In January of 2006, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines deployed to Afghanistan. Once there, we were distributed out to several Forward Operating Bases (FOB’s) across the northern Hindu Kush. This deployment followed the ambush of Marcus Latrell’s team in the Korengal Valley, northern Afghanistan. I was attached to our company’s 3rd Platoon, and we were sent out to the Towr Kham Pass FOB. This pass is where a significant amount (upwards of 90% from what I was told) of the import and export from Pakistan flows through into Afghanistan.
The Towr Kham Pass FOB was a FOB initially established by a Green Beret unit, and was a square facility that was built at the foot of a mountain range leading into Pakistan. We had a Helicopter Landing Zone, several firing ranges, and an extension of the FOB where a unit of the Afghan Military was stationed. We relieved our sister battalion, and took control of it with a reinforced platoon. I was sent out there with my company Executive Officer to man the command post. Our Company Executive officer was sent out with this platoon due to how far out from the rest of the Battalion our post was. This was at the farthest east tip of the Nangarhar Province, and had the widest Area of Responsibility for our Platoon to cover.
When we arrived, there was no real Command post on the FOB. There was a laptop computer, a radio, and a map on the wall with some tables, and that was about it. We had an Army Signals team (intelligence) attached to the platoon, consisting of 3 soldiers. My duties in managing the Command Post became quite apparent. This was my first experience managing a Project. I was tasked by my Company Executive Officer with building a Command Post essentially from scratch, utilizing what resources we had available on the base. I had the ability to come up with list of supplies that I could submit to higher through the FOB “Sergeant Major”, which was one of our Sergeants that worked with the Company Gunny.
I was assigned the duty of the Command Post Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in Charge, or NCOIC. I had a team of Marines placed under my charge, consisting of a Communications Marine, Wire Marines, and another Marine who specialize in setting up computer networks and satellite communications. As the Company Level Intelligence Collector, I was able to work closely with the Army Signals Team Leader in developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for collecting information from the Rifle Squads while they conducted their patrols. So I had a “dual billet” at this time while managing this project.
Here are the Project Management skills I utilized in the conduct of this month long project:
- Project Initiation – Developing a plan of action of the construction of this Command Post, getting approval from the Company Executive officer for its construction.
- Project Planning – I was able to develop a design and layout for the Command post, develop a bill of materials required to build it, established a schedule for completing the project, and coordinating with higher command to receive the required maps, communications equipment, wiring, and office equipment necessary.
- Project Execution – After getting the required supplies, I was able to construct the CP from scratch, creating different sections within the CP for Operations, Communications, Intelligence, Command, and Logistics. Each section was provided with the necessary furniture, equipment, and organization to make it easy to use for those who needed it.
- Closing of the Project – I was able to complete the project within the scheduled time period, minus the construction of a large map of our Area of Operations due to a lack of proper maps back at Battalion Headquarters, which I was able to receive about a week after completing the construction of the CP.
After completing construction of the CP, I was then placed in charge of managing the rotation of personnel in monitoring 24/7 the radio, maintaining communication with high command as well as with units in the field. I handled incoming aircraft, vehicle traffic, units operating in the field, and assisted the FOB “Sergeant Major” in scheduling logistics and maintaining supplies on the FOB. My Team of 3 personnel maintained a consistent rotation or “Watch” schedule, and maintained communications with higher 100%. The Squad Leaders and Platoon Commander made use of the CP and I supplied them with what ever they needed for planning operations, providing them with administrative support, information collection, and dissemination of intelligence.
During this time, I developed SOP’s for collecting Information from the squads both while in the field, as well as conducting debriefs with the Platoon Commander and Squad Leaders. I was able to work closely with the Army Signals Team Leader in collecting information and reporting intelligence collected from various Human sources to higher command. I was also able to successfully pilot the DragonEye UAV as the first one to do so in Afghanistan. The information I collected was then used for follow on operations, leading to a cache of weapons. Unfortunately the cache had been moved, and an awkward situation followed that operation that I can not necessarily cover in this post.
I was later promoted to Corporal (E-4) while on this deployment. In addition to this, I found out that I had been accepted to attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) after returning from this deployment. I learned a great deal about managing operations in the field, coordinating various units, managing logistics, and maintaining communication SOP’s during this time.
After several months of operations, we were set to conduct Operation Mountain Lion, the clearing of the Korengal and Chow Khay valleys. This was a month long operation, and Bravo Company was assigned with clearing the Chow Khay Valley, east of the Korengal, blocking enemy personnel from escaping into Pakistan. During this operation, I remained attached as a driver for the Headquarters Platoon, and was the Team Leader for the watch rotation on the Company Radio and CP. We used Mortars to deal with a majority of the enemy personnel we spotted attempting to escape. We were attacked during one of our nights out in the field, but the majority of contact was long range utilizing the Army 120mm mortar team that was attached to us.
After completing this exercise in May of 2006, we returned back home to Hawaii. Once we arrived, I conducted a proper turn over with the Marine who would take my place, and I then prepared to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School. I left Bravo Company July of 2006 to attend NAPS.