FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan -- Marine helicopters swooped into the central Afghanistan valley and dropped off Marines from the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), marking the MEU's second major push into Afghanistan earlier this week.
The Marines arrived in Afghanistan last month and have now moved deeper into the country to establish a Forward Operating Base (FOB) to support combat and civil-military operations primarily in the Oruzgan province. The MEU was brought into Afghanistan to offer security and stability at a critical time.
"We are here to help with the future of Afghanistan," offered Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., 22d MEU (SOC) commanding officer.
"We are here to capture or kill anti-coalition military forces, but we realize that the long-term stability requires much more than that," stated McKenzie. He views the MEU's role as a major step towards developing a responsible civil infrastructure within Afghanistan.
The FOB, named FOB Ripley, will be the future home of a Provincial Reconstruction Team. PRTs are the primary means of establishing long-term stability in a country long immersed in turmoil.
In the past weeks, MEU Marines have been operating throughout the region conducting patrols and village assessments. The focus of the MEU's efforts has been on disrupting the Taliban and anti-coalition military activity in the area.
Marines located and destroyed numerous weapons caches as they moved over some of the most rugged terrain in the country. Keeping weapons out of enemy hands is key to providing security for the region. Rifles, mortar rounds, grenades, machine guns and rocket propelled grendades were among the most common items uncovered.
Marines and Army engineers attached to the MEU also improved a dusty strip of land adjacent to FOB Ripley into a functioning field landing site capable of handling aircraft as large as C-130s. Marine KC-130Rs first landed on the strip May 4, conducting both day and night landings.
The 22d MEU (SOC) is in Afghanistan supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and is operating with Combined Joint Task Force 180. In addition to its Command Eelement, the MEU consists of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Rein) and MEU Service Support Group 22.