Saturday, January 24, 2009

CLB-3 supplies success during Operation Gateway III

Date written: Jan. 20, 2009
Story by Lance Cpl. Ronald W. Stauffer

FARAH PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Marines with 2nd Platoon, Motor Transportation Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 3, conducted multiple combat logistics patrols in support of Operation Gateway III in Farah Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Dec. 28, 2008, through Jan. 25, 2009.

The logistics combat element Marines, part of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, endured more than two weeks behind their steering wheels and gun turrets in improvised explosive device-laden terrain during the initial phases of the operation. Military planners with SPMAGTF-A designed Operation Gateway III as a deliberate plan to clear southern Afghanistan’s Route 515 of any existing IED and insurgent threats on the important east-west route.

The combat logisticians directly supported 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of SPMAGTF-A, with the essential supplies and construction support necessary to erect three combat outposts at strategic locations along Route 515. In a limited amount of time, the three locations were successfully developed from barren land into safe havens for the 3/8 Marines occupying the area.

“Ultimately I was surprised,” said Staff Sgt. Chris O. Ross, platoon sergeant. “The COPs were built quickly, and the Marines were working overtime to do it.”

Ross also said the timing and coordination required to conduct the operation came together well.

Second Lt. Juliann C. Naughton, 2nd Platoon’s convoy commander, explained it’s shocking for the locals to wake up the next morning to see that a military outpost has appeared from nowhere during the course of the night.

“The logistical support was a success, and we delivered the materials in a timely manner,” Naughton said. “We’ve also been interacting with the villagers and letting them know why we’re here.”

Fortifications including concertina wire, a parapet several feet tall and dirt-filled protective barriers ensured the Marines on the interior of the COPs were shielded from outside threats. Multiple observation posts and several heavy and medium machine guns provided security and over-watch for the combat logisticians as they performed their craft.

The interior of the COPs offer living quarters, hygiene facilities, combat operations centers and more to accommodate its current and future residents.

The posts were strategically placed along the route to show an alliance presence, as well as enable safe travel.

“We cleared 515 to make it safer for the Marines, but also the Afghan people and to gain ground for future operations,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin L. Tobler, a turret gunner with 2nd Plt.

Tobler said he was excited to contribute to the operation and felt he was doing his part, ensuring the safety of the Marines in his vehicle and those around him.

Making their first initial push down Route 515 Dec. 28, the combat logistics patrol of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, humvees, 7-ton trucks and logistics vehicle systems made their move down the 43-kilometer-long stretch of dangerous roadway.

Naughton explained that Route 515 hadn’t been traveled by the U.S. military since July 2008, and it is notorious for the IEDs buried in its dirt-packed surface.

Driving more than 290 miles on a series of interconnected asphalt roads and carving their own path into the Afghan soil of Route 515, the combat logistics patrol provided 3/8 with more than 100,000 pounds of supplies, consisting of tents, communications equipment, food, water and other provisions to supply the COPs.

Team Smasher, 3/8’s route clearance and heavy weapons element, was used as a buffer between CLB-3’s supply trucks and potential IEDs placed in the road. Although Smasher came into contact with multiple IEDs, 2nd platoon was able to avoid any complications due to Smasher’s mutual support.

“Marines are first to fight,” Naughton said. “We put ourselves at the point of friction and now have a presence. 515 is dangerous, everything we do is dangerous, but it’s a risk we take.”

Naughton explained that the Marines have to ensure their own safety, as well as those around them and those they can’t see. On the road, every Marine was on the alert and aware of their surroundings.

“It can be rough being on the road for long periods of time, but I love driving in the convoys and our missions,” said Lance Cpl. Tyrone Young, a motor transport operator with 2nd Plt. “I feel we’re helping the Afghan people and the fight against the insurgents, but mostly that we’re making a difference.”

Upon arrival at each coordinated destination, CLB-3 was given a 48-hour time limit to construct a security perimeter and continue building the COPs.

Once the supplies were removed from the vehicles, Support Co. Marines with CLB-3 began construction on the defensive barriers using heavy equipment to fill them and military bulldozers to create and push mounds of dirt.

Once the walls were built, tents were set in place, ground communications were established, and an inner defense of mortars was set.

“The Marines were excited to be part of the operation and help out in any way possible,” Ross said. “They never showed signs of slowing down.”

While at COP Barrow, the Marines were attacked twice with mortar fire but were quick to respond, using radio communications, vehicle movement and 3/8’s mortar fire.

“Communication at all levels,” Naughton said. “The Marines know how to react, and they respond well to any situation.”

Much coordinated planning was implemented by CLB-3 and 3/8 before Operation Gateway III began.

“It’s a team,” said Lt. Col. Michael Jernigan, the CLB-3 commanding officer. “As a MAGTF we were able to do this with the ground combat element. We provided the logistics backbone.”

Jernigan said the Marines work long days and nights, and workdays are sometimes 36 to 48 hours; however, each Marine carries their weight, whether they’re driving in a truck to resupply a position, or they are operating heavy equipment.

“In CLB-3, we have Marines and sailors that do the things behind the scenes. They work all night, they work all day and they work all year round,” Jernigan said. “Additionally, we’ve got the team at Bastion that’s resetting all the maintenance parts and sending out contact teams to fix all the equipment from 3/8 and (CLB-3), so we can continue the mission.”

The work of the Marines is always impressive, he said.

“(We were) a key component because we had to do a lot of the backstage work,” Jernigan said. “We moved into an hostile environment, brought what we needed to survive and built three (COPs), to enable the Afghan police to move in and coordinate with the U.S. Marines to make that area safer for the local Afghans.”

Once all three COPs were complete, CLB-3 regrouped back to Camp Barber to reset for future operations. “Our mission here is direct support to 3/8. This is what we expect,” Jernigan said. “The Marines have always come through and done what is required of them. They use innovation and think of solutions to problems that people haven’t seen yet.”
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