COMBAT OUTPOST OUELLETTE, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan --
They stand watch atop the high hills of Afghanistan, with fields of farm lands covering the area for miles. The local residents work peacefully under the guardian eyes of the Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers.
Though these Marines don’t ride around in tanks, the logistics train Marines with D Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, are a crucial element to their company’s success in their missions in and around the outpost.
Based out of Camp Leatherneck, the logistics train Marines support their brothers in “Dirty Delta” by providing all the necessities they require to survive on the battlefield and a boost of morale to keep them going. Sometimes a simple letter or care package can be the difference in a Marine’s mental and physical performance.
“Everyone loves to see us rolling in,” said Lance Cpl. Luis Briceno, a tank crewman with the team and a Toledo, Ohio, native. “They know we’re carrying the mail that has all the ‘hellos’ and ‘I love yous’ for them.”
At other times their mission includes aiding the Afghan National Army by providing a watchful eye for the local area. They park their massive combat vehicles at the tops of nearby hills to better provide security for both the Afghan people and the Marines below patrolling through the streets.
“Being in charge of the logistics trains, it gives the Marines a sense of accomplishment by allowing them to do overwatch missions,” explained Gunnery Sgt. Kian Adyani, the tank leader with the company and an Anaheim, Calif., native.
His Marines also recently took turns to provide a 24-hour watch during a routine transfer of authority in the area from Battalion Landing Team 3/8 to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment — there was not a single moment the turret on the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle went unmanned for several days.
A Marine in the turret position providing security can see for miles. The logistics train Marines carefully watch everything from the lush vegetation and small children herding livestock to the heavy flowing river that provides essential water for the Afghan people.
“As a gunner, I’m aware of the dangers that come without having a gunner,” said Cpl. Carlos Torres, an assaultman with the battalion working as a gunner on the MK-19 40 mm Machine Gun and an Inglewood, Calif., native. “We have a better view of the dangers that may lie ahead on the road or out in the distance than anyone else on the vehicle.”
A local farmer approached the Marines at one point and offered them a home-cooked meal of chicken and bread. The interpreter with the Marines said it was the man’s way of saying ‘‘thank you’’ for the security the Marines’ provided.
“It just makes it easier for you to know that the local residents are on our side,” said Briceno. “Plus, the chicken was pretty good.”
The sun fell slowly over the hills and the moon peaked over the opposite ridge. The stars and moon alone shed light on the Marines below, and the warrior on watch had the MK-19 at the ready and a set of night vision goggles to help him see under the night sky.
“It wasn’t too bad knowing I had two other vehicles to the left and right of me covering what I couldn’t see,” explained Briceno. “Switching out with the rest of the guys throughout the night, especially when I got tired, also made me feel at ease.”
The Marines successfully accomplished their mission providing overwatch. Their cue to depart the area finally arrived when the new team of MRAPs and a tank pulled up the hill and into their positions. The logistics train Marines packed their belongings and made their way back to the outpost. The 30-minute drive back to the COP on a freshly paved road was a reminder of the positive progress the area has experienced in the past year.
After more than 50 combat re-supply missions and several overwatch missions, Adyani and his Marines continue to do their best as the supporting arm for the Marines of “Dirty Delta” and said they are pleased to take part in the safekeeping and bright future of the people of Afghanistan.
“It feels good because we know we’ve made, and are still making, a difference in the quality of life for the Afghan people and building a better relationship with them,” said Adyani.
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.