FORWARD OPERATING BASE PAYNE, Afghanistan -- In an region as arid as Afghanistan, water is the most precious commodity of all.
Villages and towns spring up around sources of water, and when these dry up, the only alternative is to dig down, but lack of resources for the impoverished Afghan populace frustrates or makes impossible such endeavors.
To help the people of Afghanistan with this life-threatening situation, the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) is integrating well-digging projects with its hunt for Taliban and anti-coalition militia.
At a village near Forward Operating Base Payne, the base of operations for Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, the MEU's ground combat element, work is continuing far ahead of schedule on a well that will not only provide drinking water for the local populace but will also be used to support nearby orchards and fields. The project is the first of its kind since the MEU's arrival in the region several weeks ago.
"These people have absolutely nothing," said Lt. Col. Asad A. Khan, commanding officer of BLT 1/6, who meets regularly with local village elders to determine their needs and garner information on enemy activity. "For years they've suffered at the hands of the Taliban and are only trying to survive."
BLT 1/6's contribution to the local village extends far beyond the water the well will produce. By hiring local labor and contracting for supplies from local businesses, the effort is providing a boost in the area's deflated economy.
According to Khan, the villagers need to see a demonstration of commitment on behalf of the United States and the Afghan government if the Taliban and ACM are to be denied the foothold they've enjoyed with the rural populace in recent years.
"We have to come in here and show them something," said, the MEU's ground combat element. "We have to make a tangible difference in their lives."
This is the first of many civil affairs projects the MEU is planning to undertake as it conducts combat operations as Task Force Linebacker alongside Combined Joint Task Force 76.
In addition to BLT 1/6, the 22d MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22. The MEU is operating as Task Force Linebacker alongside other elements of Combined Joint Task Force 76.
For more information on the MEU's role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.