FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan -- In what officials have described as the bloodiest fighting in Afghanistan since last fall, elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) participated in two days of pitched firefights with anti-coalition militia forces in south-central Afghanistan June 2-3.
The two days of fighting began when Marine attack helicopters were fired upon with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns as they scouted ahead of a heavily-armed convoy from Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, the MEU's ground combat element.
Moving forward to the attack's point of origin, the Marines found and engaged Taliban insurgents hidden in the rocks of a nearby mountain. The Marines used fire and maneuver to fix the enemy and then called in air support to augment their attack.
During the ensuing four-hour firefight, troops on the ground were supported by Marine AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey attack helicopters, AV-8B Harrier attack jets, and Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft.
Eight enemy fighters were confirmed killed in the battle, with an unknown number wounded.
"Our junior (non-commissioned officers) really were the heroes of the day," said Marine Staff Sgt. Christian Boles, a platoon sergeant in BLT 1/6's Charlie Company, whose unit saw much of the heavy fighting. "They did everything they were supposed to, were aggressive, and carried the fight to the enemy."
The next day, Army Apache helicopters observed a group of approximately 20 ACM fighters attempting to flee a village as the Marine convoy approached. The helicopters fired on the group as Marines on the ground closed in and engaged the enemy in a series of sharp firefights.
Once again, Marine, Army, and Air Force warplanes participated in the attack, and were joined by an Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber.
Three Marines were lightly wounded by enemy fire as they pursued the ACM fighters up a valley's draw. Two have returned to duty and the third was transported to Forward Operating Base Ripley where he was declared in stable condition with prognosis for a full recovery.
Seventeen ACM fighters were killed in this second day of fighting, and four individuals were detained near the fighting.
These firefights were the heaviest since the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s arrival in Afghanistan in late March. Since then, the MEU has supported U.N. voter registration efforts in the country and pursued an aggressive campaign of combat and civil military operations.
For more information, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil or contact Capt. Eric Dent (email@example.com) or Gunnery Sgt. Keith Milks (firstname.lastname@example.org).