FORWARD OPERATING BASE WHITEHOUSE, Afghanistan --
As Afghan forces take responsibility for more civil and security operations in Kajaki, Marines serving with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, are staying connected with the local community.
“One of the things we did when we first got to Kajaki was establish weekly shuras in some of the villages,” said 1st Lt. Kevin J. Fitzsimmons, a native of Greenville, S.C., and a platoon commander with Weapons Co. “We bring all the elders and people in so we can talk to them about what is going on in the village and the surrounding areas."
The Marines left Forward Operating Base Whitehouse early in the morning April 14 to meet with Afghan National Civil Order Police officers at Patrol Base Virginia, an ANCOP post in Kajaki.
The Marines and ANCOP officers patrolled through the nearby village to spread word of the shura to the community. They moved down main streets and made sure to inform community leaders that the shura was about to begin.
The Marines and Afghan officers returned from the patrol and soon village elders and citizens gathered at the patrol base to begin the shura.
Village elders, shopkeepers and farmers attend the shuras every week at PB Virginia. Fitzsimmons said it’s important that the shuras are open to the public, so if an individual has an issue that isn’t being addressed in the community, it can be brought up for the entire group to discuss.
The shura began with an update from the Marines on what occurred in the previous week. This week, Fitzsimmons informed the villagers of several attacks against civilians by insurgents at patrol bases across Kajaki.
Afterward, the men of the village had the chance to ask questions and voice any of their concerns.
Fitzsimmons said that each shura has different results. At this shura, the citizens were concerned about security because of the recent insurgent attacks. The villagers gave the Marines information they hoped could help prevent future attacks.
Sergeant Hiram Ruiz, a Chicago native and squad leader with Weapons Co., said that shuras are an important tool to gauge atmospherics from the local community. The villagers keep Marines updated on what is going on in the community and let them know when anything unusual has happened in the surrounding area.
The villagers also had the opportunity to speak with the ANCOP officers who are responsible for security in their village. Fitzsimmons said it gave the officers and citizens the chance to discuss past issues and develop a stronger working relationship for the future.
After the shura, the Marines patrolled back to FOB Whitehouse, stopping to talk with more people along the way.
“The more face time we can get with Afghan citizens, especially the elders, the more likely they are to share information with us,” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s important to get out and tell the people that we are here for them.”
Editor's Note: The Marines of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, are currently assigned to Regimental 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.