WUSHTAN, Afghanistan --
Helicopters landed in a field during the early morning darkness, May 17, delivering the Marines of Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and soldiers of the Afghan National Army to the outskirts of the town of Wushtan to begin Operation Sangin United Horizons.
The Marines of Baker Company acted as the main effort of the operation, with the other companies of 1st Battalion acting in supporting roles.
“Wushtan is known as a facilitation hub,” said Capt. Peter Ankney, commanding officer of Baker Company. “A lot of the insurgent activity that we see in Sangin and Musa Que’la is fed from that facilitation hub.”
Baker Company made up the main effort of the operation aimed to disrupt insurgent activity in the region. They moved in from the south and investigated areas of suspected insurgent activity, searching for weapons, improvised explosive device making materials, narcotics and insurgents.
Shortly after entering the town, Marines searched a suspicious abandoned compound. Lance Cpl. Anthony Quintanilla, a SAW gunner serving with Baker Co., investigated a well inside the compound walls. He found a hidden tunnel concealing a weapons and drug cache.
The Marines and ANA soldiers cleared the rest of the compound and used it as a temporary patrol base for the duration of the operation.
For the next three days, the Marines and soldiers went on daily patrols from the PB, investigating areas of interest, questioning locals and recording biometric data with handheld interagency identity detection equipment systems.
The HIDE system allows Marines to match fingerprints and other physical data from collected evidence to individuals who have previously have their biometric data entered into the system.
During the operation, the Marines were typically greeted with smiles from the Afghan locals. During stops in the patrols, local citizens would often bring food and tea to the Marines and soldiers.
Curious children would often follow the patrols around the town.
“Seeing a Marine and all the gear we carry is strange for a kid,” said Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Barth, a team leader serving with Animal Company. “They see us and they want to come over and investigate us.”
The Marines and ANA gave the children food and candy and talked to them during halts in the patrols.
While the Baker Co. Marines operated inside the town, other elements of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, cordoned off the area, preventing anyone from fleeing the city and resupplying the Marines inside.
As the operation came to an end, the troops made their way out of Washtun to wait to be picked up by helicopters. Mohammed Ikhlas, an Afghan local, offered to let the ANA and Marines wait in his compound. He said the soldiers and Marines work hard to protect the Afghan people and he wanted to help them any way he could.
When all was said and done, the operation resulted in several arrests and the discovery of large caches of weapons and narcotics.
“We definitely disrupted them,” Ankney said. “We sent the message that we can go anywhere, anytime.”