The war in Afghanistan is considered by most to be America’s longest and least talked about war to date. After terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11, less than one percent of America’s population answered our nation’s call to serve in the Armed Forces. Even fewer Americans made the life choice to become United States Marines.
During this war, two Marine Corps platoon’s were selected by their Battalion to fully integrate with two platoons of Afghanistan National Army Soldier’s in order to create a Combined Action Company (CAC) capable of conducting sustained Counterinsurgency (COIN) operations throughout their Area of Operation’s (AO) and adjacent battlespaces. Inside of this book, you will learn about one of those platoons and how they fought the Taliban during their deployment to the Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
In this memoir, Bodrog recalls how his platoon of Marines, Sailors and Afghan Soldiers lived, operated and fought in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan as part of the Combined Action Company. In doing so and translucently through the men under his command, the author attempts to immortalize every Marine, servicemen and civilian who sacrificed everything they had to ensure the survival of our great nation, while asking for nothing in return. The missions and stories mentioned in this memoir must never be forgotten or become a lost chapter in our nation’s history.Discover what it’s like to be one of the bold few who still fight for freedom and gain a deeper appreciation of the Marines and Sailors who served this great nation with Second Platoon: Call Sign Hades.
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Second Platoon: CALL SIGN HADES
A Memoir of the Marines of the Combined Action Company
By Mark A. Bodrog
iUniverse, LLCCopyright © 2013 First Lieutenant Mark A. Bodrog
All rights reserved.
Before we can start with the events surrounding my platoon between May and December 2010 in the Nawa District of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, it is my platoon's duty to dispel all rumors and falsehoods by explaining in our own thoughts and words exactly who and what United States Marines are.
When people hear the word Marine, they immediately recall scenes or quotes from the famous movie Full Metal Jacket. Viewers can connect with this movie because they get a sense of the rigors young civilians face as they undergo the fundamental transformation process it takes to become a United States Marine. This movie is timeless in the sense that although generations change, the brotherhood and camaraderie in the Corps remain the same, if not grow stronger over time.
In this movie, viewers can look into the eyes of Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey as he plays the role of the fearsome Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and feel as if they are his recruits in boot camp. Observers feel Hartman's ice-cold gaze mentally projected upon them and hear his frightening yell. They can almost smell his rotten breath that tastes of death as he motivates his Marines and chokes out Private "Gomer" Pyle, the platoon "fat body." Viewers feel the intensity and stress associated with boot camp and catch a glimpse of the harsh reality seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds go through as they are voluntarily plucked from the civilian world and begin the transition and evolution to become our nation's fiercest and most elite warriors—United States Marines.
People may hear the word Marine and remember another movie titled A Few Good Men. Jack Nicholson's portrayal of a Marine Officer in the movie and his famous line, "You can't handle the truth," earned this movie notoriety and fame. People see Nicholson's neat and clean uniform and steadfast bearing as Tom Cruise (a United States Naval Officer) questions him during a military trial. During the movie, the audience can physically see the divergence between the different branches of the military and can see the discipline, loyalty, and obedience portrayed by the Marines in the movie. Although this movie depicts Hollywood's interpretation of the Corps, Marine Officers strive to be the antithesis of Nicholson's character and will give their lives to fight for the enlisted men of whom they are in charge.
Much of what people visualize a Marine to embody stems from both personal knowledge and Hollywood's depiction of us. Movies like The Siege of Firebase Gloria; Ears, Open. Eyeballs, Click.; Heartbreak Ridge; Generation Kill; Jarhead; The Pacific; and The Marine all display a unique charisma and attitude in their depiction of Marines. An objective viewer can distinguish between reality and fiction; however, there is always enjoyment in the depiction of Marines as Titans or Spartan-like warriors defeating the enemy in an intense battle.
There is a fraternity-like bond commonly shared between all Marines that is uncommon in the other branches of service. We take pride in our education, history, and those who came before us. We remember the Marines who gave some, and we honor the Marines who gave all. No matter what generation of Marine we are, we will always be brothers to one another. The same determination, motivation, and discipline is ingrained in us through constant hardships and sacrifices. These commonalities set us apart from the rest and make us truly elite warriors.
When people hear the word Marine, they may think of the holidays or Christmas season and identify a United States Marine with the Toys for Tots program, handing out gifts to our nation's unfortunate children who otherwise would not receive any. They may also think of the numerous volunteer projects and networks we as a Corps conduct and recognize our determination to ease the pain and suffering of the noble warriors who were injured or killed during the Global War on Terrorism and previous wars.
Other patriotic Americans may view us as the men and women who guard the President of the United States of America, with our squared jaws, bulldog-like faces, and sharp dress blue uniforms that perfectly complement our Spartan-warrior-shaped bodies. Everyone knows of and recognizes all the prestige, glamour, and glitter that are bestowed upon us. Our roars of "Oorah" and the Latin catch phrase "Semper Fidelis" are both feared and respected by everyone around the world.CHAPTER 2
Ninety-nine percent of the population in the United States has never stood in the historic yellow footprints located at Parris Island, South Carolina, or at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. Those footprints ultimately mark the start of the transformation from civilian to Marine. There are even fewer who make the choice to become Commissioned Officers in the United States Marine Corps by completing Officer Candidate School located in Quantico, Virginia.
Even fewer individuals who make this life choice actually survive the rigorously intense second-to-none physical, mental, and spiritual education and training it takes to transform into a United States Marine. However, the lucky few family and friends who see their sons or daughters on graduation day witness and feel the transformation their loved ones have gone through to shed their societal images and civilian beliefs in order to live, act, and breathe as and become a United States Marine.
Less than 1 percent of the country fights for the very same ideals and beliefs that 99 percent of the population feel they are entitled to have. For this reason, there are disconnects in the understanding and interest in the military by our civilian population, almost to the point of indifference and sympathy. Many Americans have forgotten and fail to appreciate that their God-given right of freedom is only God-given because men and women have made the sacrifice and died for it.
Our inherent rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were words our Founding Fathers chose carefully. These specific rights that are endowed by our Creator are only apt when people can fight for them to be in place. If we place the value of these rights ahead of our inherent duty to fight for and maintain them, our great nation will effectively cease to be. Thus, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "The tree of liberty must be replenished from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." If it is not, failure to fight for our liberties and rights will result in their loss.
Of the less than 1 percent of the American population serving in the Armed Forces, the total population of the United Marine Corps is presently about two hundred thousand strong. By comparison, in a country of more than 350 million legal Americans and illegal human beings, we as United States Marines are a very minute and elite branch of the Armed Services. This happens to be a unique point I continually stress to my Marines. They are doing a job no one else wants and only a few can do. We are one of the oldest and most elite fraternities and brotherhoods in America.
Does this make us better than the 99 percent of the population who choose different life paths? Some will argue yes, and others will argue no. All I will say is that we are elite warriors, nobly fighting for the ordinary men and women who cannot fight for themselves. Whether because of loyalty, determination, family tradition, or patriotism, we as Marines chose the path to become the greatest warriors of our time. We heeded the call of our great nation and volunteer to fight for our great American countrymen and women.
We as United States Marines are given the ability to kill the enemies of this great republic with the realization that we may also be asked to give up our lives while defending it. There is no greater honor or sacrifice a person can give to his or her country or fellow warriors than his or her own life.
We as United States Marines are protectors of the American way of life, holding infinitely true to the United States Marine Corps motto: Semper Fidelis, Latin for "always faithful." Semper Fidelis is our esteemed and timeless quote of the few and the proud throughout the ages. We are the keepers of more than two hundred years of tradition. We are the time-traveling life vessels that create and carry on our own history and legacy.CHAPTER 3
A Marine by definition is a "Sailor" of the sea. I caution against using the word Sailor because Marines aren't Sailors, or Soldiers. A Marine is a warrior, comparable to a modern-day Spartan. A Marine is someone who is capable of achieving power projection through the mobility of the Navy and can conduct amphibious combined arms operations from the ocean or sea to a body of land.
In the past, and arguably still to this day, Marines were and are the Navy's right-hand punch. During battles at sea when two or more ships were close enough for gun battles, close engagements, or hand-to-hand combat, Marines were the ones called in to achieve decisive victory. This is where the term leatherneck came from. During hand-to-hand combat on Naval ships in the 1800s, Marines would wear leather around their necks to protect themselves from the deadly sword slashes of their enemies.
Presently, Marines engage in myriad combat and noncombat operations. Many of these operations range from conducting combat missions in the Middle East, disrupting pirates off the coast of Africa, or supporting humanitarian operations in countries suffering from natural disasters or other crises. We as Marines are by precedent required to be at the direct dispersal of the President of the United States of America whenever he needs us. We are America's 911 forces in readiness. Therefore, when issues like these occur, Marines are on standby to react to any number of circumstances, foreseen or unforeseen.
These are still very vague descriptions that do not fully highlight or capture all the battles, wars, climbs, and places we have been to, fought at, and won. These descriptions still do not capture every drop of blood shed over the centuries in numerous terrains, climates, environments, and continents. They still do not fully paint the picture of all the men and women who have fought for the colors of this country and ran to the sound of the gun when all hope seemed lost.
In making that statement, I asked my Marines during a professional military education (PME) study class located at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Geronimo in the Nawa District of the Helmand Province, Afghanistan, to explain in their own words what they believe a United States Marine is. It is the words of the men on the ground who are fighting for our American freedom and way of life that truly capture what a Marine is.
The Marines of Second Platoon describe Marines as the most disciplined, morally and ethically upright, honored, and elite force in the entire world. A Marine is a subunit of a larger culture known as the United States Marine Corps, where history, traditions, and memories live on forever. Destiny or not, the ability to become a Marine is either passed through our bloodlines through reproduction or genetically written in our DNA. We are, as Commandant James Conway said, a "breed apart," genetically codified differently than the majority through years of hardship, evolution, and natural selection.
We are the leathernecks of ancient ships, the Teufelhunden (devil dogs) from Belleau Wood, the destroyers of the Imperial Japanese, the "Walking Dead" from the A Shau Valley, the jarheads from the Persian Gulf War, and now America's 911 force in readiness in the Global War on Terrorism.
All Marines, whether they are male or female, uphold the three Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment under the umbrella of his or her God, country, and Corps. A Marine wants to be the best at everything he or she does, and he or she constantly trains and studies to be the best warrior possible. Marines recognize that when you are the best, someone is always trying to be better than you. Therefore, we are the best and constantly try to be better at every task we do, lest we give our enemy an advantage over our destiny.
Willing obedience to lawful orders and the ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome any obstacle are traits we live by and continually achieve. United States Marines cannot and do not know how to surrender, and they push themselves to the limits of everything and every task they encounter.
We as Marines are motivated and dedicated in upholding our honor, beliefs, and values. There is a sense of overwhelming pride that exists among us that is insurmountably higher than any other branch of service in the world because of our love for our heritage, history, and culture. We are masters of our destinies and fate and skilled in the arts of survival and modern warfare. We are the living testaments of time-honored traditions and the physical embodiment of the Marines who came before us.
According to my Marine Corporal Adam Mount, a Fire Team Leader for Third Squad, "A Marine is an individual who thinks of others before himself. A Marine is a leader who motivates, encourages, and always sets the highest standards. He lives to accomplish even the hardest mission. He does not know how to quit and cannot quit, for quitting is failure. A Marine is tough and hardheaded and at the same time understanding of the sacrifice he is willing to give for others. He himself comes last; others come first. A Marine is a true professional."
The views of my Squad Leaders are a little different but along the same lines. My First Squad Leader and most aggressive Marine, Sergeant Brent Olds, says, "We can church up a United States Marine with all types of meaningful words and names for ourselves and try to add depth and purpose. When you get right down to it though, United States Marines are little red buttons for the government that are pushed when a crisis or emergency arises and an immediate response is needed. We are America's right-hand punch. We guard the sheep from the wolves like a sheepdog that has been crossbred with a pit bull and German shepherd. If you try to harm innocent lives, we will be there to stop you. We are the most morally and ethically upright military that has ever defended a nation. The only true Marine is an Infantry Marine."
You would have to know Sergeant Olds to understand where he is coming from, because he is the type of Marine who tells you how it is, not what you want to hear. He is like an animal in this respect; he will challenge anything that is different because that is his job and what he was trained to do. He is my First Squad Leader, and the alpha male mind-set comes with the territory. This is a rare quality to find because many people are afraid to speak their minds for fear of political correctness. He is right though; we are trained to kill when we have to, but we are also trained to be ethical and moral warriors capable of respecting all human life when the time arises.
My First Squad, First Fire Team Leader, Corporal Matthew Garst—who subsequently became known as the battalion's "Unbreakable Marine" for actions during Operation New Dawn—describes a Marine as "the individual who grew up being all of the trouble a town could handle. Fathers watched him around their daughters, and mothers thought he was a bad influence. When the time came and the drums were beaten and the trumpet was sounded, he had the courage to become the nation's elite warrior who would channel all of his aggression and anger toward an enemy, using large amounts of firepower and violence among other brothers with the same mentality." Much like his Squad Leader, Corporal Garst displays the aggressiveness that is fundamentally inherent in a United States Marine.
My Second Squad Leader and a most methodical Marine, Sergeant Tyler Brown, describes a Marine and his Marines as "well-trained warriors capable of completing any task or mission set before them in any climb or place. Marines are trained to fight on land or at sea and are able to adapt and overcome any situation or obstacle that stands before them. He never leaves another Marine behind and lives to fight for his brothers to his left and his right." This is a very true description of all the ways we are capable of fighting and our belief that no one should ever be left behind during conflicts with the enemy.
Excerpted from Second Platoon: CALL SIGN HADES by Mark A. Bodrog. Copyright © 2013 First Lieutenant Mark A. Bodrog. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, LLC.
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Table of Contents
Part I: What It Means to Be a United States Marine, a Short History of Afghanistan's Past and Present, and Patrol Base Brannon, 1,
Part II: Operation New Dawn and the Unbreakable Marine, 63,
Part III: Forward Operating Base Geronimo Welcome to Hades, 145,
Part IV: Forming the Combined Action Company, 193,
Part V: Missions of the Combined Action Company, 293,
About the Author, 363,