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Patriotic Article
War and Tragedy

By USMC Cpl. Benjamin Crilly

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The Insurgent Can't Hide in the Dark in Sangin
(June 22, 2011)

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FORWARD OPERATING BASE INKERMAN, Helmand province, Afghanistan (6/19/2011) - Sgt . Michael P. Hodge and Cpl. Nicholas D. Pelusio owned the night in their slice of Sangin while conducting an observation post in an abandoned compound, June 7.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE INKERMAN, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - Marines with 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, patrol past Afghan laborers returning from a night observation post in Sangin, June 8, 2011. Night observation posts compounded with multiple patrols enable the Marines of 1st Platoon to provide a 24-hour security presence in their area of operations.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE INKERMAN, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - Marines with 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, patrol past Afghan laborers returning from a night observation post in Sangin, June 8, 2011. Night observation posts compounded with multiple patrols enable the Marines of 1st Platoon to provide a 24-hour security presence in their area of operations.
Hodge and Pelusio are Marines from 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment operating in the district of Sangin, 300 miles southwest of the nation's capitol of Kabul.

These night patrols limit the insurgent's movements, set an example for the Afghan National Army at Patrol Base Fires and keep a 24-hour security presence in the area.

When Marines are set in and observe a position it prevents insurgents from maneuvering under the cover of darkness away from patrol bases. It makes the enemy think twice before they attempt to circumvent the patrol base since they don't know where the night observation post will be.

“Night ops prevent the enemy from putting in improvised explosive devices or pre-stage ammo and weapons in staged fighting positions,” said Sgt. Michael P. Hodge, a squad leader for 1st Plt. “Us being around at night also prevents the enemy from being able to do their murder and intimidation campaigns against the local people.”

The Marines defensive positions consist of abandoned compounds and tree lines. This makes their positioning very important. Squad leaders and team leaders must ensure that they are not positioning their Marines on top of Improvised Explosive Devices. The strength of the night op lies in the self discipline every Marine learned at boot camp keeping them awake and vigilant against a shadow enemy.

“We don't normally take the Afghan National Army or an interpreter out with us on the night ops so we have to use the tree lines or abandoned compounds since it is against their [Afghan] culture for us to go into an inhabited compound without the ANA,” said Hodge.

The night posts also provide an extra measure of security for the people. Hodge, from Lemoore, Calif., and a 2005 graduate of Lemoore High School, says reactions to the additional security are mixed depending on what area the Marines operate in.

“We are trying to show the people that we will have security for them not only during the day but also at night as well,” said Hodge.
The Marine's presence is usually enough to deter the enemy from trying to move in the area, said Cpl. Nicholas D. Pelusio, a team leader for 1st Plt.

“You see people walking around sometimes, it is pretty boring but necessary,” said Pelusio, from Las Vegas and a 2006 graduate of Bonanza High School. “Despite the lack of enemy activity, we have to get off the base to observe the environment. We are always trying to be one step ahead of the enemy.”

“By going out on night ops we show the locals and the ANA that we will go out there to provide security without fear of enemy fighters,” said Pelusio. “We are also trying to show the ANA how to better provide security for their country and what they need to be doing. The best way to do that is by leading by example.”

The platoon's efforts to set that example for the ANA can also be seen in the execution of the commander's 24-hour security presence. The intent is simple. Have boots on the ground 24/7 to show the enemy that they cannot operate without being detected by the Marines. The end goal is that the people see a constant stream of Marines. People feel more comfortable talking to the patrols without fear of retaliation from the insurgents with the added presence, explained Pelusio.

“A 24-hour presence means that there is always a patrol out walking the area of operations. We are trying to walk around and hit every area of every sector at least once a day while talking to the people,” said Pelusio. “We are constantly patrolling the area because we are seeing how the enemy is reacting to us and our 24-hour presence.”

The ops are a critical factor in earning the trust and confidence of the people in Sangin.

“I expected to do night ops every once in a while before coming out here,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher B. Grieg, an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gunner with 1st Plt., from Los Altos Hills, Calif. “Without night ops we would miss out on a large chunk of that 24-hour period and it would not work.”

For the Marines of 1st Platoon, the goal of having night ops every night serves an extra purpose; showing the ANA what it takes to create a secure environment in Sangin.

Article and photo by USMC Cpl. Benjamin Crilly
Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division
Copyright 2011

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