FORWARD OPERATING BASE WHITEHOUSE, Afghanistan --
As coalition forces continue to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan National Army and police in Afghanistan, the Marines here continue to patrol to keep the people of Kajaki safe.
Since arrival, Marines of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, have assisted Afghan forces in taking control of security operations here and maintaining positive relations with the local civilians.
The Marines began this patrol, April 14, travelling in a convoy of armored vehicles from FOB Whitehouse to Patrol Base Virginia, a nearby post once established as a Marine position, but now transitioned to the Afghan National Civil Order Police who are currently responsible for security operations in the area.
“Most of the patrol bases were initially established by Marines as partnered positions,” said 1st Lt. Kevin J. Fitzsimmons, a native of Greenville, S.C., and a platoon commander with Weapons Co. “Now Marines are consolidating combat power into certain areas and transitioning other areas to ANCOP control.”
During this outing, to facilitate interaction with the local populace, the Marines held a shura in PB Virgina then journeyed on a patrol through, and surrounding, the village outside PB Virgina.
A shura is an open-forum gathering open to all villagers where those who attend can voice their concerns and talk to the Marines and ANCOP officers.
“It lets the people know the Marines are still here to protect citizens and help them out,” said Sgt. Hiram B. Ruiz, a Chicago native with Weapons Co. who led of the patrol. “We let them know that we care and they aren’t alone out here.”
The Marine and ANCOP leaders garnered positive results from the shura with local citizens.
“Today’s shura was absolutely productive,” said Fitzsimmons. “We got information we didn’t have previously, and the local (citizens) and ANCOP were able to work out some of their concerns.”
After the shura, the Marines left the patrol base on foot, patrolling some of the areas the locals had voiced concerns about.
Along the patrol, the Marines came to a vehicle that was traveling a strange route on back roads. The Marines approached the vehicle to question the driver on his route. He told the Marines he was headed to a cemetery to bury his father who was killed by an insurgent suicide bomber. Fitzsimmons gave his condolences and the Marines allowed the vehicle to pass.
The Marines searched several more vehicles along the way, looking for signs of insurgent activity.
Ruiz said the Marines were checking to make sure no bomb-making materials, weapons, or explosives were being smuggled into or out of the area.
After walking through several miles of hills and streams, the Marines finally arrived at their home base, FOB Whitehouse.
“The patrol went well,” Fitzsimmons said. “The Marines are mission oriented and focused. Everybody did great today."
Editor's Note: The Marines of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, are currently assigned to Regiemntal Combat Team 6, which is a part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, 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.