iOS app Android app More

U.S. Marines In Southern Afghanistan (PHOTOS)

AP   By BRENNAN LINSLEY   First Posted: 09/16/11 05:15 PM ET   Updated: 11/16/11 05:12 AM ET

By BRENNAN LINSLEY, Associated Press

PATROL BASE 302, Afghanistan -- One small U.S. Marine base in southern Afghanistan is surrounded on three sides by bomb-infested farmland and ever-changing Taliban firing positions. The base is reachable only by foot, on the fourth side, by way of a path they call the Serpentine.

The unit of infantrymen and snipers occupies a traditional Afghan mud-walled compound called Patrol Base 302 in the Gereshk Valley of Helmand province, where fighting persists nearly 10 years after the war began.

U.S. Marines with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines are close to the end of their deployment. All have known fellow Marines killed or maimed by enemy explosives and bullets.

Their only power source is an ATV they have rigged to generate enough power to charge the field radio and the occasional laptop. Helicopters resupply them by dropping pallets of water, food and ammo. Many relish the austere living.

The Marines here take fire from fighters who use AK-47s and grenade launchers, as well as World War II-era sniper rifles and .50-caliber Soviet Dishkas. New fighters seem to replace those killed, the Marines observe.

When attacked, the Marines are capable of defending the base with massive firepower. Over a few days in late August, the Marines used M-4 rifles and rapid-fire SAWs, medium and heavy machine guns, Mark-19 automatic grenade launchers, sniper weapons, as well as calling in airstrikes on nearby tree lines.

The Marines called in attack helicopters, a jet fighter that dropped a 500-pound bomb, and a mobile position several miles away that fired a HIMARS missile at a spot a few hundred yards away.

Marines fill their days with guard duty, manning a nearby checkpoint, or sleep and workouts in a homemade gym. Some read, some listen to iPods using solar chargers, and write letters.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 26, 2011 photo, a U.S. Marine Scout Sniper attached to 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines, walks back into his living area after an exchange of fire with Taliban militants, at Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face Taliban militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 27, 2011 photo, a U.S. Marine with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines, looks out from behind sandbags during an exchange of fire with Taliban militants, at Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face Taliban militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 27, 2011 photo, a U.S. Marine Scout Sniper attached to 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines, sits behind a wall following an exchange of fire with Taliban militants, at Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face Taliban militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 28, 2011 photo, a U.S. Marine with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines shaves at Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face Taliban militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 27, 2011 photo, U.S. Marines with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines wrestle at Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face Taliban militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 26, 2011 photo, U.S. Marines with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines work out together in a courtyard at Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face Taliban militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 26, 2011 photo, U.S. Marines with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines watch a film on a laptop computer charged using a broken-down all terrain vehicle as a generator reserved mostly for the field radio, at Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face Taliban militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 28, 2011 photo, a U.S. Marine sleeps on a cot at Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face Taliban militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 27, 2011 photo, U.S. Marine snipers attached to 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines talk after an exchange of fire with the Taliban, at Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Afghanistan Patrol Base 302

    In this Aug. 25, 2011 photo, a U.S. Marine with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines mans a small checkpoint near Patrol Base 302, in the Gesresk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The Marines of 3rd Platoon who live inside the mud-walled compound of PB-302 face militants who regularly attack the base from multiple directions using launched grenades, sniper rifles, and AK-47s. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

FOLLOW HUFFPOST WORLD

Filed by Clare Richardson  |