Marines seize ammunition cache in Afghanistan
By Capt. Brendan G. Heatherman
| | August 02, 2004
GHAZNI, Afghanistan --
“This town has no bad people, there is nothing here to worry about, no Taliban,” said a visibly nervous Abdul Razim, police chief for the town of Dado. The Marines of India Company, Third Battalion, Sixth Marine Regiment suspected differently.
The Camp Lejeune, North Carolina based unit was on the first day of a three-day patrolling operation in the town located approximately twenty kilometers northeast of Ghazni in central Afghanistan. Their mission was to ensure Taliban forces were unable to operate in the area and disrupt humanitarian efforts and elections.
The patrol, augmented by a squad of soldiers from the Afghanistan National Army, continued on with their mission. The police chief, drenched in sweat, reluctantly allowed two of his officers to join the patrol. Minutes later, the patrol came upon a compound characteristic to most family living arrangements in Afghanistan; consisting of a high mud and brick wall surrounding several buildings with a well and a courtyard, typically occupied by ten to fifty people. The only features differentiating this compound from the typical compound in the country, were the two white flags.
Unlike the common perception of the white flag in the United States, these were not flags of surrender.
“We came upon a compound that had two Taliban flags flying in it,” said 1st Lt. James Moran, India Company Executive Officer. “As we were cordoning off the compound, the men inside were obviously scared because they started taking the flags down in a hurry.”
Within minutes, the patrol had surrounded the compound and gone inside. The occupants of the compound had no time to resist, only time to deny.
“They denied having anything to do with the Taliban,” said 1st Lt. Nick Zetz. “It was funny because we had just seen them pull the flags down.”
The Marines searched the premises, confiscated some weapons, and continued on with the patrol. In the back of their minds however, they couldn’t help but think of the police chief who claimed there were no Taliban in the area.
“The guy definitely didn’t give us a good vibe,” said Moran. “He was nervous and acted like he wasn’t telling us the truth.” The next morning, the Marines headed back to the police compound.
“It took us three meetings with him before he allowed us to search the compound,” said Moran. Although the Marines suspected the chief was hiding something, what they found during their search of the compound, surprised even them. Inside, was the biggest ammunition cache found by the battalion to date.
Inside the compound the Marines stood in front of the cache, behind them a visibly embarrassed and nervous police chief. They began removing the weapons and ammunition from the compound, a task that would take the entire company hours to accomplish.
The first to go were the weapons. They removed several AK-47 assault rifles, Samozariadnyia Karabina Simonova assault rifles, shotguns, hunting rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and two medium machine guns. That was the easy part.
The Marines spent the next few hours unloading thousands of rounds of machine gun ammunition and small arms ammunition.
“It seemed like it would never end,” said Gunnery Sgt. Aaron MacDonald. The never-ending stream of Marines poured out of the compound hauling propellant charges, chemical protective suits, and grenade charges used to make improvised explosive devices.
Finally, they brought out the last of the dozens of rounds of rocket-propelled grenades and headed back to their forward operating base in Ghazni, satisfied that their mission had been accomplished.
Over the course of two months, India Company conducted numerous operations similar to the patrols in Dado. During these operations, they confiscated thousands of rounds of ammunition, rockets, grenades, and artillery rounds. In addition to the confiscated items, the Marines also detained eight militants.
The real success story is that the Marines of 3/6 detained several suspected militants and confiscated an enormous amount of their weapons and ammunition without any injuries or a firefight. Not an uncommon task for this battalion of warriors.