Odds are, they never knew what hit them.
That’s the likely scenario for insurgents who dug in against Marines in northern Helmand province, Afghanistan, during Operation Eastern Storm. The Marine-led offensive is pushing northern from volatile Sangin district into Kajaki, one of the last areas in Helmand where the Taliban is entrenched.
The operation began Oct. 14, said Maj. Bradley Gordon, a Marine spokesman in Afghanistan. First Battalion, 6th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., comprises the main effort, with support from combat engineers; Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines; Third Reconnaissance Battalion; and First Battalion, 12th Marines.
The operation began with Marines in vehicles pushing north from Sangin along treacherous Route 611, the main highway in the region. Additional forces pushed north on foot throughout the Upper Sangin VAlley using route clearance equipment.
“This was a focused push to gain control of the entire road from Sangin to Kajaki and root out the Taliban-led insurgents,” Gordon said. “Aviation has played a role in the operation, moving troops and cargo around the battlefield, as we as in close air support.”
As this news release clarifies, Echo Battery 2/12 was inserted into an abandoned compound in northern Helmand to assist in the operation, hitting insurgents with Howitzer rounds fired over mountains in Kajaki.
The unit is working to push insurgents out of the area, ultimately increasing their ability to connect with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 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 two parts,” explained 1st Lt. Daniel Ealy, an artillery officer and Moundsville, W.Va., native with the unit. “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 unit took fire once settling in the compound, which it named Patrol Base New York, Marines reported. Insurgents engaged them with mortar strikes, rocket-propelled grenades, machine-gun fire and sniper fire. The Marines responded by launching two High Mobility Artillery Rocket System strikes, two Howitzer strikes and an air strike, Marine officials said.