Marine Corps Times embeds in Afghanistan’s Sangin district


Marine military intelligence advisers working with the Afghan Army's 215th Corps meet for lunch on a floating dock on the Narah Sarj canal on FOB Sabit Qadam (formerly FOB Jackson) in Sangin, Helmand province, Afghanistan on Thursday. (James J. Lee / Staff)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SABIT QADAM, Afghanistan — Ladies and gentlemen, Marine Corps Times has moved on to cover infantry operations at the heart of the war in Helmand province.

Photographer James Lee and I arrived at this FOB last night, embedding in Sangin district with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. The base was known until recently as FOB Jackson, but coalition forces have elected to give it and several other Sangin bases names with Afghan roots, said Lt. Col. David Bradney, 1/7’s commander. Sabit Qadam translates loosely from Pashto to “constant” or “stronghold,” interpreters here said.

Sangin, of course, is one of the most notorious areas of operations in Afghanistan. British forces arrived here in 2006 and lost more than 100 service members over the next four years. The district was turned over to 1/7’s sister battalion – 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, out of Twentynine Palms – in summer 2010. The Marines bulldozed a number of British patrol bases and overhauled a strategy devoted less toward patrolling and more toward holding down the fort.

That fall, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., arrived in Sangin. They faced the single most costly battalion deployment of the Afghan war over the next seven months. More than 30 Marines with 3/5 were killed in action, and an additional 200 were severely wounded.

Violence has subsided over the last few months, but the overall U.S. toll in Sangin is staggering. More than 50 Marines have been killed here in fewer than two years. At least 500 more have been severely wounded. In practical terms, a half of a battalion in amputees has been created here.

The question now: Has Sangin turned a corner or not? Top military officers suggested the district was heading toward pacification last spring, but violence exploded here in June after the poppy season ended. Pendleton’s 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, fought a stubborn insurgency throughout the summer before turning the district over to 3/7 again.

Bradney said in an interview that 3/7 did a “masterful” job of denying IED emplacement through surveillance and quick strikes on insurgents caught in the process. Marines with 1/7 have continued many of 3/7’s counter-IED efforts, leading insurgents in the region to step up attacks with small arms and hand grenades recently, the battalion commander said.

“They’re trying to put them in the ground, but it’s not working for them,” Bradney said of the IEDs. “They’re trying to figure out what else works.”

Marine Corps Times will visit grunts with 1/7 in coming days, seeing the war through their eyes as best we can. The poppy harvest is currently underway, making it an interesting time to get out on patrol.

Bradney said his advice to Marines here has been clear.

“One of the things I keep telling the Marines is ‘Don’t be complacent,’” he said. “Even now, there’s still a level of activity here that will keep you on your toes.”


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. All families of 1/7 Charley Co are praying for our sons. God, please keep them safe and send them ALL home. I love you Steve, stay safe.

  2. ANIMALS stay strong, be safe, trust your training, and never get complacent. You’ve got this. We will be here when you ALL come home – Love ALL the Moms, Dads, Spouses, GFs, and families supporting ANIMAL and all of the 1/7… We couldn’t be prouder or more thankful for your service. OohRah!

  3. Added to my prayer book, and invite y’all to join USMC prayer warriors on FB. God Bless the Marines and their families.

  4. To the brave men of Baker Company and my son in H & S, our prayers are with you daily…even hourly. You are not forgotten! I love you all.

  5. Oh my, I am so excited, finally at 1/7!!! I am so eager to hear any news you are able to provide. It helps to know how to pray more specifically.
    Praise God for you Dan for doing this for all us parents who want to just get a glimpse of our boys and see a little of what their world is like.
    To all the Marines out there, praying Psalm 91 over you…God’s mighty protection!!
    Say ‘Hi’ to my boy in H&S Co., God bless and I love you!!!

  6. Aminal Company, stay strong, dig deep and do what needs to be done!!! We are all very rpoud of you, miss you and love you tons!!

  7. ~ SO grateful for the info!! Am always in prayer for my son & all his brothers!!! Please get us some info on the 17 MWD handlers; communication is slow- would love to see some pictures!! To all of you Marines fighting for my freedom -THANK YOU!!! Please say “HI” to the boys of 17 Animal!!

  8. God Bless ALL of 1/7! Animal be safe, to my son…we are thinking and praying at every moment until your safe return. Thank you for your sacrifices you endure daily you are AMAZING! Semper Fi!

  9. Giving a shout out to the boys of Animal Company!!! Stay safe and kick butt!! Lookin forward to any reporting on these boys out there in the desert. Ooh rah!!!

  10. James McKendree on

    For you boys with 1/7 Animal in Sangin, your sister battalion, 2/7 (Echo Co) operated out of FOB Sabit Qadam (Jackson) back in 2008. Three outstanding Marines paid the ultimate price in that place- may God watch over each of you, and we will be praying for you all. We know how difficult your fight is there, and we are there with you, daily, in our steadfast prayers of protection and courage. I know yall have no shortage of the latter. Semper Fidelis.

  11. Steven's Mom on

    Couldn’t be prouder of what you are doing! Partriots one and all!!
    Love the new name for your FOB!

    We love you and continue to pray for you daily until you finally get to come HOME!

    Be safe Son!! Love, MA

  12. Wow… Thank you so much for any news you can give and pics of the 1/7!!! To the courageous 1/7 in Sangin…thank you for being a gift to the world. What persistence and courage you possess!!! Praying Psalm 91 over you for God’s mighty protection, discernment and sound mind. Take good care and I love you my son in the H&S Co!!!

  13. Stay strong,stay armed, stay safe, I second Cristy Pellegrini. I pray for a safe return for all. Your family anxiously looks forward to seeing you Joe. Lv Mom

  14. Hello to all you guys, especially any serving in what used to be known as FOB Jackson in Helmand province. I served there in 2009/2010 before you guys took over and it was a hell-hole. I hope you’ve managed to carry on from where we left off and I’d like to pass on my respects to all of you and your families too. From a British soldier to the US Marines I wish you all the best and I’ll pass on the advice given to me when I joined up many many years ago – They can’t make you pregnant, they can’t take your birthdays away, Christmas will always be Christmas and your mother will always love you so soldier on. Our thoughts are with you all.

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