Battle Rattle

New light shed on Marines’ role in repelling attack on Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazi

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Lance Cpl. Joel T. Murray stands as his citation for heroic achievement is read during an awards ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, July 23, 2013. Murray helped repel an attack on Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazi in Helmand province and provided life-saving medical aid to wounded Georgian soldiers. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson)

Lance Cpl. Joel Murray was aboard Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazi in Afghanistan on May 13 when a truck laden with explosives detonated outside. Three Georgian soldiers were mortally wounded, and several other Georgians and U.S. Marines sustained injuries.

Murray, an engineer equipment operator with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, quickly rushed to the site of the blast, Marine officials said. Insurgents were attempting to penetrate the security perimeter of the base, in Helmand province’s Musa Qala district. Murray killed an enemy fighter, and then applied a tourniquet to a Georgian soldier who had sustained a life-threatening leg injury, according to a Marine Corps news release. He is credited with continuing to provide security and medical aid to wounded Marines and Georgian soldiers for than two hours after the initial attack.

Murray and at least one other Marine with CLR-2 were honored July 23 at Camp Leatherneck for their heroism in thwarting the attack. Murray, of Hallsville, Texas, received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing “V.” Cpl. Ryan McSweeney, a recovery vehicle operator from Middletown Ohio, received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat “V.”

The attack on Shir Ghazi killed two Georgians immediately, and a third who died later from his injuries, according to a Reuters news report. The recent award ceremony on Camp Leatherneck, however, shed new light on the Marine Corps’ involvement in facing, and ultimately repelling, the attack.

Cpl. Ryan McSweeney helped repel an attack on Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazi on May 13. (Photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson)

McSweeney was working to recover a downed vehicle with another Marine when the blast occurred, according to another Marine news release. He is credited with checking on the other Marine, who was knocked to the ground, and then killing two enemy fighters attempting to enter the base. He provided aid to a wounded Georgian after confirming no more attackers were in the area.

A similar attack occurred several weeks later on another Georgian base in Helmand province’s Now Zad district. In that incident, seven Georgian soldiers died.

The Georgians began deploying a battalion at a time to northern Helmand in 2010, and later upped the commitment to two battalions comprising about 1,500 troops. They’ve served primarily in volatile sections of Musa Qala and Now Zad districts. They fall under the command of Regional Command-Southwest and Maj. Gen. W. Lee Miller.

Commandant, sergeant major visit Marines in Afghanistan

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Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett addresses a crowd of Marines in Afghanistan on Tuesday at Combat Outpost Shir Ghazi while Commandant Gen. Jim Amos looks on. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter/Marine Corps)

Sometimes, the boss comes long ways to check in on his people.

That was the case yesterday in Afghanistan, where Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett dropped in on six bases and outposts, fielding questions from Marines and thanking them for their service.

There are at least two accounts of their travels published. A Marine Corps news release said the brass visited Marines at Camp Leatherneck, Forward Operating Base Payne, FOB Geronimo, FOB Jackson, FOB Zeebrugge and Combat Outpost Shir Ghazi. That means they traveled from Kajaki district in northern Helmand all the way down to some of the southernmost positions the Corps has there.

At COP Shir Ghazi in Musa Qala district, Amos presented a Purple Heart to Sgt. Shane Fredericks, an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, who sustained a traumatic brain injury after his vehicle struck and improvised explosive device. A report by embedded journalist Gretal Kovach said the blast occurred May 12 in Now Zad district, and was generated by 120 pounds of explosives.

Barrett also delivered the Marines with 2/5 a stern warning about staying safe when the return to the U.S. this fall. From Kovach’s report:

“You’re not going to overindulge and then jump on a crotch rocket and slam into a stinkin’ telephone pole,” Barrett said.

“You go outside the wire every single day, and you go hunt down the bad man, you fix him in place and you kill him! That’s your job,” he said. “You’ve already proven yourself. You’ve got nothing else to prove. Go home, be aggressive … but be aggressive without being reckless. Live your life right and to its fullest.”

No mincing words there, right?