Reality check: Nearly 40 Marines killed in Sangin since September


Hospitalman Stephen Wescott, of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, provides security during a Jan. 10 patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury)

Greetings, readers. It was a slow week on Battle Rattle last week while I covered SHOT Show in Las Vegas for sister blog Gear Scout, but things are back to normal now. 

I’d like to start by pointing out the excellent piece published yesterday by the Los Angeles Times about the sacrifices made and dedication show by Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan. It’s can’t-miss reading for anyone following the war there with any interest. 

Several details in the story, by longtime military correspondent Tony Perry, stuck out as noteworthy or relatively new. Some are heartbreaking. Others are heartening. Consider the following: 

  • The report puts the number of casualties in 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., at 24. An additional 140 others have been wounded, with numerous Marines losing limbs and a handful becoming triple-amputees.

  • Four additional Marines from battalions clearing roads and detonating IEDs in the area also have been killed, Perry reports. Not noted in the story: 3/5 was preceded in Sangin by 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. That unit had a relatively quiet deployment until it was called on to take over Sangin from British forces in September. They sustained five casualties and more than 150 wounded there, before turning the area over in October, 3/7 Marines said.

  • A rifle company from 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., was redeployed a month ago to Sangin. Three Marines with the company died within days. The unit has been based mostly in and around Marjah, the former Taliban stronghold in central Helmand where firefights were common last summer before Marines began to tame the area.

  • As previously reported on Battle Rattle, Marines with the 26th MEU — primarily 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines — will soon deploy to the Sangin area.

That’s a lot for anyone to wrap their head around. In total, it also means that nearly 40 Marines have died in Sangin since 3/7 took over for British forces in September. 

One last note: A concerned writer noted recently on the Wounded Times blog that a “Prayer Request for Darkhorse” that circulated widely through social networking sites like Facebook included inaccuracies. The request appeared to be based on my October story about the initial casualties that 3/5 sustained

I don’t know how, why or where my initial story with accurate names was adapted, but I assume it was by somebody with the best of intentions. The important thing to note is that while 3/5 did sustain nine casualties in lightning-quick fashion in October, the Marines in Sangin are still in a life-and-death struggle, and deserve to be kept in our thoughts and prayers.


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. I asked my son who is in the 3/5 if he had any prayer requests. Yes. PROTECTION! And he and his fellow Marines greatly appreciate everyone’s prayers and support. It keeps them going and gives them the strength and motivation to keep doing their missions, even as their friends are killed or severely injured.

  2. My husband will be there in sangin soon and I am praying for the men and women in 3/5 everyday! I also pray that my husbands deployment will be a safe return!

  3. Not the article I wanted to read as my 3/8 son heads there, but I appreciate the information and appreciate the prayers even more. Looks like we will all be needing them.

  4. Hey Dan. Read all your postings. I responded 2 or 3 times to that article, was by namguardianangle. she used copy of yours along with her own opinions and was hard to figure the who and what of it had no idea of accurace of names, but the prayer requests were being posted on TWS probably near same time as your article which had been question. she was questioning 9 verses list of twelve listed, 3 of 12 were not marines so much for the math. TWS has all military included in their prayers. We happen to know some of the 3/5 and message them often.
    I had just sent moto mail to the squad that I adopted in Echo 2/1 because I felt it important they know whats a
    happening with other units. In Nam we hardly had info on the other platoons in my company
    keep updating its value and appreciated. email if you want


  5. My son was with 2/9 Echo who redeployed to Sangin. Definitely not a place you would like for your loved one to be. I am resting easy as he is finally out of there and will be home next month. I will continue to pray for those who have to be there.

  6. My son was attached to the 3/7. You are correct that the 3/7 moved from Nimroz to Sangin near the end of their deployment. However, I don’t think it is correct that they had 6 KIA in Sangin. I read the DOD press releases every day, and my recollection is that the 3/7 suffered 4 KIA during the whole deployment; 3 of those were early in the deployment, as is, unfortunately, typical. Perhaps there were 6 Marine casualties during the time that the 3/7 was in Sangin? If so, those were other units, not 3/7 Marines.

  7. Ken,

    I doublechecked with Marine officials at Camp Leatherneck. They have five 3/7 casualties recorded in Sangin. I’ve updated the story. Several rank-and-file 3/7 Marines had told us it was six.

  8. Well, unless I am completely deranged, I have to assume that this includes Marines, such as Engineers, who maybe were embedded with or attached to the 3/7, but not identified as 3/7 in the DOD casualty announcement. The DOD did identify a 3/7 Marine, Lcpl Robert Newton, who died on August 23, but no casualty in September or October was identified as 3/7. Other Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice during these months are identified as 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 3rd Combat Assault Battalion, etc. Lcpl Ralph Fabbri from the 1MarDiv HQ Btn died on 09/28. I assume some of these Marines must have been with the 3/7 in Sangin. In which case, I’m glad I did not know this while my son was still in Sangin.

  9. Pingback: Battle Rattle - A Marine Corps Times Blog – 3/4 Marines deploy to Afghanistan

  10. I should not have read this article… my fiance is in 3/4 and it sounds like they might be heading to Sangin during this deployment.

  11. how about prayers for the marines of 2/9 who had “cleared up” margrah and then re-deployed to Sangin for the 3/5 and ending up dying 3 weeks short of coming home..1 was my son & why…we heard from men in 2/9

  12. the 2/9

    the 2/9
    had 15 KIA, 3 after being redeployd to Sangin…they should not have been son died there when his family had made plans for his home coming..they had only 2 weeks before being pulled back..why couldn’t the 3/5 have defended themselves

  13. echo 2/8 deployed to sangin in mid january, to give support to 3/5 marines. echo remained in sangin for there entire deployment. in transit as we speak back to N.C. WELL DONE! SAFE HOME

  14. Pingback: Battle Rattle - A Marine Corps Times Blog – 3/4 Marines will be replaced in Afghanistan by British forces

  15. My thoughts and prayers go out to all military men and women and their families deployed around the world. My son is in Sangin with 1/5 , since he has been there he has become a father of a baby girl and will spend his 36th birthday there before returning home in October. I know there are hundreds/thousands of such stories like that could be told. All these men and women are making great sacrifices, some have made the ultimate sacrifice.

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