First "Mountain Storm" operation reaps security, goodwill

9 Mar 2004 | Lance Cpl. John E. Lawson Jr.

Behind closed doors in a building aboard Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Marines, along with a few soldiers and sailors, met to discuss the pending mission March 5. Surrounded by dozens of Marines and sailors, a large terrain map covered the room’s floor as light from a computer projector displayed step-by-step mission details. Still at the base camp here, the warriors’ mission had already begun - Mountain Storm. The next day the members of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., conducted rehearsals and gear preparation to get the job done safely and effectively. “We spent the whole day making sure we were ready for anything. We knew what to do in any ‘what if’ scenario,” said Lance Cpl. Stephen Doublet, administration clerk, Headquarters and Service Company.With preparations complete, the Marines were ready for the next phase.“Our mission is to conduct security operations in order to maintain security for our zone of operations,” Maj. Carl E. Cooper Jr., operations officer, said. Keeping the area secure protects both coalition and Afghan lives, he added.The battalion deployed to Afghanistan late last year, and is one of the many coalition units here carrying out operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.The vehicles were ready and waiting in the battalion’s motor pool as the Marines assigned to this convoy, along with the soldiers, sailors, and interpreters, arrived and prepared for the operation. Following a final briefing and a prayer from the chaplain, the convoy was ready to roll.“Mount up,” echoed through the rows of vehicles. Leaping into their vehicles, the Marines strapped on their body armor and fastened the straps of their helmets. The humvees jolted to a start, and the convoy slithered its way through the twist and turns towards the gate out of Bagram Air Field.After a long drive through desert and mountainous terrain, the convoy made a security stop near an Afghan city. “We stopped to check our security before we hit some rougher terrain,” said Cpl. Evan E. Rowe, a driver in the convoy. It also gave the Marines a chance to stretch their legs, he added.During the stop local adults and children ran to the streets, shouting and offering their American friends a hardy “thumbs up.”Many of the Marines waved and exchanged smiles with the children.“To bring a smile to the face of a child you don’t know, that’s important. Children are important,” Doublet said.The Providence, R.I., native added, “The children see us through the eyes of their parents. They need to see us through their own eyes and understand we are not here to destroy their way of life or their community.”The convoy remounted and continued on their way. Once outside of the city, the roads grew rougher and large clouds of sand and dust billowed into the vehicles. Warning signs and minefield indicators littered the landscape, as coalition contractors in protective suits cleared the hills, disarming landmines and unexploded ordinance as part of the continuing coalition effort to help the Afghan people following decades of war. The humvees bounced onward, pulling their weight up and down the steep mountainsides, twisting and turning through gorges, along cliffs, over bridges and through tunnels. The Marines kept a watchful eye on their surroundings, ready to spot any sign of a possible improvised explosive device or potential ambush. The trip continued without incident.After hours of driving, the convoy jerked to a stop. The Marines had reached their objective. Almost instantly the vehicles were arranged tactically and Marines sprung from them to set up a tactical assembly area. Within minutes they had unloaded the trucks and assembled and staked down the command post tent. Then several Marines unrolled camouflage netting, hiding the vehicles and other gear.Once the command post was up and fully operational the Marines who weren’t providing security tried to get some rest. Many laid against their packs sleeping anywhere they could find some shade, while others told stories and jokes.As the sun went down, the temperature began to drop. The hot days and cold nights were something these Marines had experienced before. The men, lying in the sand, began to reach for their poncho liners, wrapping themselves to stay warm. A few unpacked their sleeping bags, but most didn’t, knowing they would be on the move in a few short hours.During the night came the order to displace. All of the Marines woke up and quickly packed away their gear. Almost as fast as it was set up, the camp came down.“We’re used to the odd hours. The mission has to be done, 24 hours a day,” Doublet said. They climbed into the humvees and the convoy took off for its new destination. It wasn’t long before the humvees were unpacked, and camp was re-established in its new location. The sun was rising now, and as the command post was resuming its mission, convoys and other Marines were doing their job elsewhere in the area of operations. According to Cooper, more than a dozen vehicle checkpoints were conducted during this operation.Marines worked in areas surrounding the command post and within surrounding towns. But security operations weren’t all the Marines were up to. Marines and Navy personnel joined forces to provide medical services at a local hospital, continuing the coalition’s humanitarian efforts. The battalion also donated food and water to locals as Lieutenant Col. Robert G. Petit, battalion commander, met with the area chief of police and other local officials. “We recognize you are good people, and we want to help you,” he said to one official. “We are giving support to the surrounding communities. They believe we are here to help them and give them aid. They know we are upset with the terrorist, not the entire country,” Doublet said.Humanitarian aide operations continued the next day while security operations prepared their return to Bagram. As everything wrapped up, the convoys mounted and prepared for the six-hour ride back to Bagram.The mission was a success, Cooper said, and was met without resistance.
Headquarters Marine Corps