Author Dan Lamothe

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.

Recent news coverage of the war in Afghanistan has zeroed in on the fact that as U.S. force draw down there and shift to advising roles, Afghan forces have been engaged in heavy combat with the Taliban. U.S. commanders have acknowledged several times that Afghan forces have taken heavy losses as a result, but rarely have provided numbers that clarify how serious the situation is. There’s no doubt after Wednesday, however: they’re losing dozens of troops each week, including 104 in one week recently, said Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. commander, to reporters in Belgium on Wednesday. “The numbers…

Check out this photograph above. It shows the modest chow hall at Combat Outpost Taghaz, a small combat outpost in Afghanistan where I lived with Marines for about a week last fall while gathering information for a couple of stories. The adviser team shared the base with a platoon from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, which provided overwatch security in the region. I bring this up after reading today that some service members at Camp Leatherneck, the Marine Corps’ largest base in Afghanistan, are angry that commanders have apparently decided to dump the midnight ration service and 24-hour sandwich bar in…

As noted here on Battle Rattle last week, the arrival of fighting season in Afghanistan this year has meant a series of attacks in Helmand province, especially in Sangin district. Fighting has been underway there for several days straight, with Taliban fighters attacking Afghan forces repeatedly. Maj. Gen. W. Lee Miller, the top commander in southwestern Afghanistan, briefed the media from his headquarters at Camp Leatherneck yesterday (A transcript of that conversation is available here). A couple key takeaways: Heavy fighting in Sangin is back For much of late 2010 and 2011, the war in Sangin dominated media coverage of…

Marine Corps Times’ cover story this week dives deeply into an issue that has rubbed a number of Marines raw, following the recent publication of news stories about a pending inspector general complaint filed against Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and several members of his staff. The complaint, among other issues, questioned whether the commandant showed preferential treatment to then-Maj. James B. Conway, the son of retired Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, as the Marine Corps investigated Marines caught on video urinating on the remains of dead Taliban fighters. The complaint, filed by Maj. James Weirick, a staff judge advocate with…

The start of the 12th fighting season for U.S. forces in Afghanistan has meant continued transition for Marines in Helmand province — including mostly standing by as the Taliban launches attacks in the region. A large number of Taliban insurgents, along with foreign fighters, tried to overrun Sangin district this week, prompting a two-day engagement with Afghan National Security Forces, military officials said. The fight was outlined by a Wall Street Journal reporter in Afghanistan this week, launching it into the limelight. In past years — even last year — Marines would have been in the middle of the fracas.…

Bonnie Amos, the wife of Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, has taken her work to Facebook. The First Lady of the Marine Corps’ page was launched online recently, and pointed out by Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett on Twitter today. Mrs. Amos page is online at www.facebook.com/BonnieAmosFLOTMC. In an introductory post, Mrs. Amos said she is “catching up with the times” and launched the page to reach as many Marine Corps families as possible. “My hope is that this allows for quick and effective communication with all of you Marine Corps Families out there to keep you posted…

Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett visited Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore last week, intent on seeing Army Sgt. Brendan Marrocco, the first American serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to survive a quadruple amputation. As I outlined in this feature story, the trip renewed a friendship between the commandant and the soldier, a wise-cracking infantryman with an (unfortunate) love of the New York Yankees. In December, he became the first veteran of this generation’s wars to receive a double-arm transplant, and he has pushed hard with his physical therapy since. Marrocco doesn’t yet…

One week after the deployment of the Marine Corps’ new crisis-response force for Africa began, additional details about it are starting to surface. The six MV-22B Ospreys supporting the unit are from Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., according to a Marine Corps news release published today. Elements of the unit, commanded by Lt. Col. Christian Harshberger, arrived at Morón Air Base, Spain, on Saturday after making a 15-hours transcontinental flight from the U.S. They arrived with two KC-130J tanker planes that will support the unit during the deployment. Commandant Gen. Jim Amos…

Gen. John Allen formally stepped into retirement Monday, moving on after more than 30 years in the Marine Corps with a ceremony at the Naval Academy. Allen already had been described as “retired” numerous times, but he was still on active duty through this week, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out yesterday. Likewise, Gen. James Mattis has turned over his post as the head of U.S. Central Command to Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, but Mattis won’t formally retire until June. Marine Corps Times profiled him last month. Allen’s actual retirement ceremony seems to have been conducted outside the limelight.…

Two Marines died and six AV-8B Harrier planes were destroyed last fall after 15 insurgents attacked Camp Bastion. It marked one of the most brazen and high-profile security incidents on a major forward operating base in 11 years of war in Afghanistan. Immediately afterward, the majority of the news coverage focused on the heroism displayed that Sept. 14 night in squashing the attack. That certainly deserved attention. As I outlined from Camp Bastion last fall, hundreds of Marines and other coalition forces scrambled to root out well-trained enemy that, after breaching the wire, not only destroyed aircraft, but also opened…

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