Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in southwestern Afghanistan, said Wednesday that Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment drew one of the toughest assignments in Marine Corps history when it was sent in October to Sangin, a strategic crossroads town in Helmand province.
As security improves in other districts, insurgents are putting up a fierce fight with the Marines for control of Sangin, their last major population center in the province, Mills said via videoconference from Afghanistan.
“The bravery and the courage of the Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines stands with any unit in Marine Corps history, any unit,” Mills said.
“I don’t have to tell you that 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines have had a tough month. They have inherited a very difficult mission up there, and they have done it very, very well,” Mills said. “I know that body counts are not a measure we want to use these days, but I can tell you that with the heavy casualties that they have suffered, they have inflicted 10 times that amount on the enemy.”
Despite the intense fighting near Sangin, other areas of the province have become calmer, Mills said. In Marjah, the scene of a major Marine offensive in February, hundreds of children now are able to go to school.
At a recent school opening there, Mills said he was surprised to see several teenage boys standing in the back of a third-grade class. It turned out the teenagers had not been able to attend school under the Taliban, but they wanted to read and write so much that they were willing to attend class with 7- and 8-year-olds, Mills said.
“That is probably the thing I am proudest of. I know there is a book back home that says each school in Afghanistan cost three cups of tea. Well, those schools didn’t cost three cups of tea; those schools cost dead and wounded,” Mills said.
“But we got them built. They’re up and running, they are servicing the people and they are going to change the future of Afghanistan,” he said. “Once you have an educated population, the game changes.”
I've been blogging with a bit of a heavy heart for the past day or so. Upon returning to work from the holiday, I was informed that the husband of one of my co-workers, one of these very 3/5 Marines out of Camp Pendleton, was KIA in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day.
Linsey and her husband both met at my alma mater, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy or Kings Point, a period of my life which I often refer to affectionately here at BwD as my "time at Seminary". Both graduated in 2008 and had been married only since this September.
Memorial services will be held at the U.S. Naval Academy (don't know why they are not being held at Kings Point). My old boss (KP '79) will be attending the services and Will is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
As a Kings Point brother, I am extremely proud of all my fellow Kings Pointers who have decided to serve their country in the Navy and the Marines. I am especially awed and humbled by those who even after fulfilling their commitment to the Naval Reserve and having worked in the civilian sector for a few years, sign up to serve in the Navy or the Corps, such is the strength of the call they feel to serve their country.
Please keep Will's family and Linsey in your prayers.
P.S. I hesitated in blogging about this because of the personal nature of the subject matter but with the accompanying linked article which ran originally back on Nov. 10th, the 235th birthday of the Marine Corps, I wanted to do something to honor Will and highlight what has been incredible bravery and courage displayed by these Marines.