Camp Leatherneck Transfered to Afghan National Army

Marines and sailors with Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan load onto a KC-130 aircraft on the Camp Bastion flightline, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marine Corps ended its mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the day prior and all Marines, sailors and service members from the United Kingdom withdrew from southwestern Afghanistan.

Marines and sailors with Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan load onto a KC-130 aircraft on the Camp Bastion flightline, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marine Corps ended its mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the day prior and all Marines, sailors and service members from the United Kingdom withdrew from southwestern Afghanistan.

Another chapter in the Afghanistan War closed today as U.S. Marines, sailors and British forces left Helmand Province and transferred Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion to the Afghan National Army 215th Corps.

Regional Command Southwest is the first of the International Security Assistance Force commands to transfer authority to the Afghan national security forces as ISAF moves toward the Resolute Support mission that begins in 2015 according to a Department of Defense news release.

During the past year, Bosnia, Estonia, Denmark, Georgia, Jordan and Tonga ended their operations in Regional Command Southwest.

Military Working Dogs Know No Obstacles

Another MWD. They really do anything their handlers do include climbing ladders Afghanistan. (Photo by Jamie Peters 10 Dec 12 Used with permission)

Another MWD. They really do anything their handlers do include climbing ladders Afghanistan. (Photo by Jamie Peters 10 Dec 12 Used with permission)

Military working dogs don’t know nationality. Above is a photo of a British military working dog.

Fellow blogger Kevin Hanrahan became friends with some British Army combat photographers who agreed to let him use their photos.

The photographic team was deployed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in December when the picture was taken.

You can see more photos and read Kevin Hanrahan’s blog HERE.

More on the British Army 4-legged troopers is available  HERE.

Military Working Dog Archie Saves a Marine’s Life


Photo credit: Kevin Hanrahan blog.

I often share the “Military Dog Picture of the Week” with permission from Kevin Hanrahan. He shares a story this time about a black lab named Archie.

The scene is set in Helmand province, Afghanistan. It’s a hot, dry morning:

In the blocks, a fertile swath of land watered by a canal network stretching dozens of square kilometers, farmers roused their mules early in order to complete ploughing before their relatives came visiting for Ramadan.

The Marines were setting up a checkpoint on the road. Archie was an IDD – the acronym for (Improvised Explosive Device) Detection Dog – his handler Corporal David Cluver.

Their goal that day – August 9th – to explore for hidden explosives. You can read the full story of how Archie saved Cluver’s life here.

Marines Killed in Helicopter Crash Were Based in Hawaii

The Associated Press reports that military officials have released the names of six Marines killed when their helicopter crashed Thursday in Afghanistan.

The crash in the southern province of Helmand was the deadliest in Afghanistan since August, when 30 American troops died after a Chinook helicopter was apparently shot down in Wardak province in the center of the country.

All six were based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, said base spokeswoman 1st Lt. Diann Olson.

The dead were:

  • Capt. Daniel Bartle, 27, of Ferndale, Wash.
  • Capt. Nathan McHone, 29, of Crystal Lake, Ill.
  • Master Sgt. Travis Riddick, 40, of Centerville, Iowa
  • Cpl. Jesse Stites, 23, of North Beach, Md.
  • Cpl. Kevin Reinhard, 25, of Colonia, N.J.
  • Cpl. Joseph Logan, 22, of Willis, Texas

Bartle and McHone were the pilots of the aircraft, while Riddick was the helicopter’s crew chief. Their squadron had been sent in August to Afghanistan as part of a seven-month deployment, Olson said.

A full report is available HERE.

Six Marines Killed in Helicopter Crash Reports AP

Anonymous Defense Official

Associated Press is reporting that all six forces killed in the crash of a U.S. helicopter in Afghanistan were U.S. Marines according to an anonymous defense official. You can read the AP update HERE.

An earlier AP report:

A NATO helicopter has crashed in southern Afghanistan, killing six members of the international military force, the U.S.-led coalition said Friday.

The cause is still being investigated, but a coalition statement said there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of Thursday’s crash, which brought the number of international forces killed in Afghanistan this month to 24.

The coalition did not disclose the nationalities of those killed and would not release details of the crash until the families of the dead were notified.

The helicopter crash occurred on the same day that a suicide car bomber killed at least seven civilians outside a crowded gate at Kandahar Air Field, a sprawling base for U.S. and NATO operations in the south. The Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility, saying they were targeting a NATO convoy.

You can read the initial news article HERE.

A Darkhorse Battalion Marine and the Family Left Behind

Kait Wyatt carries her 1-month-old son, Michael, at the burial for her husband, Marine Cpl. Derek Wyatt, at Arlington National Cemetery, Jan. 7. Photo by Evan Vucci/AP courtesy of

Before deploying with the Darkhorse Battalion, Marine Cpl. Derek Wyat recorded bedtime stories for his unborn son. His widow talked with NPR’s Tom Bowman for his ongoing series on the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment which suffered a record number of casualties while deployed in Afghanistan.

Part five of seven

Last year, on Dec. 6, Kait Wyatt was up early, making breakfast, when the doorbell rang at her home on the Camp Pendleton Marine base.

She opened the door. Two Marines stood there.

“I wanted it to be them telling me that he was OK, that he was hurt or something along those lines. But I knew,” Kait recalls.

“I automatically knew Derek had passed away,” she says.

Her husband, Cpl. Derek Wyatt, was serving in Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, known as “Darkhorse.”

Kait was pregnant: She was due to give birth in just a couple of weeks, in mid-December.

The Marines began the ritual, and Kait, who was 22 at the time, began to sob.

“I kind of heard Derek’s voice in the back of my head saying, ‘There’s nothing you can do about it now, sweetheart. You just need to be strong and to get through this last little bit of your pregnancy,’ ” she says. “And so I dried up my tears, and I asked: What do we do now?”

You can read the full article and listen to Tom Bowman’s story HERE.

Marine 3/5 Battalion Not Prepared for Volume of Bombs

NPR Reporter Tom Bowman. Photo by Jacques Coughlin - courtesy of

A roadside bomb almost every other step – the Marines were not prepared for the sheer volume of explosive devices. That was the key reason the Darkhorse Battalion, known also as the 3/5,  has the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit in Afghanistan over the last 10 years according to NPR reports.

The casualties: 25 Marines were killed in the Darkhorse Battalion, 184 badly wounded during their seven month deployment reported Tom Bowman with National Public Radio.

Bowman has produced a seven part series following the Marines 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, from their October 2010 deployment to Afghanistan Helmand Province through their return home.

“I asked one Marine officer was it all worth it? And he said to me, it depends how Afghanistan turns out,” Bowman said in his most NPR recent story.

Part four of seven

Here Darkhorse Battalion’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jason Morris.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL JASON MORRIS: At the time, I was wondering, what are we doing wrong?

NPR HOST GUY RAZ: That’s the question we want to address today. NPR’s Tom Bowman joins me now. All week, he’s been telling the story of the Darkhorse Marines on the home front. And today, the fight in Afghanistan. Tom, good to have you here.

TOM BOWMAN: Good to be here, Guy.

RAZ: Why the units did this battalion take more casualties than the units that had been there before them?

BOWMAN: Well, you have to go back. The British had been there four years before Darkhorse came in. And they were in roughly the same area as the Marine battalion, but they had a different strategy. They didn’t move out into this area of orchards and fields and heavy brush that they called the Green Zone. And the Marines would frankly say, they didn’t take the fight to the enemy.

So, that meant that the Taliban had a relatively a safe haven here. They stockpiled the area with arms and they were able to sort of lace this area with roadside bombs since the British didn’t push into this area.

Now, the United States had been dealing with roadside bombs now for a decade. The key here was the volume of roadside bombs. The Marines had never seen anything like this before. They were everywhere, almost every other step.

You can read the full transcript and listen to Tom Bowman’s story HERE.

Marine Familes’ Fears Grew with Darkhorse Battalion Losses

A roadside bomb killed Lance Cpl. James Boelk, 24, while he was on a foot patrol, Oct. 15, 2010. The Darkhorse infantry rifleman was on his first combat deployment. Photo Courtesy of the Boelk family.

During their first month in Afghanistan, October 2010, the Marines 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, known as Darkhorse, lost eight men. National Public Radio is running a seven part series on the unit that so far has the heaviest losses of any Marine unit deployed in Afghanistan in the last 10 years.

Part three of seven

Dave Boelk works for the Navy outside Washington, D.C. Every morning when he gets to work, he has a ritual: He turns on his computer and checks the military’s classified reports from Afghanistan.

On Oct. 15 last year, he noticed one report in particular.

“It was just talking about an IED explosion and how many people were injured. There was one KIA. I remember making the comment to some of my colleagues, like, wow, my son’s unit, somebody died, that really hits close to home,” he recalls.

Boelk went about his day. Five hours went by.

“Then I got a call from our daughter. And she said there were two Marines at our house, and immediately, kind of lost my composure at work, obviously. There was just total silence in the office. Of course, what can they say? I just shut off my computers and picked up my bags, and told them I had to go home,” Boelk says.

You can listen to Tom Bowman’s radio story and read the full web post HERE.

Darkhorse Marine Battalion Lived an “Afghan Hell on Earth”

The 3/5 Marine Darkhorse Battalion was involved in more than a hundred fire-fights within the first three weeks of arriving in Helmand Province October 2010. The Marine deaths started almost immediately according to Tom Bowman’s report on National Public Radio. Here’s part two in the seven part series on the Marine Darkhorse Battalion which suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the last decade of war in Afghanistan.

Cpl. David R. Hernandez/U.S. Marine Corps U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment and the Afghan National Army provide cover as they move out of a dangerous area after taking enemy sniper fire during a security patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, in November 2010. During its seven-month deployment, the 3/5 sustained the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the Afghan war, losing 25 men.

Second of seven parts

The Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment remember Sangin in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province as different from anywhere else they’d fought.

Sgt. Daniel Robert describes it as “hell.” Lance Cpl. Jake Romo calls it “the Wild West.” Lt. Col. Jason Morris says he’d heard it described as “the most dangerous place in Afghanistan.”

Morris was the commander of the Marines of the 3/5, known as “Darkhorse,” and Sangin had been a battleground long before he arrived.

You can listen to the story or read the full article HERE.

You can listen to 1st story in the series HERE.

Marines of the 3/5 “Darkhorse” Seven Months in Afghanistan

Lt. Col. Jason Morris pays his respects at a memorial service in Sangin, Afghanistan, on Nov. 26, 2010, for three Marines who were killed: Lance Cpl. Brandon Pearson, Lance Cpl. Matthew Broehm and 1st Lt. Robert Kelly. Morris commanded a battalion in volatile Helmand province that suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit in the Afghanistan War. Photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph M. Peterson/U.S. Marine Corps.

A year ago, nearly 1,000 U.S. Marine officers and enlisted men of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment deployed to restive Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. By the time their tour ended in April 2011, the Marines of the 3/5 — known as “Darkhorse” — suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the past 10 years of war. This week, NPR tells the story of this unit’s seven long months at war — both in Afghanistan and back home.

First of seven parts

With his brown checkered sport coat, blue shirt and tie, Jason Morris could easily be mistaken for a young professor. Only the close-cropped hair and stocky build might suggest a military life.

Lt. Col. Morris served as a Marine officer during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and witnessed heavy combat in the push toward Baghdad.

But it’s his experience in Afghanistan during the past year that lingers: Morris commanded the Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, which lost 25 troops during its seven-month-long deployment, the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the Afghan war.

These days, he is studying for a master’s degree at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Standing on a sea wall there, Morris looks at sailboats slicing through the bay.

You can read the rest of the NPR story by Tom Bowman and hear the radio report HERE.

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