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BTL 1/6's Raider 3 finally gets into the fight in Afghanistan

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 5/31/2004

Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

CENTRAL ORUZGAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (June 1, 2004) -- For nearly a month, the Marines of 3d Platoon (call sign - Raider 3), Bravo Co., Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines watched in frustration as their comrades-in-arms scoured the hills of south-central Afghanistan hunting for Taliban insurgents and anti-coalition militia.

As the standing tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) force for the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), the platoon was ordered to remain at Kandahar Air Field (KAF) while the majority of the MEU pushed forward into Afghanistan's Oruzgan province.

Finally, with the commencement of Operation BLADE RUNNER, a multi-company sweep of a series of villages for hidden arms caches and enemy troops, the platoon finally got its chance to get into the fray.

"We spent the whole month anxious to join the rest of the company," said Lance Cpl. James Jeffery, a 3d Platoon rifleman from St. Louis, Missouri. "We were all ready to go, and motivated to get our chance to do our small role in the big picture [war in Afghanistan]."

During their time at Kandahar, the platoon stood ready to launch at a moment's notice should an aircraft from the MEU's aviation combat element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), go down in the unforgiving Afghan terrain. To that end, the platoon conducting numerous TRAP rehearsals, but the mission further north was always in their mind.

"A lot of our time was spent doing MOUT [Military Operations in Urban Terrain] training," said Lance Cpl. Jared Briggs, of Newport, Pennsylvania, another 3d Platoon rifleman. "We even had a small room built like the Afghans use to practice clearing and searching."

Both Briggs and Jeffery agreed the most maddening aspect of their time at Kandahar was the waiting and uncertainty.

"We always heard rumors of when we were going to pull out and after a while became real skeptical," said Briggs, commenting on the fact that the platoon was ordered to stood by to leave every four days only to be told to stand down. "It was real frustrating."

Other than the training and waiting, Briggs remembers a single event as the most memorable of his time at Kandahar.

"We did the ramp ceremony for when Cpl. Payne was brought back to KAF," Briggs said, talking about Cpl. Ronald R. Payne, who was killed in a firefight with Taliban forces near the village of Sahmardun Ghar. Briggs' platoon rendered honors to their fallen comrade as his body was airlifted back to the United States.

"That was real rough, and made us want to go out there more than ever. After that, we really wanted to have a part in what was going on."

During BLADE RUNNER, the platoon inserted by seven-ton trucks into an area suspected of supporting Taliban insurgents and quickly fanned out through a series of sun-baked mud compounds searching for the enemy or hidden caches of arms and ammunition.

The platoon's first foray into enemy territory netted impressive results as they helped uncover more than a dozen rifles, three Italian-made TC-6 anti-tank mines, nearly 20 hand grenades, and a sizable quantity of rifle and machine gun ammunition.

"It's great to finally be out here," said Jeffery after the two-day operation and prior to rolling out on another operation. "It makes all the training and waiting worth it to finally be doing something."

In addition to BLT 1/6 and HMM-266 (Rein), the 22d MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element and MEU Service Support Group 22. The unit is Afghanistan conducting combat and civil military operations as Task Force Linebacker.

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