Initial impressions from Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan

Blogging in Afghanistan

Reporter Dan Lamothe, above, and photographer Colin Kelly arrived at Camp Leatherneck on Tuesday and will most likely be embedded with elements of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines.

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That holds true on this vast forward operating base, which photographer Colin Kelly and I arrived at this afternoon. It still serves as the main hub of Marine operations in Afghanistan, even after thousands of Marines were withdrawn from Helmand province this summer.

We flew here on a British C-130, spending more than an hour in the air from Kabul International Airport. The flight included about 30 British troops and a handful of Estonians, among others.

After spending all of April and part of May embedded in Helmand, I don’t exactly need a tour guide here anymore. Still, it’s interesting to see the nuanced things that have changed at the base. For example, the headquarters for Regimental Combat Team 6 moved here this summer as part of the drawdown. It now oversees units in both northern and southern Helmand as they advise the Afghan military and police force, which is still growing and maturing.

I mentioned in a blog entry last week that we expected to be embedding with elements of 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., but that plan appears to have changed due to the needs of the Corps. It’s now more likely we’ll spend time with elements of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. The unit, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., is distributed across several districts in central and southern Helmand.

British sign

Bag security is a major concern at Kabul International Airport.

A few other footnotes:

  • When you travel in a war zone, you have to find humor in the small things. It’s for that reason that I was amused to see a flyer at the military camp in Kabul advertising lessons in Zumba, a high-energy aerobics workout that doesn’t exactly speak to the stereotypical alpha male. I didn’t see it catching on with the military, but what do I know?
  • The Brits posted the sign (see photo) in their airport terminal. Clearly, they’re concerned about bag security. Very, very concerned.
  • In just a few hours at Camp Leatherneck, I’ve already heard three Marines say how badly they hope to meet Prince Harry, who is deployed here on Camp Bastion, the British side of the base. That includes two females and one male, for the record. I know, I know. He’s so dreamy.

As always, thanks for reading. As things pop up, we’ll keep posting throughout our embed.


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. Gary Sosnowski on

    Dan & Colin

    Thanks again for another “trip” to the field and your first hand reporting. If you can sneak in any reports from the War Dogs of the 2/7 that would be much appreciated. And, please pass on a huge THANK YOU to ALL the TROOPS!!!


  2. Marie Campbell on

    Your reporting/blogging helps us here in the States feel more connected. Thank you! Looking forward to reading future articles.

    All the best,

  3. Steve Bradshaw on

    Thanks for all the insight! I second the other poster’s comments…would love to hear some updates on the 2/7’s.

  4. Just found your blog! My brother his starting his 7-month assignment now at Camp Leatherneck, so I will stay tuned through your words! We are fervently praying for all of you-for safety & effectiveness in your work, so that you can all come home soon!! A HUGE thank you to all of you – our heroes there who courageously and sacrificially serve and defend our country! Blessings!

  5. I just found your Blog. My son is also with the 2/7 as a combat engineer. It’s been so difficult to get any recent news, any info or photos you can get would be greatly appreciated.

  6. What has been happening there since the attack on 9/14?? Are you near the airfield, and have you seen the damage?

  7. When do the elements of the 2/7 scattered around the northern Helmand prov. ever rotate back to Camp Leatherneck? Is it possible to get mail to them? Will they get internet service? How do we communicate with our loved ones?

  8. hope your plans to be with the Marines from Camp Pendleton happen….my Marine was imbedded with the 1st MLG-Fwd….and is with CLR-15 at Camp Leatherneck. Most of his unit did come home…. wonderful blog….please, please keep it up. Maureen’s Marine is there somewhere . . . . I hope you find him !

  9. January — I’ve interviewed several people who responded to the attack for a story that will be out in a week or so. The base is fully operational at this point.

    Jim, you should be able to get mail to your Marine through the supply chain. Typically, he’ll have a mailing address that will push stuff right to him (it just takes a while). I’d touch base with 2/7’s family readiness officer (FRO).

    Thanks to everyone else for the kind words. Glad to answer questions as I can out here. I’m in Khanashin district now with Marine advisers and 3/8.

  10. Gary Sosnowski on

    To Jim Key…as Dan said, contact the 2/7 Family Readiness Officer, Beth Olsen. If you are registered with e-marine you can access the Deployment Package for many specifics and the mail address is listed right on the main page. If you are not registerd with e-marine, please contact Beth and she will help you out. Her phone number is available on the “generic” 2/7 website. Just ask if you have more questions and perhaps I can help you out!!

  11. Thanks for all your help. He “moved out “so fast. I got very little information. It sounds like he’s with CLR 37 which is attached to the 2/7. I’m currently looking for a connection there. Thanks again, just like to know where my boy (man) is.

  12. still hoping to find my son . . . LCPL Valenzi…CLR-15 unit 42170…from Camp Pendleton….he is H & S co. . . . .no word from him in a very long time . . . . thank you…if you can help ! even just a photo ! we love ALL Marines, Ian’s mom and Dad

  13. OK, now rethink your comment about Alpha Males and Zumba. A class, in a war zone, where the women wear less clothes, and bounce A LOT…. where would be the draw there for a male with nothing but dudes around him all day? The class is usually full, as is the “abs class” (really should be called Core Training) the hour before it.

  14. Sand n’ snakes – we had the latter; you have the former – Watch your six and get back here to The World – this old sailor will buy the beer… you earned it.


    RVN x2

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