path created by the heavy foot traffic moving unwaveringly down the slim path. This is a stark contrast to the Route 611 south of the Sangin Bazaar, where it is paved and includes distinctly marked lanes, and even the occasional billboard. The few civilians traveling Route 611 tend to stick to the poorly outlined path, aware of the hazards in a misplaced footstep. Civilians still occasionally travel the path, but the area is nearly completely deserted of its residents. "The insurgents had forced everybody out of the area a long time ago," said Ealy. "The only thing citizens were allowed to do was come up during the daytime and farm, but not stay there at night. That's one of the things we're trying to do, allow them to come back into their areas, their residences. We're doing this so they can try to start a normal life again on their properties." The Btry E Marines met heavy resistance shortly after securing PB New York. The insurgents responded to the Marines with mortar strikes, RPGs, machine gun and sniper rifle fire. The Marines swiftly responded with 2 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System strikes, 2 requests for fire support from the howitzer cannons, and an air strike."Everything is going smoothly," said Cpl. Sean Fullaway, the lead IED sweeper, and a Col. native. "Just by looking at it, you can tell this is a strategic location to have, and if it's strategic to us, it's strategic for the insurgents to have as well." The new OP was attacked for 2 consecutive days, after the initial insertion of forces. The Marines and ANA soldiers worked in shifts performing a constant cycle of patrols through the area, and guarding the base from potential attacks. Suppressing the insurgent presence in the area, provides the Marines and soldiers with the ability to clear the road of threats, and clear a path from the Kajaki District Center to FOB Zeebrugge. This allows the Marines to work with the area’s district gov., to make it safe for the local population to return to the Kajaki area. "Our intentions are for the population’s good," said Fullaway. "We're trying to return their land that they rightfully own, back to them, and take the insurgents out of the area. One of the greatest moments for me was going through Sharp’s Alley." Sharp’s Alley is a stretch of heavily vegetated land, that has been used to store weapons and contraband inside abandoned compounds for use against the Marines. The stretch of land was a hot spot for insurgent activity to any Marine presence before the insertion. The Marines are currently holding the area, and blocking it from further insurgent activity, while 1st Bn clears Route 611 so it can, in time, become a safe road for travel.
Cpl. Ruben Morales, a motor transportation operator, places razor wire around the perimeter of the base to help secure it against enemy forces. The base received heavy resistance from insurgents during the initial days of the op to establish the location.
Partnered Operations Secure Southern Laghman
LAGHMAN PROVINCE – The 1st Bn, 179th Inf, 45th IBCT recently conducted a joint air assault op, that took place in several valleys surrounding Bad Pakh district, and included soldiers from the ANA, and members of the AUP.This is the 1st bn-wide joint op securing crucial areas of Laghman prov. The op only strengthened the partnership between the 201st Corps and 45th IBCT, showing the ANSF taking the lead. “They have a great advantage here,” said Capt. Brent Weece, cmdr. of Co C, 1st Bn, referring to partnering with Afghan forces, taking the lead in navigating through the terrain. “That’s why we're partnered.” The units were air lifted in, and made their way down the mountains to search villages for IED making materials, small arms caches, and illegal drugs. The mission was to search the villages of the valley for any illegal activity, and to re-establish security in the valleys surrounding Bad Pakh district. A fire fight broke out early in the op, resulting in 2 Coalition injuries whose wounds were not serious. Five insurgents were killed in the process by air strikes. No civilians were injured during the week-long joint op, that resulted in finding several weapons caches, more than 200- lbs of opium, an IED, and components used to make suicide vests. In another valley joint forces spoke with local village leaders about the safety and security of the region. The village elders were humble, inviting, and allowed the Afghan forces to search the villages for caches. The leaders in the Shura also discussed expanding basic amenities deeper into the rural areas in the valleys. The elders spoke of needing roads, electrical power, and a medical clinic when the area becomes more secure. ADTs and PRTs usually work in the more secure areas, since their primary goal is to build sustainable infrastructure for the districts. The teams are planning for a research and development farm, and a District Center in the area. The 45th IBCT also conducted the largest aerial resupply, since their involvement in OEF, flying in more than 2 tons of water, food, and supplies for CF and their Afghan counterparts, in several different locations. Crews on the ground along with UH-60 Black Hawks, worked night and day to make sure the units were properly resupplied throughout the op. “Resupply is the lifeblood of the op,” said Capt. John Fagan, the HHC, 179th Inf. logistics officer. -30-
ISAF Joint Command Operational Update, Oct. 25, 2011
TAKHAR PROVINCE — A combined Afghan and coalition SECFOR captured an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator in Bangi district, yesterday. The facilitator was responsible for coordinating attacks against Afghan govt officials. The SecFor detained 2 additional suspected insurgents.EastLAGHMAN PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained 2 suspected insurgents during an op in search of a Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin and Taliban leader in Alingar district, yesterday. The leader plans direct fire and roadside bomb attacks against Afghan forces. Six RPG boosters were confiscated.WARDAK PROVINCE -- In Sayyidabad district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Taliban facilitator, yesterday. The facilitator is responsible for conducting abductions, roadside bomb, and direct fire attacks throughout the region.LOGAR PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor captured a Haqqani network facilitator in Pul-e ‘Alam district, yesterday. The facilitator coordinated insurgent activity in the region. Multiple additional suspected insurgents were detained.KHOST PROVINCE -- In Terayzai district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor captured a Haqqani network facilitator, yesterday. The facilitator distributed rockets, roadside bombs, and conducted attacks against Afghan forces. One additional suspected insurgent was detained. PAKTIYA PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor conducted an op in search of a Taliban leader in Zurmat district, yesterday. The leader constructs and stores roadside bombs and other weapons. He also leads insurgents in attacks against Afghan forces in both Zurmat and Gardez districts. The SecFor confiscated bomb making materials.PAKTIKA PROVINCE -- In Ziruk district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained a suspected insurgent, during an op in search of a Haqqani network facilitator, yesterday. The facilitator specializes in roadside bomb construction, and provides explosives training to fellow insurgent leaders in the area.
American Service Members go the Distance with Iraqi Olympians
Story and photos by Sgt. A.M. LaVey
AL ASAD AIR BASE -- "We asked them to come down and share their training routine, and some of the challenges of training that they face here in Iraq with us," said Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, deputy comm. gen. for ops, United States Forces-Iraq.The team, half of its members also in the IA running club, have interacted with American troops once before, but it was limited to a game of soccer. "We love the Americans," said Waud Disman, half-marathoner and team member. "We wanted to meet and run with them." Military relations have been strengthened through sport participation, since the ancient beginning of the Olympic Games, and an event like this is a type of diplomacy that can transcend cultural differences, and bring soldiers from different nations together. "There are no nationalities or religions in sports," said Helmick. "Athletics and fitness transcends all those different boundaries." American forces, throughout the last 8 years, have made it a point to use sports to reach out to the Iraqi people. "I think it's most important that we expose as many Iraqis as we can to our military," said Helmick. "Our service members are great ambassadors to the world. I really think that there are no relationships between countries; there are only relationships between people," said Helmick, "and we're working to strengthen these relationships in Iraq every day." Unlike American professional athletes, these runners receive only a living stipend of the equivalent of 200 U.S. dollars a month, which the runners must use to purchase their own equipment, pay for training, and feed their families. After hearing that some of the team were running in bare feet, because they couldn't afford shoes, USF-I service members presented boxes of shoes to the team before they left. "I'm amazed that they can perform so well with so few resources," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, director of strategic effects, USF-I, and one of the runners who ran with the team today. "I think it says volumes about the love of sport and the pride of representing one's country." At a presentation after the run, one of the Iraqi runners shared his team's thoughts with the assembled runners. "Today was very different from a normal day in our lives," said Hamid Kadhim, a team member from Baghdad. "We thank you. We'll remember this day for the rest of our lives." As American forces prepare for the transition to Iraq by the end of the year, events like this show the shared level of commitment of the American service members to their Iraqi comrades. "I couldn't help but think of how far we've come in this country," said Buchanan. "The opportunities the Iraqis now have, ranging from growing security, to economic development to strengthening democracy, to an inspirational Olympic team, have been created through a great deal of sacrifice, both Iraqi and American." "My greatest hope is that the Iraqis reach their potential," said Buchanan. "If today's run was any indication, the future is bright indeed."
Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick and his senior enlisted adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Rice lead the pack. . (Army photo by Col. Kevin Arata)
Lt. Gen. Helmick meets with members of the Iraqi men's running team.