Browsing: Infantry

More than 237 years ago, the Marine Corps was born at a bar in Philadelphia’s Tun Tavern. No matter: top brass is getting serious about squashing binge drinking. This week’s Marine Corps Times cover story focuses on the service’s new initiative: requiring surprise breathalyzer tests from Marines on duty. They’ll get them most frequently when they show up to work in the morning, and face additional testing, alcohol abuse counseling and other consequences if they’re identified as binge drinkers. This is the latest piece to the Corps’ war on alcohol abuse. As Marine Corps Times reported in August, the service…

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Nearly five years after Marines first kicked in the door in Helmand province, the area remains one Afghanistan’s most violent, according to a new Defense Department report released Monday. In fact, Helmand is home to Afghanistan’s most violent district — Nahr-e Saraj — and eight of the 10 most violent districts overall. Those details are outlined in a Pentagon publication released for Congress. Nahr-e Saraj was the site of 10 percent of all enemy initiated attacks in Afghanistan from April to October of this year despite being home to less…

Earlier today, my long-form narrative look at a Marine scout sniper mission in Afghanistan was posted on the free side of our website. It covers the ins and outs of a Taliban takedown while I was embedded with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, in Trek Nawa, Afghanistan, on Oct. 25. There’s a thread I didn’t mention in that piece that’s worth sharing here. Blackheart 2, a scout sniper team led by Sgt. Joshua Ott, took over a compound near Marjah occupied by a family with seven or eight children. As awkward as that is, that sort of decision is commonplace in…

Late last month while embedded with Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan, I was offered a rare opportunity: a chance to witness firsthand how scout snipers operate. As mentioned here on Battle Rattle a day later, the mission took us outside the wire in Trek Nawa, Afghanistan, a volatile area in between Marjah and Nawa districts. Elements of 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., have operated there since this this summer, training a company-sized unit with the Afghan National Army while tangling regularly with the Taliban. The mission deserved an old-fashioned, narrative telling. Marine Corps Times gave me…

The Marine Corps may have drawn down its forces in Afghanistan to less than 7,000 personnel this year, but they continue to run daring operations with the elite troops they have left. One of the latest examples is Operation Helmand Viper, a muscular effort to strike Taliban fighters in Zamindawar, a violent region between Musa Qala and Kajaki districts that we’ve covered several times on Battle Rattle this year. As this new Marine Corps news release points out, tanks with Bravo Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., rolled in support of special operators Oct. 19 to 27,…

TREK NAWA, Afghanistan – In the chilly dark night, a telltale sound made it clear the scout sniper team was inside the mud compound. CLINK. CLINK. CLINK. The Marines swung axes, hammers and other tools at the mud walls, preparing for a morning attack on Taliban fighters in the surrounding countryside. U.S. snipers use the tools to knock “murder holes” into a compound’s walls, creating “hides” from which they observe and engage targets. It has been widely reported that insurgents use the holes against coalition forces, but they’re not the only ones. It’s a smart tactic: The snipers can observe…

TREK NAWA, Afghanistan – In the chilly dark night, a telltale sound made it clear the scout sniper team was inside the mud compound. CLINK. CLINK. CLINK. The Marines swung axes, hammers and other tools at the mud walls, preparing for a morning attack on Taliban fighters in the surrounding countryside. U.S. snipers use the tools to knock “murder holes” into a compound’s walls, creating “hides” from which they observe and engage targets. It has been widely reported that insurgents use the holes against coalition forces, but they’re not the only ones. It’s a smart tactic: The snipers can observe…

PATROL BASE DETROIT, Afghanistan – There’s limited electricity and no plumbing here, but you won’t hear much complaining from the Marines who call this tiny outpost home. Patrol Base Detroit sits on the western side of volatile Trek Nawa, a relatively lawless region just east of Helmand province’s Marjah district. Marines here engaged in frequent firefights here until mid-October, when it appears the frigid temperatures at night led to the annual end of Afghanistan’s unofficial fighting season. They’re certainly still on the lookout for insurgent activity, but it appears the peak point has passed. Photographer Colin Kelly and I arrived…

COMBAT OUTPOST PASERLAY, Afghanistan — Once again, it’s time to get dirty. Marine Corps Times arrived at this dusty outpost today, moving in on a convoy from nearby Forward Operating Base Geronimo. That capped a 12-hour period that also saw photographer Colin Kelly and I hop a helicopter to Geronimo from Camp Leatherneck, the Corps’ largest base here in Helmand province. We’ve definitely moved to a place where things should be interesting. Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., is based here in Trek Nawa, a volatile rural section of Helmand nestled between Marjah and Nawa…

COMBAT OUTPOST TAGHAZ, Afghanistan – I was lifting weights Tuesday night in the dusty, prison-inspired gym here when Cpl. Byron Willis ran up to two of his fellow Marines. “The dog ate all the cigars!” he exclaimed. Willis, 24, was referring to Sgt. Crank, the improvised explosive device detector dog on post. Willis, Crank’s handler, and the black Labrador retriever are assigned to Weapons Company 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. The back story: A sergeant had teased Crank with a toy football earlier in the day but wouldn’t let him have it, Willis said today. When…

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