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22nd MEU Afghanistan Recap: Operation EL DORADO

Marine Corps News

Submitted by: 22nd MEU
Story Identification #: 2004876337

Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF OPERATIONS (Aug. 7, 2004) -- The first major combat operation of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) in Afghanistan, EL DORADO, coincided with the last in the ULYSSES-series missions.

As the three rifle and weapons companies of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines pushed deep into Afghanistan's Oruzgan province to seek out Taliban insurgents and anti-coalition militia, a series of ground assault convoys (GACs) left Kandahar Air Field en route to the town of Tarin Kowt.

Lasting from April 25 to May 10, EL DORADO focused on the Shah Wali Kowt valley, which lay between Kandahar and Tarin Kowt and was designed to deny the enemy forces an area they had long used as a sanctuary for their activities. The Marines did so through extensive patrolling and "cordon and search" operations.

Meanwhile, the GACs pushed through the region and began establishing Forward Operating Base Ripley near Tarin Kowt, which would be the MEU's base of operations for the next 11 weeks. On May 4, a Marine KC-130R Hercules supply aircraft flew the first of nearly 300 sorties onto an expeditionary airfield at FOB Ripley.

During these operations, the Marines met scattered, yet fierce resistance that resulted in the death of Cpl. Ronald Payne on May 7 and the wounding of six other Marines through direct fire or improvised explosive devices during various encounters. At least four enemy fighters were killed by MEU forces.

This is the third in a 12-part series recapping the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s operations and missions in Afghanistan. In addition to BLT 1/6, the MEU consists of its Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22.

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