COMBAT OUTPOST NOW ZAD, Afghanistan -- As Afghan forces continue to take the lead security role in Helmand province, the Marines are quietly helping them build their confidence.
One way to do that is to go on a mission, but let the Afghans handle the majority of the work.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, did just that during Operation Gridlock, a weeklong vehicle checkpoint operation, here, May 21. The Marines partnered with the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Civil Order Police to create a vehicle checkpoint along a main road in Now Zad.
The Marines provided concertina wire and spike strips, but the Afghans took care of the rest by providing security and conducting searches.
At the beginning of the week, Marines taught the Afghan National Security Forces how to properly conduct a vehicle checkpoint, and by the end of the week, the Marines were nearly unneeded, said 1st Lt. David Long, a platoon commander with 3rd Bn., 4th Marines.
Several Afghan soldiers and police officers worked with the Marines throughout the week.
“They (Afghan forces) were very respectful to the locals and were excellent,” said Long, a 25-year-old native of Scranton, Penn.
As vehicles approached, Afghan soldiers and police stopped the cars, unloaded the passengers and then searched both the vehicle and its occupants. The Afghans also provided their own security with vehicle-mounted machine guns.
There were no incidents throughout several hours of searches. Sgt. Derrick Organo, a squad leader and machine-gun section leader with 3rd Bn., 4th Marines, said this is because the presence of Afghan National Security Forces discourages the enemy from attacking.
Organo also explained a mission without incidents is exactly what the Marines wanted and what the Afghans need to build confidence.
“They’re pretty good,” said Organo, a 23-year-old native of San Francisco. “They knew what to do, and they didn’t have to ask us any questions. We’re trying to build their confidence in their vehicle checkpoints. When we have a day like today, they know they did well.”
While there were no firefights or improvised explosive devices, the Afghan soldiers recognized that the enemy was watching. One soldier pointed towards a tree line and a compound while explaining that the insurgents usually shoot from there with rockets and machine guns.
“They know who is bad and who is good,” Organo said of the Afghan forces. “I was impressed.”
The weeklong mission helped the ANSF gain confidence in their tactics, and while there may still be insurgents in the area, the Afghan National Police Commander believes his men can handle the fight. Recently, the commander held a meeting with locals to let them know the ANSF would continue to provide security in the district.
“We are enough, and we will fight the Taliban to the death in Now Zad,” Lt. Col. Shir Ali Noor said to the people of the district. “Now go about your life, and know we all will fight for it.”