Corporal Preece is attached to 40 Commando, Royal Marines for OP HERRICK 12. He is presently in Kajaki and writes here about taking on the Taliban.
With the poppy season over the Taliban is starting to increase their attacks on our patrols within the green zone. The last few patrols have seen very accurate fire, sometimes from less than 100 metres. These attacks were sustained and differed from the usual shoot and scoot tactics that had been employed during the poppy harvest.
With the marines settled in and firmly embedded within Kajaki, it was decided we were going to take the fight to the Taliban. Our last patrol down south had identified a route that the Taliban were using to move into their fire positions. This was a large wadi, the depth ranged from waist to chest height. With the orders that night the atmosphere was electric. It was like a nervous excitement. For the marines this was likely to be the first time that many of them had put rounds down on this tour. For the engineers it would be the first planned attack on the enemy.
The plan was to move into the green zone just before first light. Our call sign would lead. Everyone would be “cammed up” which would hopefully allow us to move into position without being pinged by the Taliban watchmen or “dickers”. Our mission was to move up to the wadi identified and enter it covertly. Once we were all in the “oggin” – as the marines call it – we would slowly move down this wadi for approximately a mile. Half the section would move, whilst the other provided protection from the wadi banks. The other patrol call sign would move down the green zone and occupy a series of compounds and provide cover from the rooftops. They were effectively acting as bait to draw the enemy out. As we patrolled down we kept coming across obstacles of fallen down trees or bridges that had been made by the locals. This meant we had to either submerge ourselves or clamber over them all whilst remaining silent and covert. The wadi bed was really uneven and the majority of us at one stage were caught out by this as we stumbled and submerged ourselves. I remember thinking of the Royal Marines advert they use for recruiting in which it shows a marine patrolling through a wadi and thought how funny it was that we were actually doing it for real.
As we patrolled down we came across a farmer and his son sitting on the river bank, everyone looked at each other in disbelief. Our cover had been blown. We were now within 100 metres of our ambush site which was 70 metres from the compound with known firing points. The plan was to carry on and still conduct the ambush. To the front of the ambush we had two claymores in the trees in case the Taliban came up the river. With the ambush set we literally had to wait in the wadi for the enemy to show themselves. Although it was 40 degrees celsius air temperature the river was a lot cooler and within an hour everyone was freezing within the wadi. Taliban scouts were spotted moving into our area. The lads in the ambush were really starting to get cold now. I was shivering I was that cold. Within seconds of me thinking how Webster’s this had become the area erupted, and it was controlled chaos. There were rounds whizzing past us and rounds smashing into the trees around us. It was a very heavy rate of fire headed in our location. Two deafening explosions went off just in front of us which stunned everyone. Everyone looked at each other thinking the same thing. RPG. As myself and the medic headed forward to treat the casualties we must have sustained it became apparent that the explosions were back blasts off the rockets that WE were firing into the compound. We prevailed.
It was funny to listen to all the lads tell their version of events. As they spoke you could hear the adrenaline re emerge and they excitedly recalled the contact. For many of the younger lads on that patrol they certainly matured after this incident.