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3/3 Marines track down insurgents in Korangal Valley

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 2005136531
Story by Cpl. Rich Mattingly

KORANGAL VALLEY, Afghanistan (Jan. 2, 2005) -- Marines of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have been operating at the forward edge of Operation Enduring Freedom, often in isolated areas where support for insurgency against the Afghan government and Coalition Forces remains.

Last week, I Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, entered the Korangal Valley in Kunar Province with the mission to capture or kill terrorists suspected of conducting attacks against Coalition Forces while working to win over the trust of the local villagers.

“We get intelligence that lets us know where the bad guys are,” explained 2nd Lt. Roy Bechtold, 2nd platoon commander, I Co. “After we get grid locations, we work with our assets to plan the best way to go in and get them.”

The Korangal Valley is infamous for its inaccessibility and the numerous defeats the Russians suffered there during their ill-fated campaign to control Afghanistan.

After vertically inserting in CH-47 Chinook helicopters, I Co. set into blocking positions along the roads and maneuvered into their positions.

“The best way to come in is on foot or by air,” said Bechtold, “We have to leave as small a signature as possible in order to not spook the guys we’re looking for into running. If you come in with vehicles, they’ll be long gone before you have a chance.” Bechtold admitted that Marines in the past have had difficulty getting into villages sympathetic to Anti-Coalition Forces without having the targets flee.

Once in place, the mission of I Co. evolved to house-by-house searches as the clock started ticking on how long the Marines had until it was unlikely that their targets remained.

Up and down the bluffs and rocky faces that double as paths between the impossibly stacked-up houses of the valley, the Marines and Afghan Security Forces talked to village elders, shook hands and searched houses from top to bottom.

“It all goes back to attention to detail,” said Sgt. Shawn Kelly, an acting platoon sergeant in I Co. “You can’t skip anything, it could be that one cache or that one guy you miss that could help us stop an improvised explosive device emplacement or attack on Coalition Forces.”

I Co.’s attentiveness paid off on the second day of the operation as Lance Cpl. Sean Decoursey, rifleman from Jacksonville, Fla., crawled through a small opening in a floor to find a cache of weapons and ammunition hidden under a pile of hay.

“I found the AK-47s and ammunition,” said Decoursey, modest about the find. “I almost didn’t look in that hole either – it looked like maybe it only went back about two or three feet until I crawled in there.”

With the discovery of the weapons, the Marines held one Afghan man for questioning, confiscating his illegal weapons and ammunition. Their find was a good one. After being questioned, the man named several other anti-Coalition militants operating in the area which put I Co. right back to work in the villages.

“It feels really good to be here and to be getting something done,” said Decoursey, who has been in the Marine Corps just over a year. “It feels like we’re really making a difference when we can catch one of them.”

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