View Full Version : Marine offensive in Afghanistan called unprecedented, a shock to Taliban
07-27-04, 05:03 AM
Marine offensive in Afghanistan called unprecedented, a shock to Taliban
By Jon R. Anderson, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, July 27, 2004
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Top military leaders in Afghanistan are hailing a Marine offensive deep inside southern Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province as the most successful operation here since the 2001 invasion.
Tucked away in southern Afghanistan’s rugged mountains, the province has provided a sanctuary for Taliban holdouts and their al-Qaida supporters, say officials. But not anymore.
The Marine offensive, which began in March and is just now wrapping up, was the first incursion into the area by conventional forces.
The Marines are credited with killing more than 100 Taliban and al-Qaida fighters during weeks of running gunbattles in an area completely avoided by conventional U.S. forces until their arrival.
“You’re the best this place has ever seen,” Army Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, the top field commander in Afghanistan, told a gathering Marines at Kandahar Airfield this weekend.
The Marines' offensive, he said, put the Taliban on the run in their own back yard.
“Never again can they use that place as a sanctuary,” said Olson. “You proved to the world the United States of America is going to take this fight to the most dangerous part of Afghanistan unafraid and absolutely determined.”
Olson said the Marine offensive also caught the Taliban off guard.
“You rocked him back on his heels. You knocked him on his ass.
“You went places that has never seen an American.
“You went to find him on his turf, on his terms, on his ground and kicked him in the ass.
“And that surprised him.”
Olson said the MEU’s performance had also “made an impression on the most senior leaders.”
Quoting Lt. Gen. David Barno, the overall commander of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, Olson said,
“Never in the history of Operation Enduring Freedom has there been an offensive operation like the one the 22nd MEU conducted. Never have we been this successful. You have made history here.”
07-27-04, 05:04 AM
Day by Day
A roundup of good news from Afghanistan.
BY ARTHUR CHRENKOFF
Monday, July 26, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT
"We are becoming hopeful day by day. We cannot develop our country, in which the fighting existed for 23 years, within two years. We had lots of problems in the past but they are being solved day by day." So says Ghalib Shah Azizi, the head of Afghanistan's Northern Chamber of Commerce.
If there is one place where good news is harder to come by than Iraq, it's Afghanistan. For that we should partly blame our poor understanding of Afghan realities and our consequently unrealistic expectations. An isolated, poor, largely rural country with harsh landscapes and limited natural resources, Afghanistan has been for the past quarter century cursed with constant violence and oppression. Good news from Afghanistan will not in any foreseeable future mean mushrooming shopping malls and health clinics in every village. For the people who have suffered so much for so long, relative peace and absence of theocracy are a good start.
But, as is the case with reporting from Iraq, we shouldn't let the media off the hook so easily, either. For all the fashionable talk about Iraq distracting the Bush Administration from the war on terror, it's largely been the media that have ignored Afghanistan except for the occasional story about another skirmish with the Taliban remnants or the explosion in opium cultivation.
CBS's veteran journalist Tom Fenton recently had this to say about the work of his media colleagues:
You know the old saying: No news is good news. But in the news business, it is just the opposite: Good news is no news--which is why you have been hearing so little from Afghanistan recently.
Iraq has been grabbing the headlines. Even the most confirmed optimist would find it hard to see a ray of light there today. But there is a growing body of evidence that things are beginning to improve in Afghanistan. To see why, you need to travel around Afghanistan a bit. That's something the media find hard to do in Iraq now--many news crews rarely venture out of their hotels in Baghdad.
Not to mention in Kabul. If they did, they would arguably find more stories like these:
• Democracy. The Afghans eagerly await their chance to participate in free and democratic elections. These are people like the Qaimi family: "Olya Qaimi reached into her purse and proudly pulled out her ticket to Afghanistan's future: a laminated card saying she is registered to vote in the nation's first post-Taliban election. 'The sun is rising in Afghanistan and we have a chance for a very good future,' said Qaimi's husband, Wasi, who has also registered to vote. 'This time we will settle our struggle with politics in place of tanks and guns.' " The Qaimis and millions of others will get their chance in October, when after some inevitable delays they vote for president, and early next year, in the parliamentary elections. Even Afghans still living in Pakistan and Iran will be able to participate in the poll.
Women, in particular, are keen to seize the opportunities that until very recently were denied to them:
In spite of repeated warnings from the Taliban that women should neither register nor stand for office, 2.1 million women have now registered to vote, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the body overseeing the process. This means that 38% of the current electorate are women, overturning predictions that few would register.
The Afghans are growing increasingly optimistic about the future of their country and approving of its current political direction. According to a poll conducted by Chaney Research, AC Nielsen India Org-Marg and the Afghan Media Resource Center for the Asia Foundation, President Hamid Karzai remains popular in Afghanistan, enjoying favorable opinion of 62% of those polled. The interim government's performance gets a tick of approval from 57% of Afghans. In other results from the same poll, 64% of Afghans believe that their country is moving in the right direction (versus only 11% who think Afghanistan is moving in the wrong direction). More significantly, two-thirds of those polled support the United States, and only 11% still favor the Taliban. Eighty-one percent plan to vote in the coming elections, although a majority express concerns whether the poll will be completely fair.
Another recent poll, conducted by the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium, paints a similar picture. Highlights:
Ninety-two percent of those polled now feel safe walking around their town or village; 83% feel more secure now than they felt three years ago with Taliban still in power; and 78% think that Afghanistan will be still more peaceful a year from now.
Ninety-four percent of respondents said it is now easier for their children to go to school then it was three years ago; 83% also think that health care has become more accessible.
"The level of awareness about the constitution-drafting process and the national elections was high--70% and 69% respectively." Eighty-seven percent of those polled intend to vote in national elections.
Very importantly, 72% thought that "women should be involved in community decision making. When asked why, many responded either that it was their right under Islamic rule, or simply because they were humans who made up half of the population."
In many ways, the public sentiment in Afghanistan remains significantly more positive and optimistic than in Iraq, which is surely a good sign for Afghanistan.
In the north of the country, too, optimism prevails about the future and the direction of the country. Ghalib Shah Azizi, whom I quoted at the start of the article, has this to say about the Afghan president: "I believe Hamed Karzai is an intelligent and proper person to be selected as a president for Afghanistan. He will be able to rule the government and ensure peace and stability in the country."
Religious authorities too, throw their support behind the efforts to build the new Afghanistan. The Afghan Ulema Council, composed of the nation's eminent religious scholars, has called on the Afghan people to give up their weapons and end "the rule of the gun," which has spread across the country over a quarter of a century of conflict. The scholars also called on people to support the government, and on religious leaders in towns and villages to encourage Afghans to participate in the disarmament program.
• Society. Afghan refugees continue to vote with their feet: "The pace of return to Afghanistan remains strong, with thousands of refugees going back daily. So far this year, we've seen some 450,000 refugees repatriate." Of those, more than 242,000 came from Iran, surpassing the previous source of returning refugees, Pakistan, with some 210,000 Afghans coming back from there since January. "In all, some 3.5 million Afghans have gone home since the UNHCR-organized return movements started in 2002, including more than two million from Pakistan, 900,000 from Iran and more than 440,000 displaced persons, while tens of thousands of other exiles have gone back on their own." This is surely the greatest humanitarian good-news story of the last few decades.
For too long an international shame, the status of women in Afghanistan continues to improve: "Women's role has changed, but burqas still prevail yet the status of women has improved since Taliban times. Women can walk around, unaccompanied by males, and they are allowed to work. They are free to roam in public without fear of being arrested or beaten for wearing high heels or seeming to walk in a provocative manner." Women, for so long denied educational opportunities, are slowly winning their struggle for a better future:
Before workers could lay the first stone for a new school in this rural village, a deeper foundation took shape in a showdown with mullahs who insisted that no girls would set foot in the classrooms. "The easiest way to stop a school is to talk about girls," said Greg Mortenson, a Minnesota native who has spent the past decade creating schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. "Culturally, women have been chattel here."
Mortenson's team won. The school is rising from a mountainside plot. Girls have been invited to attend when it opens this fall.
The power struggle over this eight-room school is being replayed village by village as official Afghanistan strives to liberate women who were prisoners in their own homes before the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. Although many remain sequestered by their families, the transitional government has set a top priority on getting them into classrooms, the workplace and the polling booths.
And the government seems to be succeeding: "Now, a good share of the women have shed the burqa the Taliban forced on them and instead wear scarves draped loosely around their faces. Many have gone back to work in the capital, Kabul. More than 2 million have registered to vote, and a few hold high-level government positions."
The State Department's recently released Report to Congress on U.S. Support for Afghan Women, Children, and Refugees shows that "reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan have inspired Afghan women to assume roles they never dreamed possible, in government, in politics, in the market place, in the police, in agriculture, in politics and in the media." Mentioned in the report are the 187 new and ongoing humanitarian projects to assist Afghan women and children, including "some 24 job creation projects are teaching women how to make and market honey, textiles, rugs, clothing, pasta, cement blocks and countless other products." Of 5.8 million people who have returned to schools this year, 35% are women. There is also a reminder of the new constitution, approved in January this year, which gives equal rights to Afghan men and women.
07-27-04, 05:06 AM
In this changing political and cultural climate, more women are becoming active in the civic life of Afghanistan. Read this profile of Malalai Joya, 25, who runs an orphanage and health clinic, and despite frequent threats to her life, continues her crusade against "warlords and criminals" who engage in rape and looting and are involved in drug trafficking across the country. Read also this story of Dr. Massouda Jalal, 41-year old lecturer in pediatric medicine at Kabul University who intends to run against Hamid Karzai for the presidency. This, from another profile: "Dr Jalal has addressed several election meetings in Kabul and also in other towns. 'I usually get gatherings of about 500 to 1,000 people,' she says. She has spoken at meetings in schools, universities, mosques and at other places where gatherings have often been organized by local women."
And for the first time, female athletes will represent Afghanistan at the Olympic Games in Athens. Robina Muqimyar will run in the 100 meters, and Friba Rezihi will compete in judo.
After the puritanical Taliban rule, Afghanis are enjoying an entertainment explosion:
Najeeb said he's doing a booming business selling DVDs in the centre of Kabul. "Every day I sell between 20 and 30 DVDs," he said. "It's a good business."
With pirated copies of the latest releases readily available for as little as 50 afghanis, or about one US dollar, and inexpensive Chinese-made DVD players flooding the market at 40 dollars each, many see no reason to pay 19 afghanis, or about 35 cents, for a ticket to a cinema.
In addition, many shish-kebab restaurants and ice cream shops now play music videos and foreign films on DVD, giving new meaning to the idea of dinner and a movie. And unlike the films shown at both government and privately owned theatres, these films are uncensored and can be seen in the evenings.
Much is happening in the radio-centric Afghani society: "Radio Arman, the first independent station, was launched in 2003. Some conservatives were outraged that 'young girls can be heard laughing on the air,' according to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders." In addition there are now 14 government radio stations across Afghanistan. Thirty-seven percent of the population listens to the radio, and the U.S. Army last year distributed further 200,000 free radio sets. In a country that is still largely illiterate and lacking much basic infrastructure, radio remains the most useful and popular medium of education and raising political awareness.
With that in mind, and with a $2.5 million grant from the Italian government, "UNESCO has undertaken the project to completely upgrade and rehabilitate distance education services in Afghanistan." As part of the work, the headquarters of the Educational Radio and Television Center of Afghanistan's Ministry of Education have been fully renovated and is again operational after being completely destroyed during the war. Also, a new radio and TV program, supported by the UNESCO, will aim to reach out to those in remote areas, the sick, the infirm and the homebound, to ensure that educational opportunities are available to everyone in Afghanistan.
• Reconstruction. In a huge vote of confidence and a sign of optimism, the Afghan International Chamber of Commerce is formed in Kabul: "Three hundred people were expected; 2,500 showed up to vote. Obvious was their energy, their enthusiasm, their pride and their strength. They were creating one of those institutions that becomes a pillar of a free society, an economic power independent of the state."
Trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan stood at just $20 million two years ago, but today it's $700 million. Pakistani finance minister estimates that trade between the two countries will reach $1 billion later this year. Among signs of increased economic cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan: "the resumption of air flights, functioning of Pakistani banks in Afghanistan, contribution of Pakistani laborers and contractors in reconstruction of Afghanistan, construction of highways between the two countries."
Western companies are slowly coming in too, like the Utah-based Internet business Overstock, which aims to bring the work of Afghan craftsmen, many of them handicapped in war, to the world market.
In banking news, "Afghanistan International Bank (AIB) was officially opened at a ceremony attended by shareholders, management, and about 150 guests from the international and local business and diplomatic communities in Kabul."
In energy news, a Sofregaz-led consortium along with Energy Markets Ltd, financed by the Asian Development Bank, has just completed a Natural Gas Master Plan for Afghanistan. The plan, based in part by research conducted by the Soviet geologists during the occupation in the 1980s, aims to assess Afghanistan's hydrocarbon reserves. Also, India has now "decided to construct a transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul in Afghanistan for import of power from Uzbekistan." Says the Indian energy minister: "The project will enhance India's image as a major partner of Afghanistan and will introduce its capability in a new area of activity with potential future commercial spin offs."
And as the country rebuilds, more opportunities open up for women: the Self-Employed Women's Association, a nongovernmental organization that helps women gain economic independence and become self-reliant, is sending managment consultants, an insurance team, a research team and a rural development team to assist Afghan women in setting up microbusinesses. Some of the businesses to be introduced include craft making such as "miniature paintings, jewellery, carpet weaving, shoe-making and embroidery" as well as "food processing units making jams, pickles and cookies." In a country where so many women have been widowed over the years of conflict, particular efforts are being made to help those with little other support:
Muslima cradles a scared chicken in her arms, tending to it with all the careful treatment due a precious object. She gently hands it to her teacher, Farima, who is lecturing a roomful of about 25 women on the best way to care for the bird. Farima's students, all widows, are eagerly attentive.
Although long past school age, these women--most of whom have children of their own--have never been to school themselves. This dark, mud-walled room in Muslima's home is their first classroom. They sit on the floor leaning against the walls, their faces lined in concentration. This poultry-raising class has the potential to guide them from unemployment to self-sufficiency.
To the Western eyes these seem like very small things, but they make a huge difference on the ground in Afghanistan.
And read this story about Ghulam Sediq Wardak, a 62-year-old semiliterate and self-taught Afghan genius with 341 inventions to his credit. His latest project, a car powered solely by solar energy. A few more people like Sediq, and Afghanistan's future might be a lot brighter.
• Humanitarian aid. Several of Afghanistan's regional neighbors contribute to the reconstruction effort. Turkey is sending Provincial Reconstruction Teams to the Takhar area; the teams consist of 200 people, including 80 military personnel, and are expected to stay on location for three to five years. Turkey has also recently renovated two hospitals seriously damaged during past conflicts, re-equipped and reopened them under the name of Turkish-Afghan Friendship Hospitals. Three hundred to 400 patients are being treated there every day. A third hospital is currently undergoing the same treatment, and mobile health clinics are starting to reach less accessible areas. Meanwhile, Indian Army's Military Engineering Services are set to commence work in Afghanistan on construction of roads and housing within the next six months.
The Coalition forces, in addition to providing security, also work on other important projects. These are soldiers like Sgt. Gary Feldewerd and other Army reservists from Minnesota's 367th Engineer Battalion who are involved in a titanic struggle to rid Afghanistan of the estimated 10 million land mines and other unexploded ordnance strewn across the country.
While governments continue to provide aid and assist in reconstruction, many NGOs and individuals also contribute on a grass-roots level. You might remember Djamshid Popal, a 9-year-old boy with a heart defect, whose story so touched a Canadian resident Saddique Khan that he personally financed bringing the child over for a life-saving operation. Unfortunately, Djamshid's condition has proved to be more serious than previously thought; fortunately, the hospital itself is charging only half the usual fee, and a mystery benefactor has now stepped in to cover these costs. Read also this story of the efforts by a joint American-Jordanian medical specialist team to save the life of a little Afghan girl in a remote village.
07-27-04, 05:06 AM
John Dark, a student from Western High School in Parma, Mich., is trying to raise $30,000 by October to build a playground for Afghan kids at the Abdullah bin Omar School in the Paghman district, east of Kabul. "We were thinking about the basic needs of kids. . . . They've seen a war-torn country all their lives. We decided one of the basic needs is to learn how to be a kid," says John. Read the whole story to see how you can help.
Meanwhile, Operation Shoe Fly continues with their great efforts to provide Afghan kids with much-needed shoes. And Care USA runs numerous aid projects on the ground in Afghanistan. Please visit both Web sites if you want to assist in their valuable projects. Give2Asia, a nonprofit organization founded by the Asia Foundation to promote philanthropy to Asia, has also been active in Afghanistan spending $500,000 to fund education opportunities for Afghan women (visit them here).
Afghans living in the West are likewise contributing to the reconstruction of their homeland. In the section of Fremont, Calif., known as "Little Kabul," Humaira Ghilzai, president of the two-year-old Afghan Friends Network, now spends 20 hours a week on her project to establish a sister-city relationship between Hayward, "home to the Bay Area's largest Afghan mosque," and Ghazni, "a city of 35,000 residents, 70 miles southwest of Kabul":
This month, she gave her frequent-flier miles to the governor of the province of Ghazni, Asadullah Khaled, so that he could fly to Hayward and tour a medical clinic, Tyrrell Elementary School and Cal State Hayward.
Children in Ghazni and Hayward have become pen pals, and a fund-raiser here netted enough money to buy 150 tables and chairs for a school in Ghazni. Hayward kids learned from the governor that few families in Ghazni have cars and that schools are bare of computers; sometimes a classroom is just children sitting under a tree.
Khadija Omar, 74, and her daughter, Hassina, of Denver, are meanwhile raising money to buy wheelchairs for thousands of Afghan children who have lost their limbs to land mines. In June they delivered 70 wheelchairs. Click on the link above to learn how you can contribute to their project.
• Security. For the coalition troops things seem a lot calmer than in Iraq. "People are more apprehensive about us in Iraq. . . . Here, they stare at us like we're a circus act, but they accept us," says Michael Englert, a Navy bomb-disposal expert who travels with the Marines to help detect roadside explosives and mines.
Meanwhile, the new U.S.-trained Afghan army continues to grow steadily, and it now numbers 13,000 men. In addition, to further military training objectives, "teams of officers from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and officers from the Office of Military Cooperation--Afghanistan are working closely with their Afghan counterparts in the country's defense ministry to establish the National Military Academy of Afghanistan and model it after West Point."
The crucial cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the coalition forces continues as military and diplomatic representatives meet to discuss the troubled border region between the two countries. Says Brig. Gen. Charles Jacoby, deputy commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force 76:
We will continue to work with the Afghanistan and Pakistan security forces in any way that serves our common objectives of defeating terrorism, denying sanctuary and strengthening cooperative security. . . . The coalition will continue its aggressive operations and reconstruction efforts on the Afghanistan side of the border as the Pakistan military continues its operations within its own borders.
The governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are also signing a Memorandum of Understanding targeted at controlling the illegal drug trade across the region's borders. And Britain is providing Afghanistan with £100 million to help combat drug cultivation and trafficking.
The U.N.-backed Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program continues across the country. In the western Herat province, for example, another 750 ex-mudjahedin turned in 550 pieces of light and heavy arms to the government. In Herat itself, 2,000 fighters have laid down their weapons recently; Safiullah was one of them:
Safiullah dreams of being a farmer, but up until now the 22-year-old Afghan militiaman has only ever known a life of fighting. "I picked up my brother's gun after he was killed by the Taliban. I had to finish the war he had begun," he said, cradling an ancient AK-47. "I'm tired of carrying weapons. I want to go into civilian life, but I also want the government to help me."
Now, at least, there is some hope that the cycle of violence will finally be broken for Safiullah and tens of thousands like him. Other ex-fighters are finding new work--dangerous work, but of immense importance to their country: "More than 700 such ex-combatants throughout the country have so far joined the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) project."
Let's never forget that none of this would have been possible without the U.S. and allies who 2 1/2 years ago helped to bring peace and freedom to the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. Let's hope that, with the world's help, the Afghans will now make the most of it.
Mr. Chrenkoff is an Australian blogger. The previous installment of "Good news From Afghanistan" as well as his "Good News From Iraq" series can be found at chrenkoff.blogspot.com.
07-28-04, 06:37 AM
Marines learn that combat experience is the best teacher
Submitted by: 22nd MEU
Story by: Computed Name: Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks
Story Identification #: 200472761742
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 27, 2004) -- When a convoy with Charlie Company and other elements of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines began taking small arms fire from a mountain in south-central Afghanistan, the unit's Marines and Sailors did exactly what they were supposed to do and moved to engage the enemy.
In the excitement of what was for many their combat initiation, many of the Marines and Sailors left their vehicles without enough water. As the skirmish developed into a full-scale battle that lasted nearly seven hours, and the sun beat down mercilessly on the Marines moving up the rugged terrain in pursuit of the enemy, many of the Marines ran out of water.
Thankfully, careful water conservation and sharing prevented any heat injuries that day, but it was a hard-learned lessons for the Marines.
"You can never have enough water," Capt. Paul Merida, Charlie Co.'s commander, told his platoon leaders and senior enlisted Marines that night. "When they get off the vehicles they should have a full CamelBak [backpack-style canteen] and water bottles stuffed in every pocket."
It was a reminder the men and women preparing for the next day's operation didn't need. Even before the company leadership passed Merida's advice to their units, the Marines and Sailors, remembering their parched throats and discomfort, were cramming bottles into day packs, attaching CamelBaks and canteens to flak vests, and chugging water.
The need to carry as much water as possible was just one of many lessons learned that day.
Lance Cpl. Vincent Leonetti, of Franklinville, N.J., was wiping dust from his M203 grenade launcher and preparing to move up the mountain when another Marine reminded him to replace the cloth cover over the dust goggles strapped to his helmet. If he hadn't, the reflection from the lens could signal his location to enemy marksmen. Leonetti promptly pulled the cover, in fact an old sock, over the goggles and returned to cleaning his weapon.
After a while, as Air Force attack aircraft and Marine attack helicopters and jets pounded the mountain where the ACM were entrenched, the Marines waited to push up the mountain. While some of the company maintained a base of fire to keep the enemy fixed in place, the assault element, 3rd Platoon led by 1st Lt. Jeffrey Gaddy and then-Staff Sgt. James Delao (since promoted to gunnery sergeant), took the opportunity to catch their breath.
Crouched in a small trench behind a building, the Marines sat, drank what water they could, and steeled themselves for the upcoming trek up the steep, boulder-strewn mountain. The old adage of why stand when you can sit was in full effect.
Later that night, Staff Sgt. Christian Boles, platoon sergeant for Charlie Co.'s 2nd Platoon, reflected on his actions that day.
"I did better than I ever thought I would," said Boles, who admitted that the firefight was his combat baptism. "You always wonder how you'll perform, and me and all the Marines did what we were supposed to do. It was a great learning experience."
The next day, as the company embarked on another mission that would lead to yet another firefight, the lessons learned from the day before were evident. Extra gear like knives and pouches that went unused the day before and deemed unnecessary were replaced by extra ammunition or water, goggles were covered, the Marines who don't normally eat breakfast had gulped down a quick meal or snack for energy, and a new feeling of confidence and self assurance ran throughout the company.
In addition to BLT 1/6, the MEU consists of its Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.
07-29-04, 06:30 AM
Townsend Marine places self in harms way to protect a nation
By Don Eriksson
TOWNSEND -- Yellow ribbons decorate lamp posts and trees on Townsend Common, each representing a Townsend son or daughter who is serving in the military.
There are quite a few.
"For a small town, we have a lot of kids serving," said Al Crowley of Ponderosa Drive. "It's amazing. This is where the support of our country comes from, little towns. There are 30 or 40 from Townsend."
He is the proud father of one of those kids, Lance Cpl. Kenneth Crowley, who is currently serving in Afghanistan as a recon Marine with Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division.
Ken Crowley is another of the many all-American small-town young people who have put themselves in harms way to protect their nation.
His story has a familiar ring, outstanding high school and college athlete turned soldier because he wanted to make a difference. Crowley, however, had not initially intended to join the Corps.
A 1999 graduate of North Middlesex Regional High School, Crowley made a name for himself as a tall -- more than 6 feet, 4 inches -- defensive end in football and on the basketball team. After graduation, he played football at Bridgeton Academy and at Bridgewater State College on the NCAA Division championship team of 2000.
Although still in school, one day Ken told his father he wanted to join the military.
"In my heart I hoped it would be the Marines," Al said. He a former Marine Lance Corporal, combat recon veteran, former cop, Marine Corps League member, and former bodyguard-turned-security consultant. "But he was such an easy-going, fun-loving kid that I thought the Corps, where everyday life is like boot camp, might not be for him," Al said.
Crowley had told his father he wanted to do a unique job. Because he had a buddy in the Coast Guard, the younger Crowley signed up and passed exams to become a rescue swimmer.
The day he was to report, the two Crowley men became lost in Boston and were given directions to the recruiting station on Devonshire Street. The first office was the Marines. They were given a map to the Coast Guard office, but, with his reporting time an hour away, Ken told his father he wanted to speak to the Marines again. He signed up.
One of the tests for the Marines is choosing toy ships from a box. Each ship carries a word that represents a reason a recruit might want to join. Ken chose words such as "courage" and "service," Al said.
"The Marines drove us home to Townsend and had dinner with us, then drove back," he said. "I had to call the Coast Guard to tell them. They thought the Marines stole their guy." The next day, Marine recruiters returned to Townsend and drove Ken to Boston and swore him in at a private ceremony.
"You'd think the Coast Guard would have at least sent someone to pick us up on Devonshire Street that day," Crowley said.
Since then, Ken has been stationed in Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, Korea, Siberia, Albania, Crete, Katar, the Suez Canal, all through the United States, and now, somewhere near Khandahar, Afghanistan and the surrounding mountains for a repeat visit. His company has been in the thick of fighting against Taliban forces.
The Crowley family has a short piece of video tape from a Geraldo Rivera interview with Ken's commander, Lt. Col. Asad Khan, an Afghan-born American whose leadership and character qualities have won Al Crowley's respect. At one point, Ken is seen talking to Geraldo, holding an American flag. The flag is being carried through Afghanistan by Charlie Company in honor of the daughter of a Massachusetts resident who died in one of the World Trade Center towers. It will be presented to the victim's family upon the unit's return.
At the time of the Rivera interview, Charlie Company had, in Khan's words, "found and fixed," more than 150 Taliban and registered more than 30,000 people for the vote.
"I feel my son is actually putting himself between them and us," Al said. "All military service is noble, but now more than any other time. It's difficult having a kid over there, but you have to realize it has to be done."
The first paragraph of the first letter Ken sent home was for his dad. It apologized for not listening to all the lessons he had grown up hearing.
Al and Diane Crowley have three other children, Shannon, Maura and Mike. Diane is a member of Townsend's military moms. Charlie Company information and photographs can be seen on the Web site www.22MEU.com
A framed drawing of two Marines hangs on the Crowley's living room wall. One is Lance Cpl. Albert Crowley from the 1960s. The other, Lance Cpl. Kenneth Crowley, 2003. The faces are different but the uniform is the same. And so are the jobs, 0311, Marine Corps rifleman.
07-30-04, 06:10 AM
22nd MEU (SOC) begins retrograde from Afghanistan
Submitted by: 22nd MEU
Story Identification #: 20047284274
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 28, 2004) -- After wrapping up what Army Maj. Gen. Eric Olson called "The most successful offensive military since Operation ENDURING FREEDOM began," the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) has begun retrograding from Afghanistan.
The MEU arrived in Afghanistan in late March and soon began conducting combat and civil military operations in the country's Oruzgan province, birthplace of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and a long-time stronghold of anti-coalition militia activity. The MEU's specific goals were to disrupt anti-coalition militia activity, deny them sanctuary in regions where they've long held reign, and provide a secure environment for United Nations voter registration efforts.
"This is an area that has seen little American presence," said Lt. Col. Asad A. Khan, commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, the MEU's ground combat element, during an interview in early May. "They've seen some special operations-type forces, but we're the first sustained presence in the area and we're having a great impact."
Consisting of its Command Element, BLT 1/6, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22, the 22nd MEU (SOC) was designated Task Force Linebacker and reinforced with Army engineer, psychological operations, civil affairs, and infantry forces.
"We've had great success in the Oruzgan provice," said Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the MEU's commanding officer. "We've dealt the enemy a serious blow and I believe the area is now ripe for the introduction of NGOs [non-governmental agencies] and other relief agencies to help the people here."
The MEU operated from Forward Operating Base Ripley, which it built from scratch near the town of Tarin Kowt. From FOB Ripley, the MEU conducted 12 named combat and civil military operations in the Oruzgan and Zabol provinces. During these operations, 101 enemy fighters were killed, nearly another hundred taken into coalition custody, 2,500 weapons and 80 thousand pieces of ammunition or ordnance confiscated, more than two thousand medical and dental patients treated, and approximately 58 thousand Afghan citizens registered to vote in the country's historic upcoming elections.
These successes did not come without cost. Cpl. Ronald Payne Jr. of Lakeland, Fla. was killed in a firefight with Taliban insurgents near the village of Tawara on May 7, and 11 other Marines have been wounded during the MEU's time in Afghanistan.
When the MEU pulled out of FOB Ripley in mid-July, the Army's 2nd Bn., 5th Infantry, assumed responsibility for combat operations and Provincial Reconstruction Team Tarin Kowt picked up any uncompleted civil affairs project begun by the 22nd MEU (SOC).
Most of the MEU's Marines and Sailors will fly to Kuwait via strategic airlift where they will board the amphibious assault ships WASP, WHIDBEY ISLAND, and SHREVEPORT to begin the journey home.
The unit is expected to return to Camp Lejeune and other North Carolina bases in mid-September, but stands ready to undertake any mission it may be assigned.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.
Lt. Col. Joel Powers, commanding officer of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), watches as two of his unit's CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters lift off from Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan. HMM-266 (Rein) is the aviation combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and is in the process of retrograding from Afghanistan after nearly four months of combat operations. Photo by: Cpl. Jemssy Alvarez
07-30-04, 07:39 PM
3/6 Marines capture bomb maker
Submitted by: Marine Forces Pacific
Story Identification #: 200473018133
Story by Capt. Brendan G. Heatherman, Assistant Operations Officer 3rd Battallion, 6th Marine Regiment
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (July 26, 2004) -- The sound is faint at first, and the target hears nothing except the calm Afghan winds, the crackle of the fire, and a dog barking intermittently in the distance. The otherwise quiet and uneventful night begins to pulse with the choppy, rhythmic sound of helicopter rotors. The dog begins barking wildly but the target barely notices; he is busy preparing himself for the coming days and weeks. His task is to kill, cause mayhem, and disrupt the efforts of the coalition and the progress of the Afghan people. He is a bomb-maker.
As the noise of the rotors grows louder, he freezes and looks up at the ceiling of his home as if he can see through the mud, straw, and lumber. His heart begins to pound as he looks down and sees the materials of destruction laying before him in the soft glow of the fire. His fear quickly turns to anger as the sound becomes deafening, engulfing his compound with a torrent of sand and dirt kicked up by the rotor wash around his home. He scurries to the window and peers through the cracks in the wooden shutter. His eyes widen. His days of terror are over.
The men of Lima Company, Third Battalion, Sixth Marine Regiment are quickly approaching the half-way mark of their six-month deployment to Afghanistan. Their mission has been to protect the coalition forces serving at Bagram Air Field, a task that has been accomplished by providing perimeter security for the base itself and a strike force to rescue friendly forces in trouble or lash out against terrorists operating anywhere in the country.
“We have a mission that requires the company to be flexible and rely heavily on the leadership of non-commissioned officers,” said Captain Drew Warren, Lima Company commanding officer. “We’re spread thin due to the magnitude of the mission but the Marines have not let it get to them. They take on each day like it was their first, no matter what part of the mission they are tasked with.”
The multitude of tasks for Lima Company have given the Marines the opportunity to conduct operations ranging from raids, to guard posts to security patrols. The company has provided a patrolling element for the area in and around Bagram that has greatly reduced the number of rocket attacks on the airfield.
“We have had only two rocket attacks here in Bagram since we took over perimeter security,” said 1st Lt. Karl Zeppegno, Lima Company executive officer from Miami, Florida. “Our patrols go out daily and are aggressive. We act on intelligence handed down to us and generate information for ourselves through talking with locals and maintaining a constant presence.”
Relationships built out on patrols have led to some local Afghanis passing on information about weapons caches, possible rocket launch sites, and suspected terrorists operating in the area. Lima Company’s efforts make it difficult for a would-be terrorist to conduct a strike, and the result has been a much safer operating area for the coalition forces stationed in the area.
The last line of defense for the airfield is provided by Lima Company’s perimeter security element. The Marines work long shifts every day in the tall, metal towers spread along the concertina wire. “We’re successful because we treat this mission as a static defense,” said Warren, “We never changed the mindset from combat infantrymen to night watchmen.”
Although at times a tedious task, there are occasional spurts of excitement.
“We were standing on watch as usual when a local national came toward us and aimed his pistol at us,” said Lance Cpl. Myles F. Tweedy, on guard in the tower during the incident. “We didn’t have much of a choice but to use necessary force to put him down.”
The preferred weapon of the guard force is not an M-16A2 service rifle; every Marine in the company has been trained in various non-lethal weapons, which are used frequently to restore order to the often-chaotic area just outside the walls to the base. The man waving the pistol had been warned verbally and with non-lethals during the incident before Tweedy was forced to use his rifle.
“Our goal is to protect the wire first with non-lethal weapons. But the bottom line is we have to protect this wire and will do whatever it takes to keep the men and women inside this base safe,” said GySgt Michael C. Taylor, Lima Company, company gunnery sergeant.
To date, the guard force has dealt with infiltrators, crowd control, thieves, and enemy forces taking shots at the towers. The vast majority of incidents were dealt with using non-lethal weapons.
Much of the excitement for Lima Company comes from the reaction force used for various missions at any hour of the day. “The Marines operate on very little information; they get the call, get on the birds, and fly. They’ll receive most of their orders in the air,” said Warren.
On June 17, they got such a call. The force was informed while in the air that two workers for United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan were caught in fighting between two tribes in Chaghcharan, a village in the Ghowr Province southwest of Kabul. The helicopters were airborne within thirty minutes of the call and the Marines put together their plan amid the deafening noise of the engines, preparing themselves for what could be a long night. The operation went smoother than expected. The two workers were found and rescued, no one was injured, and the force raced back toward Bagram and safety.
The bomb-maker’s name was Anan. He was a well-known manufacturer of improvised explosive devices that have been used successfully against coalition forces. He had lived and operated unscathed in the Warlock province west of Kabul until June 11, when the sound of helicopters filled the night sky and Marines emerged seemingly from nowhere and cordoned off his compound.
Within hours, the terrorist and his brother had seen their last days as bomb-makers and were on the helicopter being escorted back to Bagram amidst the heavily armed Lima Company Marines. The mission was a success, the surprise was complete; again, no one was injured.
By the time Lima Company stepped off the helicopters back in Bagram, the morning sun was creeping over the mountains in the horizon and the dark sky had turned to a hazy bluish-gray.
Most of the forces stationed at the airfield were just waking, beginning morning workouts, and starting a new day. To them, it had been just another quiet and uneventful night. Just the way Lima Company likes it.
07-31-04, 06:21 AM
/6 Marines rebuild and provide security for town in Afghanistan
Submitted by: Marine Forces Pacific
Story Identification #: 2004730181727
Story by Capt. Capt. Brendan G. Heatherman, Assistant Operations Officer 3rd Battallion, 6th Marine Regiment
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (July 26, 2004) -- The town of Surobi isn’t much different than any other village in Afghanistan. Roughly forty-five miles east of Kabul, the town pours down from a mountain into a riverbed where villagers bathe, wash clothes, and seek relief from the relentless summer heat.
The bazaar along the hectic main road through town is typically packed with colorfully painted trucks, half-starved livestock, and shoppers with children making their way through their daily routine. Shopkeepers peddle their trinkets, linens, and Pepsi Colas to truck drivers and taxi cabs making their way from Kabul to Jalalabad and back, toiling along the brutal, unimproved road.
Elsewhere in town, scores of children flock to poorly maintained and equipped schools, the sick seek help from the town doctor, who is regrettably ill-equipped, and women carry their babies on the side-roads.
It’s a difficult life for the people, compounded by the fact that evil men of the old regime lurk in the hills surrounding the town, terrorizing the people who strive for nothing more than progress.
The terrorists burn schools and threaten potential voters. The people live with the realistic threat of the Taliban and Hizb-I-Islami terrorists within an arms reach of their families. It’s not much different from any other town in Afghanistan, with one exception…the presence of the men of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
Forward Operating Base Surobi lies just northwest of the town, nestled securely at the base of the Naghlo Dam, the major supplier of power for not only Surobi, but also the capitol city of Kabul.
“Our mission here is to provide security for the district and provide civil, military and humanitarian assistance to the people,” said Capt. Conlon Carabine, Headquarters and Service Company commander and camp commandant for the base.
“Our presence here has been extremely helpful to the people and to the district police and highway patrol,” he added.
General Dauod, Surobi district Police Chief agrees. “The Marines have helped rebuild our town and keep the Taliban from threatening the area,” he said. “I consider them friends.”
The mission introduces a new concept to the Marines, one that they will need a period of time adjusting to.
The concept is to disrupt enemy operations in the district using the combined arms effect of combat and humanitarian operations, two seemingly exclusive methods used simultaneously.
The base overlooks a swift-flowing river sweeping out from the dam, high mountains, and rusted, hulking relics from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from several decades ago. The base itself is a former retreat for the wealthy in the area and was once served as headquarters for Gilbuddin Hikmatyar, the leader and founder of Hizb-I-Islami, one of the major terrorist organizations in the country. The Marine contingent arrived in the town in May, relieved a detachment from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment who had been in the area for over a month.
When the Marines arrived, the headquarters building was occupied by animals and had grown into an abhorrent state of disrepair. The Marines, alongside local and American contractors, installed electricity, billeting, head facilities, and numerous other improvements to insure that the base would be able to house follow on units for years to come.
Humanitarian assistance for the town became the main effort for the Marines when they realized the dire needs of the villagers. “What we saw was pretty bad when we first arrived,” said 1st Lt. Jay Mogge, the battalion’s paying agent for the Commanders Emergency Relief Program.
“The school was definitely unsanitary and under-equipped; they had no books or desks, their heads were disgusting, their playground was a trash heap, and their lunch room was a pile of dirt.”
The Marines went to work quickly. They provided the entire district with new desks for the students. They built a playground and restroom facility for the students, an outdoor lunchroom with pavilion-style shade, and put ceiling fans and lights into the classrooms.
“They seem so happy to see progress in their school and town,” said Mogge. “Whenever we come around, they welcome us like we’re relatives. It’s been a great experience helping these people out.”
In addition to the work done at the school, the Marines have contracted to build numerous wells in communities both in and around the town, provide new uniforms and nametapes for the district police officers, and begin the process of building a community center. The Marines of 3/6 have also provided supplies and equipment for the local clinic, to include an x-ray machine, ultrasound machine, and a new ambulance.
“The Marines have helped us more than we can ever thank them,” said Dr. Badar, the local doctor who runs the clinic. “We had nothing before the Marines came, now we have everything we need. I don’t want to see them go.” The projects not only served the townspeople by providing needed facilities, but gave the men of the town employment, bolstering their local economy.
The second part of the mission has proved to be equally as challenging. Providing security for the district included running numerous foot and vehicular patrols all around the town and the district, cordons and search operations to confiscate weapons caches, and raids to capture Taliban leaders.
In addition, the Marines have conducted vehicle checkpoints throughout the area to deter weapons from being imported into the capitol city of Kabul. Surprisingly, the travelers who have been stopped at the checkpoints are not angry at the time delay.
“We are happy that we have security in our villages now,” said one traveler in the back of his mini-van, packed with his family. The checkpoints have also given the Marines a chance to interact with locals and learn their customs.
“At first it was difficult to understand them,” said Cpl. Justin Henshaw, a non-commissioned officer in the operations shop, “but as you get to know them, you realize they are actually pretty good people. I can actually speak a little of the language now.”
The Marines are beginning to blend in with the local culture. Each day, swarms of villagers visit the base, some to get much-needed work, some to offer information about enemy activities in the district, others to bring food and talk with their new neighbors.
Although most of the people in the district seem to welcome the presence of the Marines, there are many in the district with different ideas.
Engineer, Sher Hasan Sangaar, the representative of the Ministry of Power, is responsible for the operations at the dam.
“I get death threats every day. I am aware of several meetings between Taliban and Hizb-I-Islami leaders who plan on blowing up the dam and attacking the Americans. I am afraid; I know they are out there and they are planning,” he said.
Sangaar’s fears are occasionally realized. The forward operating base has recently been attacked with rockets and mortars; fortunately no Marines or civilians have been injured.
“They typically attack during the extreme dark hours at night before the moon rises,” said Sgt. Jason Karras, Sergeant of the Guard at the base. “When they attack during the day, their fire has been pretty inaccurate. They will shoot a rocket or a mortar round at us then run away before we can get there. It’s frustrating.”
The biggest threat in the area seems to be from Improvised Explosives Devices, a major threat throughout the country. Rumors have run rampant through the town about a multitude of terrorists operating in the area who have threatened to use this weapon, but to date, no Marines have been attacked.
“I think the main reason we’ve avoided these kind of attacks are because of our aggressive patrolling and vehicle checkpoint efforts,” said Carabine. “We’ve also done a lot for these people and made friends. The people in the town give us information and we can prevent attacks before they occur. In a way, the villagers themselves are another line of defense.
Like I said earlier, it’s a different type of mission than we’re used to but we’re adjusting.”
As the villagers leave the base for the day and the last day patrol returns, the villagers make their way back to their homes, smiling and waving. They feel secure despite the presence of terrorists just outside of town. It seems as if the new concept of a combined arms effect is working. And the Marines are adjusting quite well.
Marine from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment help to repair a town in Afganistan. The Marines, alongside local and American contractors, installed electricity, billeting, head facilities, and numerous other improvements to insure that the base would be able to house follow on units for years to come. Photo by: Capt. Brendan G. Heatherman, Assistant Operations Officer 3rd Battallion, 6th Marine Regiment
08-01-04, 05:59 AM
22nd MEU (SOC) recognized for its role in the war on terror
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- A recent Marine Administrative message (MarAdmin 295/04) listed the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) as among those units awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal (GWOTEM).
In mid-March 2003, President George W. Bush signed an executive order creating the GWOTEM and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and earlier this year the Department of Defense published the exact criteria for the award.
"These medals recognize the significant contributions members of the armed forces bring to bear in combating terrorism in all forms throughout the world - - for both current and future operations," stated the DoD news release announcing the medals.
The awarding of the GWOTEM to the 22nd MEU (SOC) was specifically for its 2002 deployment during which the unit conducted security operations in Pakistan, humanitarian relief efforts in Djibouti, and several other operations in the Central Command theater, the nature of which remain classified.
Approval for the MEU's current deployment that includes extended combat service in Afghanistan remains pending until the unit leaves the area of operations.
The GWOTEM is positioned above the GWOTSM, both of which are worn before the Armed Forces Service Medal. There are currently no provisions for multiple awards of the GWOTEM.
The scarlet, white, and blue stripes on the GWOTEM's ribbon represent the United States while the gold stands for excellence and the light blue for worldwide cooperation against terrorism.
On the front of the medal's bronze-colored disc is a shield and eagle representing the United States. In the eagle's claws is a crushed serpent meant to symbolize terrorism, two crossed swords beneath the shield represent readiness, and the underlying wreath denotes honor and achievement.
The medal's reverse again features the swords, eagle, and crushed serpent, and the disc is encircled with the inscription "War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal."
For Marines seeking information on their GWOTEM eligibility for their service with the 22nd MEU (SOC), they should review MarAdmins 129/04 and 295/04 or speak with their respective administrative support unit. A future MarAdmin will provide specific dates of eligibility for the award.
During its LF6F 2-02 deployment (February to August 2002), the MEU consisted of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 6th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22. Currently, the MEU's major subordinate elements are BLT 1/6, HMM-266 (Reinforced), and MSSG-22.
MarAdmin 295/04 announced the awarding of the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) for its service in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM during the unit's 2002 deployment. At the time, the MEU consisted of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 6th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22.