HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
Marines from Regimental Combat Team 1, with the aid of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), conducted a vehicle interdiction and search operation near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, May 4.
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 supplied two CH-53D Sea Stallions to support Marines from RCT-1 while they performed searches of vehicles traveling near Afghanistan’s southwestern border with Pakistan. Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 supplied two AH-1W Cobras to provide offensive air support to the Marines on the ground, said Capt. Glen Taylor, the assistant future operations officer and heliborne unit commander with RCT-1.
“We’re interdicting smugglers who are running weapons, fighters and drugs through the deserts on the Afghan-Pakistan border.” said Taylor. “The tools we have put in place allow us to make aerial observations of vehicles in this area and if they fit the profile of a vehicle likely to belong to a smuggler, we utilize the Cobras to safely bring them to a halt. As the ground force, we search the vehicles and the personnel inside. We determine if they are carrying any contraband and question the personnel to see what their stories are.”
Recently, Marines with Regimental Combat Team 1’s aerial reaction force, reinforced by Company E, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, seized more than $2.5 million worth of raw opium and heroin after stopping a suspicious vehicle. These types of operations are intended to interdict and disrupt insurgent forces from transporting arms, narcotics and supplies across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
“Operations like these demonstrate to the enemy that we can come in with aerial reaction forces and disrupt their supply lines not only from the ground, but from the air as well,” said Maj. Christopher S. Benfield, a future operations planner with 2nd MAW (Fwd.). “By coming in from the air the Marines are able to catch the insurgents off guard and throw their operations off-balance.”
Benfield went on to explain the far reaching impact of these types of operations.
“Anything we can do to take away the means that the enemy uses to fund their activities is always a help to the troops on the ground,” Benfield added.
Capt. Anthony Damico, a CH-53D pilot with HMH-463, who served as the assault flight lead and escort flight lead for the most recent string of interdiction missions, said these operations fit perfectly into his squadron’s motto, “supporting the infantry since 1944.”
“Aerial interdictions have become a priority for RCT-1 and it is always our priority to support the infantry,” Damico said. “If their intention is to interdict then it becomes ours to help them make that happen.”
Although the interdictions don’t always lead to big finds, Taylor said they serve a secondary purpose.
“We don’t always get weapons or drugs on every hit, but we do pick up intelligence and cause some disruption to their trafficking,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the seamless integration between air and ground forces leads to the positive results that aerial interdiction and disruption operations have been yielding lately.
“This is the second time this particular force has done it so they’re pretty well rehearsed,” Taylor said. “We were able to keep the same air crew we had last time, and they did a great job. They’re becoming more and more aggressive and are able to get us very close in and perform some quick landings allowing the Marines to get in and get out in the quickest way possible.”
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