Photo Information

1st Tanks supported 2/4 during Operation Alekhine’s Gun, a heliborne and motorized raid into an area known for corruption and enemy occupation. Marines made use of their mobilized speed and night vision capability to disrupt and confuse enemy operations in the city of Shah Karez.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Storm

2nd Battalion, 4th Marines charge Alekhine’s Gun

16 Feb 2012 | Staff Sgt. Robert Storm

Together with their Afghan National Army partners, the Marines and sailors from 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines conducted operation Alekhine’s Gun in Musa Qal’eh District, Afghanistan.

The “Magnificent Bastards,” as the Marines of 2/4 are known, launched a heliborne and motorized night raid into areas suspected of housing improvised explosive device production training camps and drug running operations. The raid was intended to disrupt these operations and search for high value personnel.

“We used our night vision and speed to surprise them,” said 1st Sgt. Adam Bala, 37, Golf Company first sergeant, from San Diego, Calif. “We obviously caught them off guard, there was some initial resistance but we overcame it quickly.”

During the operation, the Marines seized a deserted police compound as a command post and then searched all buildings in the city to find weapons caches. The speed and timing of the initial push was used to confuse and disrupt insurgents from effectively counter-attacking. Several enemy fighters abandoned their weapons and fled. Some of them attacked the Marines with indirect fire but friendly forces quickly overwhelmed them.

During the exchange, Marines took shelter in a nearby building and found an IED training facility. The house had a large amount of explosives and various triggering devices.

“This area has a history of corruption and enemy occupation,” said Capt. Tad Drake, 31, Golf Company commander, from Tallahassee, Fla. “The enemy forced the police out. By our taking back over the police station, we’re sending a message.”

During the operation, the Marines captured enemy personnel and confiscated numerous enemy weapons caches and even 150 pounds of black-tar heroin. The laundry list of recovered enemy weapons includes rocket-propelled grenade launchers, rifles and machineguns with thousands of rounds of ammunition and homemade explosives. The heroin has an estimated value between $100,000 and $175,000 per kilogram.

“This operation was wildly successful. It was beyond all expectations; we were able to disrupt insurgents and give the ANA some breathing space,” said Lt Col. Bill Vivian, 46, battalion commanding officer, from San Clemente, Calif. “We seriously interfered with their ability to fight and their funding source. They were caught completely by surprise.”

“I was able to celebrate my 25th anniversary in the Marines by blowing up an IED training camp,” Vivian smiled.

While the country remains sometimes dangerous and uncertain, steps toward a peaceful and stable government are being made. The presence of the Marines in areas of Afghanistan is supported by many of the local villages that have long been threatened and intimidated by the thuggish tactics of the enemy. Noticeable progress has been made with the government, allowing for free elections and the building of schools, hospitals and roads as provinces continue to improve their infrastructure.

“We’re here to separate the enemy from the people and to get the government close to the people,” said CWO2 Fred Keeney, 36, gunner, from Springhill, Kansas.

E-mail Staff Sgt. Robert M. Storm at

Editor’s note: The “Magnificent Bastards” 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.