Thursday, August 19, 2010

LAR Marines Hunt For Smugglers AFG

Date: 08.14.2010

COMBAT OUTPOST PAYNE, Afghanistan – The long-reaching arm of light armored reconnaissance has choked off the supply of drugs and weapons for Taliban fighters, and Marines here said it won’t be letting up anytime soon.

“Our main mission is to stop any type of trafficking in this area that may help the Taliban’s source of income,” said Lance Cpl Joshua Austin, a light armored vehicle driver with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

The Taliban smuggle weapons from south to north to maintain their most active areas supplied with firepower.

“If we stop their trafficking down here, we’ll be able to help the Marines up north,” said Austin, a Dallas native. “This way we can weaken the Taliban fighters.”

Presently, the Marines have stopped the movement of approximately 16,000 kilos of processed heroin.

Smugglers try to slip by the Marines any chance they get, explained Pfc. Kevin Curnutt, a rifleman with 1st Plt., Co. B., 1st LAR Bn. But, those chances are getting slimmer and slimmer, as these Marines work and live in the open desert for weeks at a time, which as Curnett said, can make for some pretty long days.

“It’s not always an exciting job, but it has to be done,” said Curnutt, a Pomeroy, Wash., native. “It’s not an everyday thing that we find weapons or drugs, so the longer we are out here the more chances we have of finding something.”

Every person searched is questioned and their information is entered into a database to be sure they are not tied to insurgent forces.

Because most Afghans stopped are not linked to the Taliban, the Marines are trying to ease the process for locals, while maintaining a hold on security.

“We ask them for their basic information and where they plan to go,” Curnutt said. Then we give them a ticket in case they encounter any other Marine check points in the area to make the process faster.”

The Marines have seen a great amount of progress in the area and have been able to slow down the Taliban’s source of income, explains Austin.

“Overall, the amount of vehicles have decreased ever since we’ve been interdicting vehicles in this area,” Austin said. “The Taliban know they can’t come through here, because if they do they will be stopped and they will be detained.”

But that doesn’t deter everyone. When smugglers run into the Marines, it is already too late.

“Sometimes they try to run away and we chase them down,” Curnutt said. “They can try to escape, but they won’t get away.”

Though stopping the flow of drugs and weapons occupies most of the Marines’ time here, Curnutt said, the ultimate goal is to assist the Afghan people.

“We’re not only stopping the traffic, we’re also helping the locals to have a safer place to live.”

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