PATROL BASE SHARK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan --
The team wasted no time getting to work. They’ve been rolling and patrolling through the unit’s area of operations providing fire support and delivering supplies.
The Combined Anti-Armor Team with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, is the “big guns” for the unit. Marines on this team are the quick reaction force who arrive on the battlefield as a suppressive fire element, but with a relatively quiet harvest season, they have also been able to help out the different companies and platoons with any supplies they need.
The clicks of seatbelts fastening and radio chatter fills the inside of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle as the truck’s engine turns on. The engine fires up, releasing compressed air while the air filter snorts like a bull about to charge a matador. San Diego native Lance Cpl. Ricardo Gonzalez confirms his vehicle’s readiness to the section leader over the radio. He is a vehicle commander for one of the four vehicles that make up his CAAT. There are three teams total supporting the “Thundering 3/4” Marines.
“CAAT team’s up. Vehicle one, you are clear to push,” directed the section leader through the radio.
“Let’s roll,” hollered Gonzalez as he swung the M-ATV’s door open and prepared to guide the vehicle outside the base.
Dust kicked up by the massive vehicles filled the air, signaling the start of the day for his CAAT. On this day, they were tasked with several re-supply missions and transporting Marines throughout the unit’s area of operations.
“We’ve been here for a little over a week, but no time was wasted in getting us to work,” explained Gonzalez under a chuckle that leaked out from his comment. “But it’s great to know all these re-supply missions are boosting the Marines’ morale.”
The 23-year-old Hilltop High School graduate, along with the rest of the CAAT, is aware of the challenging days to come. They are taking advantage of the relative quiet now to supply the Marines with food, water, hygiene equipment, power generators, and even mail. Recently, a Marine received a Red Cross message, and the CAAT made it a mission to deliver a satellite phone to the Marine so he could call his family.
“It’s been pretty quiet in the past week, but our first warning sign of what’s ahead of us came when an (improvised explosive device) detonated right outside our compound,” explained Gonzalez. “So we’re doing everything we can to support the unit’s while the harvesting season is still going.”
“We know the summer is going to get pretty crazy,” added Sgt. Cody Fazio, a Billings, Mont., native and the section leader for CAAT. “But we’ve been trained for those types of situations and my guys are more than ready for anything.
“We’re here to make Afghanistan a better place,” he concluded. “The people back home must not forget their sons and daughters are fighting for something they believe in. For me, I believe the brothers I’ve lost in combat were fighting to give these people the safe and secure place they’ve been searching for.”
Editor’s Note: The battalion is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division (Forward). The division serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations to secure the Afghan people, defeat insurgent forces, and enable ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.