MARINE FORWARD OPERATING BASE, Southern Afghanistan -- Within striking distance of the Taliban held city of Kandahar, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) stands ready for follow on missions after seizing a forward operating base here in southern Afghanistan.
A large percentage of the 15th MEU (SOC) is working around the clock within the confines of the compound's walls keeping the base secure and building it up for the continuous in-flow of Marines.
Infantrymen occupy fighting holes around the entire perimeter. Armored vehicles, heavily armed vehicles and reconnaissance Marines patrol the immense desert outside the boundary. Helicopters and jets keep watch even farther out.
"We all want to do our part just like every other American said Capt. Eric Putnam, Alpha Co. commander. We are morally right. We are defending our country, and we're going to win."
Marines occupy guard towers that were already in place when the compound was seized Nov 25. The elevated observation posts allow the Marines to see nearly 20 miles across the flat terrain.
"There is ice in our canteens in the morning and the parkas we have practically save our lives," said Sgt. Anthony Anguiano, a squad leader with Alpha Co., Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 15th MEU (SOC) and Houston native. "Our focus keeps us awake and alert."
Explosive Ordnances Disposal and combat engineer Marines checked buildings for mines, bombs and other traps the morning after the raid. No such devices were found allowing the MEU to quickly move in to establish a base camp.
Rooms were cleared of furniture, clothing and other items as command posts, berthing spaces and warehouses were created. Construction supplies, wood burning stoves and scaffolding have been put to use by innovative Marines.
Electrical power, running water and waste disposal facilities have been conjured by the MEU's combat service support element and Navy Sea Bees. A motor pool and base traffic plan was designated.
Marine KC-130 aerial refueling and transport aircraft and U.S. Air Force C-17 transport jet use the dirt packed runway here repeatedly moving Marines, vehicles and various logistical supplies from the USS Peleliu to the forward operating base.
"The terrain and weather here is just like (Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Center) Twentynine Palms (Calif.)," Anguiano said. "We've been thinking back to the long training evolutions we've gone through there and remembered the lessons learned. The Marine Corps has prepared us well for this."
Maintaining readiness is paramount in the Marines daily schedule. The ground combat element practices firing everything from heavy machine guns to 81mm mortars and rehearses tactical maneuvers. Pilots fly reconnaissance missions frequently. Security alert drills are sounded in the camp, and commanders go over contingency plans with intensity.
"After Sept. 11, the Marines have been real anxious to do a little more than sit in the defense," Putnam said.