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3/3 Marines Stay on the Offensive in Afghanistan
by Cpl. Rich Mattingly
Marine Corps News
April 04, 2005

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Third Battalion, 3rd Marines, completed Operation Mavericks this week, successfully rounding up suspected anti-government militia members and confiscating several weapons and explosives caches in the still snow-covered mountains of Eastern Afghanistan.

K and L companies combined their efforts during the battalion operation, simultaneously pursuing several targets they believed were hiding in the Alishang District of Laghman Province. Kilo also worked with Navy Special Operations Forces who shared a third of their objective among the hilltop villages.

Both the Navy SEALS and Marines said pooling their resources was mutually beneficial during Mavericks.

"Working with NAVSOF was great," said 2nd Lt. Michael Poliquin, K Co. platoon commander, adding, "We do business in a very similar manner. We're both very methodical and detail-oriented with mission-accomplishment being the top priority."

Many of the SEALS and Marines, having had experience working with the other service as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, were able to speak the same operational language, which the Marines said kept the mission focused.

"I've never seen something go as "according-to-plan' as this did with as many variables as we had," said Capt. Skyler Mallicoat, K Co. commander.

The Marines were the first coalition forces many of the villagers had ever encountered. Dealing with the culture shock and keeping everyone calm was essential to the success of the mission.

"There are some uncertainties on both sides, among the young Marines who have never experienced this culture before and from the Afghans who see us swoop in on these huge machines and walk around with all our gear," explained Sgt. Michael Villanueva, K Co. squad leader.

"Things became heated between one of the Marines and a man whose house we needed to search. Afterwards, though, when everything had calmed down the Marine and the Afghan man shook hands. I think seeing that, everyone understands we're not here to disrupt anyone's way of life or hurt anyone who isn't out to hurt other people. Maybe an Afghan child seeing that will get the right idea about who we are and why we're here instead of believing whatever stories they are told about us."

The Marines distributed humanitarian assistance supplies to the people of the villages after they had finished their search, and set in for a cold, wet night on the mountainside. Numerous indicators, to include information from sympathetic villagers, gave warning to possible attacks during the night against their position.

The Marines waited, but the enemy never appeared.

"At this point, they know what we bring to the table," said Mallicoat, referring to the enemy's hesitation to engage the Marines. "They know they are a defeated force and they cannot match us."

"We accomplished a lot out there," said Lance Cpl. Rob Gaye, a machine gunner with K Co. "When the villagers realized we weren't there to hurt them, they calmed down. If we cause any damage during our operations, we do what we can to fix or replace it. It feels good to be able to do the right things for the people."

"It's all about seeing the broader perspective," said Villanueva. "Once they see that we're focused on making their villages safer, they help us."

America's Battalion continues to dig deeper into territory Coalition Forces have yet to breech as the temperature change draws insurgents back into Eastern Afghanistan from their winter hideouts. The Marines will continue their security mission in the coming months as they anticipate an increase in activity from terrorists as the weather improves.

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