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Marines survey vehicles to be searched at one of the entry control points in Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 29.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison

Marines provide first line of defense for Afghanistan’s Kandahar Airfield

4 Nov 2011 | Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison

Marines deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, support ground troops by ensuring Marine aircraft are safe and ready to fly.

They are also part of the first line of defense at the base.

Sgt. Jason Van Zile, a Marine Attack Squadron 513 airframe mechanic, typically spends his days working on attack jets. But like all Marines, he is trained as a rifleman first.

“It was 5:30 in the morning and we got a call from post saying four people were crossing the [fence] into base,” said Van Zile, a native of Milwaukee. “When we came up to them they took off running. Then one of them turned around and began engaging us with small-arms fire.”

Van Zile returned fire, quelling the insurgents attempt to infiltrate the airfield.

Each month Marines like Van Zile take a break from their normal duties and are temporarily folded into Kandahar Airfield’s military police ranks to assist in vehicle and compound searches.

“We’re the first line of defense against vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices,” explained Cpl. Frankie Collins, a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 40 airframes mechanic and a native of Post Falls, Idaho.

The Marines inspect dozens of trucks during their shifts, and reaching 100 or more is not uncommon. They scan each vehicle for drugs, weaponry and other contraband. 

“It keeps you on your toes,” said Collins.  “And you get to interact with people from different countries.”

Collins added the rapport built between the Afghan National Army and the Marines while standing duty together is key in protecting the troops and civilians who live and work at Kandahar Airfield.

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Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point