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Mess with the Best, Die like the Rest

Marines strike insurgent positions in Afghanistan

NOW ZAD, Afghanistan —

Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan conducted a major combat operation against insurgent forces in Now Zad, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, April 3.

The Marines of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, struck well-known enemy locations identified within and near the insurgent-infested Now Zad District center.

U.S. Marines maintain security as other Marines assess battle damage on a former enemy position during a combat operation

U.S. Marines maintain security as other Marines assess battle damage on a former enemy position during a combat operation in the abandoned village of Now Zad, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. – Photo by Cpl. Pete Thibodeau

“Now Zad’s District center is kind of a unique place in Afghanistan because there is no local civilian population,” said 1st Lt. Mike H. Buonocore, the executive officer of Co. L.

Co. L was reinforced by engineers, aviation support from the aviation combat element, rocket artillery support from SPMAGTF-A’s Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, Air Force and Navy aviation assets and Army rocket artillery support. During the combat operation, the Co. L Marines targeted positively identified enemy positions where insurgent attacks have originated from over the past several months. Other locations were identified with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.

The two major components involved in the operation were a ground force and an aerial assault. Enemy targets were destroyed by combined fires from rocket artillery, aircraft, mortars and ground troops.

“The mission took some enemy forces out of the fight and showed them how much force we have with us and what we can use against them,” said Cpl. Andrew C. Conte, a squad leader with the ground assault element. “It really cleared out some of the areas we were having troubles in.”

The ground scheme of maneuver employed Co. L as the main effort by conducting a raid on a known enemy position, while other Marines held blocking positions to ensure insurgent reinforcements were denied freedom of movement and the opportunity to engage the Marine forces.

Navy F/A-18C Hornet fighter-attack aircraft, an Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber, Marine AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, the Army’s tactical missile system and Btry. D, 2/14’s high mobility artillery rocket system set conditions for the operation by employing precision munitions on key insurgent targets.

ombs burst after a strike by an F/A-18C Hornet figher-attack aircraft

Bombs burst after a strike by an F/A-18C Hornet figher-attack aircraft during a combat operation in the abandoned village of Now Zad, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. – Photo by Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones

“Once the bombs started dropping there wasn’t too much movement,” said Conte. “With all the ground forces out there and everything we had overhead, it was calm because we knew nothing was going to touch us.”

Additional munitions were called in on other known enemy positions to ensure the raid force was successful. Upon initial disruption of the enemy locations, the assault element moved in and conducted thorough site exploitation.

“We were able to engage some enemy targets before they engaged us,” said Cpl. Taylor E. Vogel, a forward observer with the 81 mm mortar platoon. “We were able to drop mortars on [enemy] fire teams that were moving in on [Marine] units. We definitely achieved what we wanted to. We destroyed the big targets that have been occupied by enemy forces.”

Leading up to the operation, the Marines had proactively conducted combat operations in Now Zad’s District center daily in order to shape the battlefield by moving insurgents into disposable positions. Marines took precaution by using leaflet drops and radio broadcasts in the area to warn the population in nearby villages of danger in the area, which helped create agreeable conditions that would result in little or no collateral damage.

“Throughout the winter in Afghanistan, you hear about the [insurgent] spring offensive,” said Conte. “We caught them before they caught us in the spring offensive, and we set the tone of it with showing how much [firepower] we have and what we can use.”

Insurgents attempted to counter the Marines’ strike on Now Zad with improvised explosive devices, mortars, small-arms fire and two rockets that were fired overhead with no success. Unwavering, the Marines positively identified and pursued their targets.

“The operation was a tremendous success on all levels,” said Buonocore. “The confirmed battle damage assessment is pretty significant. There were no civilian casualties,
and nothing was hit that wasn’t a target. We have achieved tremendous success here against the enemy.”

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