It’s that time again: Marine Corps Times is heading back to the Sandbox.
In coming days, I’ll be embedding with Marine forces in Afghanistan with Colin Kelly, a senior videographer and photographer on staff. It’ll mark the third trip for each of us to Afghanistan, and my second in Helmand province this year.
It’s a key time to visit the war zone for several reasons, as pointed out in this new story I put together after interviewing several deployed general officers. In recent days, the U.S. has completed its drawdown to about 68,000 troops across Afghanistan, ending a two-plus year surge in forces that was ordered by President Obama in late 2009. As a result, there are now somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 Marines deployed in Helmand, down from a peak of 21,000 in 2010 and 2011.
There’s also a shift in mission. U.S. forces are now actively involved in security force assistance, rather than partnered operations. Afghan units now frequently run their own missions, calling in coalition troops only when needed. Americans deployed in security force assistance adviser teams provide guidance and a link between Afghan units and coalition forces as needed.
In the spring, photographer James J. Lee traveled across northern Helmand, spending substantial time in Kajaki and Sangin districts. We posted dozens of updates here on Battle Rattle, covering everything from the humorous (hello, MRAP toilet) to the scary (wandering around in Sangin district’s “Fish Tank,” for example).
Among other things, we expect to embed in coming days with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., after spending time at Camp Leatherneck, the nerve center for the Corps in Afghanistan. Elements of 1/1 are distributed across Helmand province, augmenting other infantry units from Kajaki to Marjah.
We’ll also take a look at the evolving mission and what Marines will do now that their forces have been reduced. That’ll mean spending time talking to everyone from seasoned general officers to wise-crackin’ lance corporals living in the dirt. Each posted will be categoried “Embedded Journalism,” and available here.
For me, it’ll be a chance to see the continual evolution in Helmand, the austere province where tens of thousands of Marines have deployed — and hundreds have died — since 2008. My first embed came in spring 2010, when photographer Tom Brown and I joined 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., as they faced regular firefights with the Taliban in Marjah.
This will be Colin’s first embed with Marines, but he embedded with Army units in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011. Those trips took him to Paktika, Kunar and Kandahar provinces, among other locations.
As always, your thoughts, comments and questions on this blog will be appreciated. You’ll also be able to find some updates on Twitter, where I post under the account @DanLamothe.
Dan, I will look forward to your articles/reports as I found your interpretation of the situations our Marines encounter to honest and unbiased. I also look forward to Colin’s comments if there are any comparisons about the way the two services conduct their missions.
Be safe, my prayers are you with and our troops. My boyfriend is currently stationed in Sangin for the next 6 months; maybe you’ll have the opportunity to speak with him 🙂
I will look forward to your upcoming posts.
Have a safe journey and let the Marines know people stateside pray for their safe return and for their families
Thanks, everyone. Per usual, I’ll try to mix it up on the blog. We’ll have some serious stuff, but also look for what Marines are doing for fun, morale, etc.
My son is in 3/8th Fob Geronimo CAB, he is the person who attaches to other unites and gets them where they need to be. It seems that when a story is done on a unit or a place you feature just the men of that unit, but since my son is not with his unit and with some other one i never get to see him in photo and he is never included in the other units story. It would be great to read a story on the men that are getting you places and blowing the doors open for you. Be safe and can’t wait for your stories.
look forward to your news since my grandson is with 1/1 there now. Stay safe.
My elementary school has adopted a company stationed in the sandpit! Hope to see some pictures to show them, as they are excited about this project. They are collecting items from the company’s “wish list” and mailing tons of boxes for Thanksgiving. We are all very thankful for our military men and women! I have a son attached to 1/1, so hopefully you will interview the brawny AND brainy 🙂 Thank you for providing informative blogs! Stay safe!
1/1 is my old unit. Heavy Guns.
Semper Fi, Marines!