BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- A cloud of fine sand filled the air, dusting the goggles of the Marines patrolling the dirt roads surrounding Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The humvees bounced along the road approaching the town of brittle clay buildings as local children rushed from their houses, lining the streets to shout at the Marines and give them the ‘thumbs up.’
About a half a dozen humvees and motorcycles comprised this patrol March 1, manned by Marines from the Combined Anti-Armor Team, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment serving here. Armed with various weapons, ranging from 9mm pistols and M-2 .50-caliber machine guns to MK-19 automatic grenade launchers, this patrol was ready for what ever was sent their way.
The Marines and Sailors of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines arrived in Afghanistan late last year to provide various security capabilities to the Combined Coalition and Air Base here.
Hours before the patrol began, Sgt. Chris Wilkin, CAAT section leader and the sergeant in charge of the patrol, received his mission brief. He then briefed the battalion’s commanding and executive officers. Then one group of Marines loaded the ammunition and supplies onto the vehicles while others mounted and prepped the appropriate weapons.
With the vehicles loaded and the mission clear, Wilkin reviewed a manifest, accounting for every Marine and weapon in each vehicle. After more than an hour of preparation and gear checks the Marines were ready to roll.
“We have well-equipped patrols,” said Wilkin. The patrols focus on providing security for Bagram Air Base and local Afghan communities, the Wilmington, Ohio, native said. While anti-coalition attacks have become less frequent, security remains a concern.
“Our patrols interdict anti-coalition activity in the Bagram area,” Wilkin said.
Vehicle patrols like this also bring a different turn of events. At one of the stops during the patrol, Marines handed out clothing to a small crowd of Afghans gathered in the area. Normally such items are sourced from other various agencies, but the family of a Marine in the platoon donated these two boxes of clothing.
Staff Sgt. Jody Larios, platoon sergeant, sniper platoon, said, “When we go out on patrols, we talk to people. Handing out food, clothing, or supplies is a gesture of faith. It makes them more likely to talk to us.”
Sometimes locals help the Marines find what the patrol is looking for, such as weapons caches or suspected terrorists.
While today’s patrol went peacefully, this isn’t always the case. Despite past enemy encounters, Wilkin said preparation and training has been the key to successful patrols.