HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
"To say we found eight is kind of deceptive because we count them by initiating devices," said Gunnery Sgt. Brad Rickabaugh, Explosive Ordnance Disposal team leader attached to Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Regimental Combat Team 8. "But all told, we found seven main charges attached to three different pressure plates and one command-pull device."
Rickabaugh and his team cleared the improvised explosive devices from the village of Kakar near Combat Outpost Ouellette in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on Saint Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 2011. Clearing the devices not only protected Marines patrolling through the area, it protected the local population from the IEDs, most of which don't discriminate between patrolling Marines or playing children.
"What got my attention was a mound of dirt," said Lance Cpl. Brent Hubbard, a Marine with Company I. "What made that odd was there were children walking by and something caught their attention, definitely. So after watching that and several other people avoiding it, I watched a vehicle make an effort to steer away from that area."
By passing the information up, Hubbard may have helped save the lives of several Marines and village residents.
What started out as a patrol by Company I's 3rd Platoon to offer first aid and assistance after three days of heavy rain to Kakar villagers turned into a marathon eight-hour security detail as EOD technicians and a military working dog found device after device in the small village. 3rd Platoon's Marines swept the village for devices, maintained security for EOD, and interviewed village residents throughout the day. More than one device was placed near a footbridge used by villagers.
"I think this proves to them that we're not here to affect their lives in a negative way," said Rickabaugh. "We're just here to push the bad guys out and make it a safer place for the locals."
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 permanently occupied by ISAF. 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.