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2/8 Marines Fight, Push Insurgents Back

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MIAN POSHTEH, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - Marines with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines Regiment, exchanged fire with Taliban militants and drove them from a fortified fighting position.

The patrol traveled to the same area it did two days prior when it engaged in a heavy six-hour firefight with insurgents. The purpose was to draw enemy fire, respond by driving them from their fighting positions, and then hold the ground.

"Every time we go down to that area, we take contact," said 1st Lt. Josh Faucett, a forward observer and joint terminal attack controller.

The insurgents engaged the patrol with small arms and a few rocket propelled grenades as anticipated, and the Marines responded with a heavy volley of their own combined with 60mm and 81mm mortars lobbing onto the objective.

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"We made the enemy react to us with our fires and maneuver," said 2nd Lt. Pat Bragan of Abington, Mass., 3rd platoon commander.

The location the enemy fired from was a giant wall on the outskirts of an area called Herati - one of the same positions used to fire the initial volley during the last major fight here. Additionally, the wall has been one of the insurgents' favorite places from which to launch attacks over the last month.

"They have used the wall since we've been here. They have fired at us from all corners," said Faucett, who is from Elwood, Ind. "The whole mission was terrain denial, and the secondary mission was tearing down the wall so that it could not be used as a fighting position."

The compound was nothing more than a sturdy wall surrounding a grape orchard in the shape of a rectangle. However, it also provided a temporary safe haven for insurgents to observe Marines and fire on them.

During the firefight two days prior, mortars and heavy ordnance from aircraft and high-mobility artillery rocket systems, or HIMARS as they are called, had been called in on the fortified position. The wall was hit with 81mm mortars and HIMARS again in this second firefight. Even with these explosives detonating along the wall, much of it still stood when the Marines finally made their way to it. Initially, they thought they might have to use explosives to demolish the wall because it was very thick and had withstood repeated shelling. However, it didn't take long for them to figure out an easier way.

"I bet if we get a bunch of guys on it, we can push most of the wall down," said Staff Sgt. James Simmons, a platoon sergeant from Winter Park, Fla. "I was just able to break off a small piece when I kicked it."

Immediately, a group of Marines got up while the rest posted security and started pushing on the wall. Piece by piece, the wall fell, providing a direct line of sight through the compound. They were successful in taking down about 30 to 40 meters of it by hand.

The wall on the front side was stronger and could not be pushed down. Therefore, the company's explosive ordnance technicians leveled the rest of that side with a series of controlled detonations.

By mid-afternoon, the majority of the wall was no longer a position the enemy could use to fire at Marines from. The patrol remained in position into the late evening in case the insurgents tried to move back into their comfort zone.

"We definitely denied the enemy freedom of movement in that area," Bragan said. "I am sure they will have to think hard before trying to return."

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