SANGIN, Afghanistan — Senior Writer Dan Lamothe and I made it down to Forward Operating Base Shamsher this weekend, joining Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.
Today, we joined a patrol with 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, through through Sangin’s “Green Zone,” an agricultural area that runs adjacent to the Helmand River. The patrol rolled out with several extra Marines, including Lt. Col. David Bradney, battalion commander, and Sgt. Maj. Keith Coombs, the senior enlisted adviser for the unit.
The patrol began to take on the air of a parade when we were joined in the fields by local children and barnyard animals. Soldiers with the Afghan National Army, their weapons brightly decorated, interacted with them regularly, joking with the kids while music played on transistor radios. The whole entourage snaked its way carefully through the poppy and wheat fields.
The Marines of 1st Squad were encouraged by all the activity, guessing that if an enemy threat were imminent, the local youth would have been absent from the festivities.
Still, 1st Squad maintained tight discipline through it all, highly aware of the blood that has been shed here by previous units. They understand that despite today’s festive atmosphere, the mood can change in an instant. The harvest is wrapping up, and Afghanistan’s traditional fighting season is expected to start any day.