Editor’s note: These Marines’ tour was one of the most brutal of the entire war. In its first three weeks in Afghanistan’s Sangin district, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines got into more than 100 firefights, and sustained 62 casualties. The insurgents managed to negate the Marines’ night-vision gear, and rendered their traditional close-combat tactics useless. Things got so bad, the 3/5’s superior officers even suggested pulling their troops back.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the 3/5 went after the militants,
hard. They went on the offensive constantly. They leveled booby-trapped
compounds without apology. They didn’t bother with school-building until
the insurgents were back on their heels. Nor did they mess with the
poppy growers; the Marines had more than their fair share of enemies.
When the 3/5 came home, they told counterinsurgency historian Mark Moyar all about their deeply unconventional approach to what was already an unconventional war. An excerpt from Moyar’s 74-page after action report follows.
On Oct. 13, the day 3/5 took control of Sangin, the first Marine patrol to leave the wire came under fire 150 feet from the perimeter. One member of this patrol was shot dead. Within the next four days, another eight Marines died.