Role: Civilian Affairs Specialist • Where: Sangin District, Afghanistan • When: 2011
The battle for Sangin
I enlisted in the USMC reserve in 2002. In fall of 2010, I left my job making military simulations for a deployment to Afghanistan. I was attached to 1/5 Marines in the Sangin District of Helmand Province. For years the district had been one of the most violent places in the country, first under the British and then under the USMC starting in 2010.
My role as a Civil Affairs Specialist
Civil Affairs units help military commanders by working with civil authorities and civilian populations in the commander’s area of operations to lessen the impact of military operations on them during peace, contingency operations and declared war. (Source: wikipedia)
I was attached to an infantry company and would patrol with different squads throughout our area of operations to assist with Civil Miltary Operations. In short, my goal was to help “win the hearts and minds” of the local civilian populace, by being with the Marines among the population as much as possible. I would do things like meet with village elders, assess damage to civilian property, have weekly “claims days” to discuss grievances of civilians who line up at our bases, pass information to our intelligence operations, etc.
The whole deployment was one of the most complex and difficult experiences of my life. We all had a deep sense of purpose but it felt like we were in “Bizarro World“. I honestly find it hard to discuss this with people who haven’t been in the military. I find they usually can’t “get it” because of pre-existing expectations of what war must be.
Returning home and back again
After returning to the US and a short demobilization period, I returned to civilian life. After about 6 months of normal life, I decided to return to Afghanistan again. This time as a civilian working for a DARPA’s TransApps program.
Links for Further Info
- Into the breach: How Sangin will enter the annals of Marine history – Military Times – 12 May 2014
- This is What Winning Looks Like – Vice News (video) – 27 May 2013 (portrays 1/7, the deployment after mine)
- Camp Pendleton remembers, mourns 17 Marines killed in Afghanistan – LA Times – 5 Nov 2011
- In Sangin, 1/5 Marines tread volatile ground – Marine Times – 3 Jul 2011
- The Battle for Bomb Alley – BBC Panorama – Jan 2011 (portrays 3/5, the deployment before mine)