Browsing: Afghanistan

“The enemy is … on the run:” Afghan National Army declares victory amid fighting in Sangin

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Just last month, the Marine Corps executed a carefully planned pullout from Sangin district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a region best known as one of the most deadly battlegrounds of the war. I was on the ground with some of the units for the final withdrawal. Less than two months on, the news out of Sangin isn’t good: AP reports that some 27 people, including five civilians, have been killed since Sunday, when the Taliban launched an attack on police checkpoints in the district, swarming the region with between 800 and 1,0o0 enemy fighters. The fighting has also spread the…

Pimp My Ride: Afghanistan Edition

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During my last few days in Afghanistan, I got a behind-the-scenes look at a “dress rehearsal” for a large-scale training exercise the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps was planning at Camp Shorabak in Helmand province to showcase the Corps’ military training and enhance interoperability. The scale of the exercise was pretty impressive: it involved hundreds of Afghan soldiers, two of the 215th Corps’ Mi-17 helicopters, and over a dozen M1117 armored vehicles, plus Humvees and trucks. The M1117, used by the U.S. Army’s military police corps and the Army National Guard, has less armored protection than the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle,…

Arlington at 150 — Celebrating America’s Heroes

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Since the first military burial on May 13, 1864, Arlington National Cemetery has become the final resting place for more than 400,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and their families. Those who on Sept. 11, 2001, died only a few hundred yards away at the Pentagon are buried here, as are the Challenger astronauts. Fifteen thousand soldiers from the Civil War — Union and Confederate — rest in Section 27 and Section 13, known as the Field of the Dead. Four thousand freed slaves, many identified only as “Citizen,” and two presidents also are buried at Arlington. Section 60 is the…

On the ground in Afghanistan: the last days of a FOB

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As I prepared for my first embed with in Afghanistan, I figured I might spend some time sleeping under the stars and taking “health and comfort breaks” in the woods as the Marines shut down several of their remaining forward operating bases. I’ve done a bit of tent camping, and I figured I couldn’t be disappointed if I managed my expectations. But, as it turned out, even the final days of FOB life came with quite a few creature comforts. Soon after I arrived in Afghanistan, we moved to FOB Sabit Qadam (formerly FOB Jackson) in the Sangin district of…

Meet Steel, the Marines’ morale dog in Afghanistan

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Not all working dogs in Afghanistan sniff explosives or walk patrols. Meet Steel. Steel, a three-year-old black Lab, was trained was an Improvised Detection Dog (IDD), skilled at sniffing out explosive devices. But when he arrived at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, his trainers realized that his paws were too soft and sensitive for patrols over rugged, rocky terrain. He would never patrol with his infantry unit, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines. Instead of being sent back to the States, however, Steel was sent over to Camp Leatherneck’s Concussion Restoration Care Center–its consolidated medical facility for sick, injured and wounded troops. Steel…

We weren’t surprised about how Marines kept fit in Sangin. Well … except for this one guy

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By Hope Hodge Seck FOB Sabit Qadam—It’s springtime in Afghanistan, and that means the mercury is already pushing into the triple digits here in Sangin. That didn’t seem to make a difference for Sgt. Sylvester Brooks, who tore through the FOB at top speed on a 45-minute run, wearing a high-altitude mask to make an already sweltering workout more challenging. During a quiet deployment focused on drawdown efforts, the outdoor gym seldom sits idle as Marines bide their time by knocking out endurance workouts and strength training. Marine officials said the gym will remain in place as drawdown efforts continue,…

There are fewer than 300 Marines left in Afghanistan’s once most violent district

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By Hope Hodge Seck FOB Sabit Qadam—The Sangin district of Helmand province once was known as one of the most combat-intensive regions in Afghanistan. The gains made in the area—pushing the insurgents back and making the region more secure for civilians—proved costly in Marine lives, particularly during 2010 and 2011. Three years later, while the Taliban do still maintain a presence here, it’s now the Afghan National Security Forces who patrol and engage with the enemy, as is the case throughout Helmand province. The Marines still remaining here, a contingent of fewer than 300 from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th…

Camp Leatherneck is Afghanistan’s next ghost town

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By Hope Hodge Seck Camp Leatherneck–Greetings from Camp Leatherneck, a once-bustling base in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that is rapidly becoming a ghost town. Leatherneck is home to most of the 4,500 Marines remaining in Afghanistan, down from some 20,000 at the peak of fighting here. While the base still has a sprawling footprint, whole sections are emptying as units and elements complete their mission and go home. Meanwhile, Leatherneck is still home to an array of coalition troops, including Jordanian, Georgian, Estonian, and Danish forces, as well as some 2,500 British troops stationed at Camp Bastion, which borders Leatherneck. On…

On the cover: Interpreters fear for their lives, Marines fear they’ll leave a man behind

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On the cover this week, I dig into a complex problem: The Afghan and Iraqi interpreters who risked their lives alongside U.S. Marines and now fear for their lives as they wait for approval for special immigrant visas, a State Department process that can take years. Many of the interpreters I spoke with asked that we blur their faces and disguise their names, because their work with U.S. troops makes them a target for insurgents. Over the course of this story, I received emails from over 50 interpreters pleading for help in speeding up this process, and describing threats to…

This Marine’s jaw-dropping awards citation for a five-hour fire fight is a must read

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We recently learned that Gunnery Sgt. Richard A. Jibson would become the latest Marine to receive the Navy Cross for heroism in Afghanistan. The Secretary of the Navy will present the award during a ceremony tomorrow at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Andrew Owensby, a sailor who worked Jibson to save the life of a wounded comrade during a five-hour fire fight in Mazr Abad Janubi, Afghanistan, will receive the Bronze Star for the same action. Their jaw-dropping medal citations and summaries of action which give minute-by-minute breakdowns of their actions…

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