Browsing: Infantry

Last week, I broke a story reporting that some 28,000 personnel will be authorized to wear the Presidential Unit Citation ribbon for serving under Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. It’s prestigious, unit-level recognition of the sacrifices that thousands of Marines made as the U.S. ramped up the war in Afghanistan more than two years ago. Today, Maj. Gen. Larry Nicholson weighed in on the honor. He commanded the MEB as a one-star commander, and is back in Afghanistan now serving as the operations officer for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command based in Kabul. Nicholson had the…

Sgt. Rafael Peralta’s case for the Medal of Honor has shifted again, according to a congressman who has pressed the Pentagon to review new evidence that he says shows the Marine chose to smother a grenade to save his buddies in Iraq. Peralta, 25, died Nov. 15, 2004, in Fallujah. He was awarded the Navy Cross in 2008 for disregarding his own personal safety while already mortally wounded, pulling the grenade to his body, “absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away,” according to his award citation. Despite the extraordinary heroism, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates…

It was a matter of time. Marines in Afghanistan recently launched Operation Jaws, an effort to root out the Taliban in Zamindawar, an area of northern Helmand province that has been a hotbed for insurgent activity. The operation was headed by 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and ran from May 25 to June 9, according to this new Marine Corps news release. They targeted an area of Kajaki district that I wrote about several times while embedded there in April. As outlined in this previous story, Marines had been observing insurgents in Zamindawar for quite some…

I appeared on TV last night to discuss the war in Afghanistan and my recent embed with Marines there in Helmand province. “Capital Insider” is based in Washington, D.C., on News Channel 8, and covers a variety of subjects affecting the government, including defense. The segment aired here, where I fielded questions from anchor Morris  Jones. Among the subjects that came up: The use of surveillance blimps in Sangin and Kajaki districts, the ongoing drawdown of Marine forces in Helmand and the challenges still faced by the Afghan military that U.S. troops are training. [HTML1] Blog entries penned during our embed are grouped…

Sometimes, it takes months for U.S. troops to talk publicly about their own heroism. Take the case of Cpl. Winder Perez, for example. The 22-year-old Marine sustained a life-threatening wound from a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan on Jan. 12, but survived when the ordnance didn’t explode. His life still hung in the balance, though — the wounds were serious, and the possibility of the RPG exploding while embedded in him remained. That’s the story the military shared in a news release it produced last week. It credited an New Mexico National Guard helicopter crew with risking their lives to rush…

When I’m in Afghanistan, I have what some people may consider an odd habit: closely inspecting memorial tributes developed by the troops, for the troops. They come in many sizes, shapes and colors. There are murals. There are photographs. And there certainly are battlecrosses, which serve as the centerpiece of many memorial ceremonies that deployed Marines hold for their fallen brothers and sisters. Each of these tributes captures a story of sacrifice, pain and sadness. Conversely, they show a sobering sense of pride in the honor and dedication displayed by those who gave the last full measure of devotion. I…

Gen. John Allen met with the media at the Pentagon yesterday, wrapping up a whirlwind week in the U.S. highlighted by the NATO summit in Chicago. To say he took some hardball questions would be an understatement. With the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan underway, Allen was asked how troops will be withdrawn, whether he was concerned about force protection as troops are pulled and if the U.S.’s thorny relationship with Pakistan could undermine the war effort. Allen countered by saying he’s confident progress has been, but acknowledged the relationship with Pakistan needs serious work, especially after miscommunication and…

In a significant shift, the Marine Corps has replaced a full infantry battalion in Afghanistan with a single company — another sign that a drawdown in forces there is well underway. Third Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, returned home over the last week from Helmand province. They’ll hold a ceremony early Thursday to mark the end of its last combat deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to this report. The battalion was replaced in Afghanistan’s Garmser district by Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. The district was the site of heavy combat…

Smile, Taliban. The Marines are watching you. As mentioned in my new story outlining the current fight in Afghanistan’s volatile Sangin district, Marine forces in northern Helmand province are using tethered “spy blimps” to watch for insurgent activity. The most common is the Precision Ground Surveillance System, a 70-foot aerostat balloon that floats over many combat outposts up and down Route 611 from Sangin to Kajaki. Army Times colleague Lance Bacon wrote about their capabilities last month. First Battalion, 7th Marines, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif., also has one larger Persistent Threat Detection System, which carries hundreds of pounds of…

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