FORWARD OPERATING BASE NOLAY, Afghanistan --
Little more than two months ago, the region through which Route 611 traced north through Helmand province was a dangerous one, at best. Known as the last Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan, the Upper Sangin Valley was gripped in terror and saw little activity in the way of local commerce and development along its main thoroughfare. The future was bleak.
Operation Eastern Storm was launched in early October to combat the trend of oppression.
The major offensive, led by the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, aimed to drive the Taliban-led insurgency from the region, while also reestablishing a sense of stability among the local populace.
Assisting them in a logistical capacity were the Marines of Combat Logistics Company 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward). An element of Combat Logistics Battalion 6, the company was formed for the purpose of providing Task Force 1/6 direct support during their operations, said Gunnery Sgt. John Serpa, a native of Gulfport, Miss., and company first sergeant for CLC-6.
“The Marines understood that they had to give 110 percent every day. That’s what the infantrymen on the ground deserved,” said Serpa.
As the logistical force in charge of supporting 1/6, CLC-6’s leadership isn’t unclear about their mission.
“1/6 was charged with clearing Route 611 and the Kajaki Sofla Bazaar,” said Capt. Kyle Schull, a native of Watertown, S.D., and company commander of CLC-6. “Our task was to figure out how to support that and we decided we were going to stand up a CLC comprised of one motor transportation platoon and two engineer platoons.”
The company also included a robust headquarters platoon, which provided critical services such as landing support and maintenance.
In addition to clearing enemy forces from the population centers along the Helmand River, Schull noted that a secure route would allow convoys to deliver equipment and parts required to install a third turbine at the Kajaki Dam, located northeast of the village of Kajaki.
The dam was built in 1953, and according to the United States Agency for International Development, the additional turbine is part of ongoing project to bring more reliable power and irrigation to the region. Once operational, this enhancement would improve energy distribution through Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
“It’s very significant to the local population,” said Schull, just moments after CLC-6 Marines became the first 2nd MLG (FWD) unit to resupply Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge by ground. The convoy rolled through Kajaki with impunity to deliver a pair of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to the Marines based there, but this feat was weeks, if not years in the making.
To bolster security forces north to the dam, the CLC-6 engineers were tasked with building each of the several patrol bases along Route 611 and broke ground during the first week of October. The motor transportation platoon provided sustainment in the form of food, fuel and ammunition, noted 1st Lt. Alex Urankar, a native of Mountain Lakes, N.J., and CLC-6 executive officer.
“The motor [transportation] platoon has run 31 convoys to date, within the last 39 days,” he said. “Anytime they are not on the road, they are loading for the next mission or sleeping.
“We’re keeping 1/6 going.”
As of Nov. 27, the numbers they have posted in the last two months are substantial proof of their accomplishments during the operation. To date, the company has logged more than 37,000 convoy miles, hauled more than 9,000,000 pounds of cargo and transported 146,000 gallons of fuel.
Due to the massing of Marines in the area, positive results are already evident. Previously deserted villages and bazaars are teeming with life once again and life in general appears to be improving for the Afghans who call the area home. 1st Lt. Caelyn Furman, a native of Metairie, La., and CLC-6 motor transportation platoon commander, has noted the change in atmosphere during her multiple combat logistics patrols along the route.
“The positives are definitely there … We are building rapport with the locals,” said Furman. “I think that puts a lot more responsibility on the Marines and they really thrive with that responsibility on their shoulders.
“Route 611 is the main thoroughfare through Sangin District and Kajaki District; it’s the lifeblood. I think it’s critical to the future of Afghanistan that this area is secured and the local populace is able to use 611 for infrastructure building well into the future.”