Remembering the Battle of Marjah, two years later


Marines open fire during the first day of fighting in Marjah, Afghanistan, on Feb. 13, 2010.

In the war in Afghanistan, few campaigns have captured the public’s imagination like the Battle of Marjah.

The early stages of the fight were launched two years ago today when Marines were airlifted deep into insurgent-held territory in Helmand province. Operation Moshtarak involved more than 15,000 U.S., British, Canadian, French and Afghan troops, many of whom were pressed into a fight for their lives in a maze of dusty compounds and patchwork fields and canals.

Facebook updates from Marines I’ve stayed in touch with from my 2010 embed there show today’s date is in the forefront of many of their minds. Like the Nov. 8, 2004, launch of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq, it was a life-changing day that many of them circle on their metaphorical calendars.

Those Marines remember the gunfights, improvised explosive devices and other booby traps that were prevalent there for months. They also recall the lesser known details, like huddling for warmth in the February weather and sleeping in fighting holes in the early days of the fight.

There are many more things we could say about Marjah today, but I’d rather that readers contribute. Please share your memories of the battle, whether you were at home worried about your loved one, in the thick of it or somewhere in between.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. June 12th, 2011 changed my life in more ways then one- it’s the day my husband, best friend and love of my life left for Afghanistan with 2/6 Fox Company. At that time I was 7 weeks pregnant with our son and had our 7 month old daughter. I was also still Active Duty Navy and I was lucky enough to be able to take leave to see him off. Over the next months I only got to talk to him a handful of times and got a few letters from him too. I did everything I could to make his times better while in Afghanistan from 2-4 care packages every pay check to even medical stuff for their Corpsman. I sent him pictures of his daughter growing up and ultrasound pictures of his son, no one was even allowed to know what the sex of our 2nd child was until he knew. Then homecoming came and it was one of the most amazing nights of my entire life… It made that whole 7 month long deployment worth it. After that we had our ups and downs while he transitioned into the “normal” life. He had a hard time and lots of things happened. Now we are in a fight with this “war at home called PTSD”. They did so much for this country over there and they lost so many of their brothers, friends and family when they get home they need help too. I hope this reaches someone who cares to help them… Its becoming way too common now.

    God Bless <3

  2. We had landed in the northern desert miles from the city of Marjah and moved every few days more towards our objectives. We would dig our foxholes in the rocks on the little ridge lines, burning cases of MRE’s to stay warm. Due to the rough elements most of the warm gear was blown away during the storm. We were told to pack light, and on this day we were all sitting miles away from our northern objectives, around 0300 helo’s came on station and hellfires started hitting pre designated targets. We pushed off the ridge line and I was in the front with E.J., Johnny following in their footsteps as their swept the entire way for the many daisy chained IED’s they uncovered. As we began to move closer to the city and the sun was rising, we began to search the compounds we came upon. Ssgt Clay and I searched one compound and there was just cups of hot chai tea sitting there in a circle. My first team went to go secure the south side of a compound and had to move through the open fields. Halfway out they started to take heavy enemy machine gun fire, we were able to egress that team bring up the gun section put them on line and start to put down accurate fire. I was talking to Lt on the radio telling him the sit rep and company got two F-18s on station and gun runs took out the positions. And our Jav guys got to launch one off. Not a bad way to start a morning invasion. I’m very proud of all of the Marines I led, I couldn’t have asked for a better squad. Those Forgotten Bastards gave the enemy hell the entire deployment.

    Sgt DePrimo

    USMC 06-11

    3/6 India Co 3rd Plt 3rd Sqd

  3. thank you for sharing this, i remember all too well! it was the beginning of a new life for alot of us & im proud to say that today, i am a part of soo many of the bravest people in the whole entire world. i personally wasnt there but i pray god brings peace to each & everyone that was there. thank you marjah marines! honey… ilumtaitwww!

  4. 7 months of adversity, hardships, frequent ambushes, and tiny isolated outposts. Looking back now it was the best, and most definatley the worst time of my life. Glad to have shared those times with the craziest, most rediculous Marines of 1/6 Coldsteel. RIP to our fallen brothers, we will never forget.

  5. Dave Abrahamse (Cpl.) on

    I was with Bronco (CAAT 1, 1/6 Weapons Co.) on the outskirts of Marjah during the insert. I remember seeing the 53’s flying overhead that night carrying my brothers into the heart of enemy territory. We were attached to Cold Steel (Charlie Co.) And sleeping in trucks while they slept in foxholes in the freezing weather. A few days later we inserted in a huge convoy and watched the lead route clearence element find over 100 IED’s and blow like 5 line charges. It was awesome! After that it was up and down. We lost 13 men throughout the deployment including my platoon commander Captain Brandon Barrett on 5 May, 2010. I’ll never forget that day, more so than the rest. I wasn’t in Fallujah but I know Marines that were there and it’s an honor to have been part of an operation mentioned in the same sentence as Fallujah and the Marines there. Semper Fi!

  6. 1/6 Laredo (81s) CAAT section. I drove lead vehicle for the route recon of the ground insert. Once that was mapped out we lead Coldsteel along the route just before D-day. Then watched as they passed us by to follow route clearance into the city. A cold and frustrating day. The other section of 81s was airlifted into the city with Bravo Co. I remember we all just wanted to get into the fight as soon as possible. Instead we watched route clearance slowly make its way passed a multitude of IEDs and awful terrain. On day two or three we were finally fighting in support of Alpha Co. Months later we were sick to death of it all and just wanted to go home. I’ll never forget it.

  7. 1/6 81s dismounted section. We got put in with bravo at their main fob when we finally got a mission. While we had it up and running just waiting on approval with just about all of bravo watchin an RPG comes arching over the wall. Time at this moment slowed down for me. I remember in great detail everything I saw. Everyone scattered like cockroaches when a light comes on. Then it was like someone turned of the sound to the world. No one moved. No one breathed. We just waited for the explosion that we knew had to come. Turns out the Taliban didnt remember to pull the pin. As we were waiting for EOD to blow the thing I opened a fresh pack of Newports, and handed out the whole thing. Smoker or not then it didn’t matter we had just cheated death and we knew it.

  8. Wow. It’s amazing to hear these first hand accounts. My youngest son was there and lost one of his best friends during that operation. Thankfully, my son came home, went and come home again most likely for the last time.

    God bless all the Marjah Marines.

  9. Vincent Liberatore on

    Sitting around after the first day ended and deciding to rename it unofficially to operation bloody Valentine, standing in an open field in the darkness long enough to see the sun rise fully until supplies that were airdropped were figured out while hearing rumours that the enemy saw us but thought it w as too cold to fight that day. Trading warming layers for water, being told to not pack so much ammo because if we shot well we “wouldn’t need it”. Misfired javelin missiles. Not caring that I was providing overwatch on a roof with a bright red blanket because id rather stay warm then hidden… Too many memories to wrote them all… And of course Tyler roades

    3/6 kilo wpns plt 1st plt 1st squad attachment

  10. Broughton aka BDB on

    This is a day that i will never forget. Especially getting on the birds in the middle of the night not knowing what to expect. We all knew what we were getting into but not the full extent of how bad it was going to be. All i know is we lost a few good men in this fight but also killed many of the enemy. Andd ya i was on the squad that pushed to the supplies that were dropped way off target and would have to say that that was one of the many scariest moments i have had. Pure adrenalin is a high that i have never felt before and will probably never have again in the midst of war, and comraderee was the only thing that kept us together. I think that is what makes Marines so unique in tough times war has to offer because we are all suffering together and always expect the worst. I do have to say that i agree with Libo about staying warm is sometimes better then not being seen. Eating chickens, sheep, eggs, and bread and rice that the afghan army would provide for us so we could eat because we were all out of food. Water bottle showers, and everything else that comes with being in the shit.

    3/6 Kilo Wpns Plt attatched to 3rd Plt

  11. Hating the COC on

    Valentines day is about love. People often throw fate in with love. Two years ago on this very day I was inserted into a little town that wasnt even on the map. It was the largest helicopter insertion the Marine Corps has conducted since Vietnam. The Marines that fought in this Operation will be forever known as “Marjah Marines” for me, you will forever be known as a brother. Valentines Day has lost its meaning for me in the sense of buying something to show my love, because the love that I experienced on this day cannot be bought. It was the love of standing next to a brother in combat willing to take that bullet so others may see their family again. For my brothers that are here and those we will never forget I am truly honored and grateful I was able to serve with you. Semper Fidelis.

  12. I was with Bravo company second platoon, we got hit hard as soon as the sun came up. My company was helo inserted into the middle of the city, it to us all day to move 1000 yards. It was a shoot out all day and that continued for the next couple days. I was shoot in the head on Feb. 15th and a few minutes later my fellow team leader got hit from a blast by an rpg. It was a rough deployment for us all.

  13. (“Henry Update,” Feb. 12, 2010, to kin and friends)

    In case you’ve not heard the news tonight, the assault on Marjah has started. I think that Henry’s Company, Alpha, along with others of the 1/6, was “inserted” by helicopters into the center of Marjah around 2 AM, Feb. 13 their time (4:30 PM, Feb. 12, for us). Henry’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Cal Worth, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal two hours ago as saying, “The people of Marjah will wake up to a new Afghan government tomorrow.” My hunch is they’re already awake! The only thing I know for sure right now is that this Marjah assault is a significant event in life for Henry, both from the danger he’s in and because it’s something he’s committed to. He believes this is an historic battle, because it’s the start of a campaign to turn Afghanistan around in our favor. And he believes that in taking part in it, he is doing something that matters. I remember a talk we had here at home before he left on deployment. I asked him what he thought about being in the Marine Corps, now that he had a year and a half of it under his belt. Putting it simply, which is his way, he held up a hand and said that on this side there were a thousand reasons why he wanted to get out. Then he held up his other hand and said that on the other there were just two or three reasons why he wanted to stay in, but that the two or three reasons outweighed all the others. When I asked what one of the heavy reasons was, he said, with a big, sincere smile, “Pride in belonging.” (That is, in belonging to the Corps.)

  14. Watched GySgt EJ Pate and Sgt Johnny Morris lead our company into hell like they were walking through the French Creek PX.

    Watched Marines give up warming layers to their buddies even though they were on the brink of hypothermia themselves.

    Watched a company full of Marines who had never seen combat fight their way through the largest operation since the invasion of Afghanistan like it was what they were born to do.

    For the rest of my life nothing will ever make me more proud than to say I fought with the “Marjah Marines.”

    Capt Jackson Smith

    3d Plt Commander, India 3/6

  15. I will never forget the day that the news announced the war in Marjah had begun, knowing that my son was part of that. I was frozen in front of the tv – I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breathe. The same day my son left for Afghanistan his twin left for bootcamp. My boy became a man that day. He was India co that time. The war is worn on the brunt of our youth. Words can not express the pride I have for my sons and the appreciation for Battle Rattle – we parents would scour the internet for information. Wanting to hear from our sons knowing that no news is good news but not leaving our phones out of our site for the phone call that they would say “Hi Ma” – learned to say I love you first incase the call dropped and sending care packages to him and those not getting much mail. Those of us not there will never know what all they went through but this I know, I am damn proud of every single last one of them.

  16. That was the worst 7 months I have ever lived thru. The not knowing if he was ok or not was the worst. Then we got the phone call that our Marine had been injured. I felt my heart hit the floor. But thank God he came home with little injury. Like Deidra, the internet is where I stayed for those 7 months. The 2nd tour was worse because there wasnt any news at all. But thank God they made it home and can move on. Thanks to all our troops for your service.

  17. 2/6, Scout Sniper Platoon. Just want to give a shout out to everyone else who shared some of the craziest months of their lives in this battle. May we never forget our brothers who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

    Doc Fite

  18. randy hernandez on

    7 months of our lives that many will not understand and we will never forget. to never forgetting the fallen and forever remembering the things we overcame. the brotherhoods built there will never be broken and it changed many people for the rest of their lives

  19. This was a day we will all never forget.

    I was a Squad Leader in Bravo company 1/6.

    From day one surrounded by the Taliban, many brothers injured and killed. Our experienced are remembered as if it was just yesterday. So vivid.

    Worst Deployment ever but couldn’t say i would wana do it with any other men then the ones we had with us there. great leaders, great Marines, Great Brotherhood.

    Injured on April 4th 2010 IED Changed my life again forever!!

    Never forget those who we lost.

    Forever and always, MARJAH MARINES..

    Semper Fidelis

    Sgt Hernandez

    1/6 Bravo Co. 1st PLt

  20. Few remember that in support of 1/6 was Fox company 2/5. Fox’s contribution was just a couple weeks after the main invasion were they operated in the upheld territory of south west Marjah. Its was there that they were an invaluable piece of the Marjah operation and one of the best times of my life.

  21. I just remember lying in a fighting hole on Super Bowl sunday (among other things like the previous night’s godawful hailstorm) with my good friend who just happened to be a Saints fan (in case nobody remembers that was the year they almost went undefeated). After the coldest night of my life we woke up to blistering winds and frost everywhere only for him to look at me and say, “Saints must’ve won, hell just froze over” lol classic.

  22. As much of a pog as this makes me sound i am truely proud to say that i was in support for this operation. We had waited almost our whole deployment in anticipation for it to kick off. It was a hell of a feeling rolling down streets that were still contested turf. It was really the only place that whole deployment that we saw any kinetic activity other than IEDs. Its crazy that 2 years later im back here again and now we can roll down the streets of marjah without a care in the world.

    CLB-1 Motor-T. Co. 3rd Platoon. “Dirty Third”

  23. Chris Sturdevant on

    Oorah 3/6 WPNS. I’ve spent some time in Iraq and the push through Marjah. Got mortared every day around 1600 for the first couple weeks inching our way to our mortar pos to support the ’11s during the invasion. Almost got shot in the head by a snipers, and almost mowed down my machine gun fire. What I can’t stand though is how nobody remembers what we did in Marjah except those who have been there. We really are the ‘Forgotten Bastards.’

  24. When I think of the beautiful marjah I think… Countless convoys, ied’s, and popi fields. Sleeping to the sound of artillery, fire fights and helicopters. Shitting in mre boxes while providing security outside the city…. Good times.. clb1/clc 111 motor transportation co. 2009-2010

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