FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZEEBRUGGE, Afghanistan --
Key commanders of Afghan and Marine forces took a tour of a vital partnered position in Kajaki, April 20.
Brigadier General Abdul Wasea, commanding general of 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps, and Colonel John R. Shafer, commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 6, inspected the position and talked to Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers at Observation Post Shrine.
OP Shrine is the northernmost Marine position in Kajaki. It occupies the high ground along the northern side of the Helmand River, preventing insurgent forces from crossing the river and moving south. The commanders asked the Marines and soldiers about the post and what it is like for the men serving there.
Corporal Kenneth Mull, a squad leader serving with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, said from Shrine, his Marines have a clear line of sight of the entire surrounding area. With sniper teams and binoculars, the Marines can see for miles around the post.
Mull, a native of Lubbock, Texas, said sometimes the insurgents have no idea they are being watched.
South of OP Shrine is Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge and the Kajaki Dam. The dam is a key part of the Helmand infrastructure, providing power to the entire region. OP Shrine stands between the dam and areas of known insurgent activity.
“As long as we want to keep FOB Zeebrugge and the dam secure, we need to have Marines at OP Shrine keeping eyes on the enemy,” Mull said.
The Alpha Co Marines spend time at OP Shrine in shifts, spending the remainder of the time at FOB Zeebrugge.
Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge is also home to Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. The Marines of “Goliath Battery” support surrounding area, including OP Shrine, in a variety of ways.
The Marines use M777 howitzer artillery to support Marines for miles around. They fire illumination rounds to give Marines visibility in the night and provide highly accurate fire support with Excalibur GPS-guided rounds and unguided high-explosive rounds.
First Sgt. Christopher S. Gasser, battery first sergeant of Golf Battery, said his Marines have done a phenomenal job. They recently set a unit record with direct hit from 23.6 miles away.
The next nearest Marine position is six miles away, while the nearest known insurgent position less than two miles away, but Cpl. Daniel Thompson, a team leader serving with Alpha Co., said that doesn’t worry the Marines.
“The insurgents are out there and they’re watching,” he said. “It’s important to present a hard target. They have seen us, and they can tell that we take our jobs seriously. They know we are not to be trifled with.”
Editor's Note: The Marines of 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.