HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- After three days of heavy rain, U.S. Marines have reached out to residents in the Afghan villages of Turah Shah Ghundey and South Gavmishi to lend assistance. Marines with Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Regimental Combat Team 8, visited the villages to offer medical and minor engineering help.
The rain, the heaviest since BLT 3/8's arrival in Afghanistan in early January, continued unabated from Feb. 10 through 12 in the area surrounding Combat Outpost Ouellette, from which Company I operates. At first likely seen as a blessing for crops, the volume of water poured on COP Ouellette and surrounding villages became a lethal problem.
On Feb. 11, a mud roof collapsed at an Afghan compound in South Gavmishi, killing 78-year-old Peearjan Bahar. Residents brought Bahar to 1st Platoon's patrol base in South Gavmishi for treatment, where corpsmen attempted to resuscitate him. Though disappointed that they could not help the elderly man, Capt. Brian Donlon, company commander of Company I, was optimistic that residents would continue to approach the Marines for help.
"It's a very unfortunate loss for the family," said Donlon. "But the fact that the residents came to us for help shows that they see us as a benefit to their community. Now we're reinforcing that by reaching out to them to see who else we can help."
Patrols with 1st and 3rd Platoons have visited compounds throughout the two villages, treating residents and assessing damage. Company I's efforts are part of a larger BLT 3/8 mission to establish and maintain security in portions of Helmand province not previously occupied by permanent ISAF units. The security the Marines provide is intended to neutralize insurgent networks and support development projects, allowing the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to foster socio-economic development in the area.