Browsing: Camp Leatherneck

“Going out to pick a fight:” Marines from 1/9 remember one of their own

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During my short visit to Helmand Province, Afghanistan earlier this month, I was struck by the way honoring and remembering fallen brothers becomes an integral part of everyday life for Marines. One of the first stories I heard from a Marine on the C-17 ride over from Kabul to Camp Leatherneck was about a white board hanging in a company office with a simple inscription: “Going out to pick a fight.” It was a favorite catch-phrase of Sgt. Daniel Vasselian, a Marine with Bravo company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, a unit that is now returning home after a deployment providing…

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…

Colonel takes over Marine Corps air operations in Afghanistan

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A new commander is taking charge of Marine air operations in Afghanistan. Col. Scott Jensen took command of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD) from Brig. Gen Gary Thomas, Dec. 9 during a ceremony aboard Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Jensen, who was the unit’s assistant wing commander, will run operations through February when 3rd MAW will take over in preparation for the final withdrawal of U.S. forces next year. As operations are curtailed and Afghan forces assume more responsibility for local security, Marine units like 3rd MAW are adapting their command structures. “Over the past several months, significant gains…

GQ magazine profiles attack on Camp Bastion, Marines who repelled it

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The deadly attack last year on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, has received widespread coverage, especially by Marine Corps Times. But it isn’t every day that a Marine operation makes the pages of a gentlemen’s magazine. The newest GQ magazine profiles the Sept. 14, 2012, battle, sharing a number of details that square with previously published reports. It was written by Matthieu Aikins, whom I crossed paths with last October while embedded with Marines in Helmand province. Aikins’ story is written colorfully, and includes one troubling new allegation that had not previously been reported: But a troubling question still lingers: How could…

Purple Hearts awarded to Marines wounded in Camp Bastion attack

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At least four Marines who served with the Harrier squadron attacked last year at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, have received the Purple Heart, Marine officials said in a news release published Thursday. Lance Cpl. Cole Collums, Sgt. Jonathan Cudo and former Cpl. Matthew Eason received the award Aug. 1 for wounds sustained in the Sept. 14, 2012, attack, Marine officials said. Maj. Eason, Collums and Cudo are the second, third and fourth Marines from VMA-211 who acted at Camp Bastion to receive Purple Hearts. They were all with Marine Attack Squadron 211, out of Marine Corps Station Yuma, Ariz., when the…

D’oh! in the Desert: Why was an unwanted $34 million headquarters built at Camp Leatherneck?

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A short walk from the main U.S. headquarters facility at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, sits a hulking two-story building behind chain link fences and cement walls. It cost $34 million to build, and it will likely never serve any purpose for U.S. forces. That’s the groan-worthy findings of John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. The 64,000 square-foot building has been roundly panned in the media today, after it was highlighted in a Washington Post story this morning. SIGAR, as Sopko’s organization is known, sent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a letter this week asking about the decision-making process that…

Chow hall cutbacks in Afghanistan spark anger for some Marines

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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…

Accountability issues raised in Camp Bastion attack

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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…

Marines post ‘Port-a-crapper’ rules for Afghanistan

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COMBAT OUTPOST PASERLAY, Afghanistan – It’s a relatively quiet day here on this outpost in Trek Nawa, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a serious conversation to which we can all relate. Deployed U.S. service members in Afghanistan put up with a lot. Not only is there the threat of improvised explosive devices, small-arms ambushes and indirect fire attacks, there’s the lousy food, hostile weather and lack of plumbing. That, of course, leads to a subject we’ve probably written about too frequently on this blog: poop humor. Yes, you may remember previous blog entries about farting in Afghanistan and…

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