FORWARD OPERATING BASE NOLAY, Afghanistan --
Many of the familiar trappings of life are half a world away from the small base nestled atop a hill on the outskirts of the Sangin Valley, but a handful of the Buckeye State’s own who are based here have found echoes of home in each other.
Hailing from cities and towns across Ohio, four Marine Corps reservists have spent the last three months shoulder-to-shoulder supporting combat operations in Helmand province.
The rush of war has drawn the quartet closer, but other familiarities existed among them long before their boots touched down in Afghanistan.
Their parent unit, with which they perform their monthly drills together, is Military Police Company Charlie based in Dayton, Ohio.
“It’s great being out here with these guys,” said Lance Cpl. Adam Roos, of Cincinnati. Roos, a married father of one daughter, serves as a machine gunner with Combat Logistics Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6 – an element of 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
“To be able to talk about home and our families, and get to know the guys you drill with back home is nice. It makes us that much tighter,” he said.
Corporals Ryan Kaethow, of Columbus, and Joshua Keeton, of Fairborn, Ohio, are also married with children of their own.
“We’d spend time together on drill weekends and our wives still talk now that we are gone,” said Kaethow, who drives the lead truck for his platoon’s security team within the company. “There’s a closeness.”
This closeness is, in part, rooted in another combat zone.
The men chewed some of the same dirt during a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom when they were activated in 2009. They returned home in January 2010.
A year ago, each of them was nearly settled back into their respective post-deployment lives as college students, restaurant managers and tree trimmers, when the opportunity for active service came knocking once again. Though they had been home for barely a year, all three men, along with security team leader Sgt. Thomas Bolander, of Toledo, Ohio, volunteered to head to Afghanistan.
The Marines are currently tasked with daily missions escorting resupply convoys throughout their area of operation. On occasion, they complete multiple trips in one day. The pace is a grueling one, but in the end, they all agree their time and effort factor into a greater purpose.
“It’s all about support,” said Kaethow, as he explained how critical it is to ensure the riflemen have what they need to continue the fight. “We fuel their operations.”
The four, along with the rest of CLB-6, still have a few months to go before they head back stateside. Though the busy schedule before them occupies nearly every minute of every waking hour, Ohio is never far from their minds.
I just miss being at home with my family, friends and my dog, said Bolander. Kaethow’s daughter, now 2-years-old, was born while he was in Iraq. He looks forward to spending time with her and his wife.
“We keep up in e-mails and pictures, but I’ve missed a lot of developments,” he said. “I just want to watch her grow up.”
Family is important to them and it’s the same sense of dedication which drew them toward military service in the first place. It’s still evident today as they provide direct support to the infantrymen of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
The unit is currently fighting its way through the Upper Sangin Valley of Northern Helmand province.
“It’s an honor to be part of CLB-6 and to do our part to support 1/6,” said Bolander.
Kelley, who serves as a vehicle commander and navigator, added, “By the time we left Iraq, things were winding down, but here it’s fast paced … a lot more activity. It’s great to be a part of something so big.
“I’m proud to hit both wars of my generation.”