Much of the recent media attention in Afghanistan’s Helmand province has focused on the announced turnover of units in and around volatile Sangin district.
That’s certainly newsworthy, but there are certainly other units in northern Helmand still in the fight. One that deserves to be spotlighted is 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, an artillery unit out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The Marine Corps has released several reports from the unit in the last few days, focusing on their operations in Kajaki district. Noteworthy for its hydroelectric dam that provides power in southern Afghanistan, it received attention on this blog in October when a series of a painful, touching photographs were published before and after the death of Cpl. Jorge Villarreal.
At the time, Kajaki was patrolled by 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, another artillery unit from Camp Pendleton, Calif. As this report notes, 2/10 has stayed busy since taking over:
Situated along the Helmand River to the north of the volatile Sangin District, Kajaki is blessed with natural scenery. Rocky hills rise above the ‘green zone,’ a winding area of irrigated farmland. The Helmand River flows into the Kajaki Dam near here. There are foaming rapids and a sparkling reservoir. In the fields, farmers grow wheat alongside opium-producing poppy. The latter is currently in full bloom, coloring the area with vivid pinks, whites and reds.
Despite its lush appearance, Kajaki has long been an area under threat by insurgents. The counterinsurgency campaign in Kajaki revolves mostly around the dam and the communities surrounding it, said Cpl. John T. Gizzi, 21, an assistant squad leader from Tucketon, N.J.
“With the way the insurgents influence the people, they’d like to control the dam and its power output so they can tax it,” he explained.
Artillerymen have been called on to do standard infantry jobs in the past, including during some of the worst fighting in Fallujah, Iraq. Kajaki will be one more community to assess for progress as the summer fighting season kicks in.