HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
Marines with Bravo Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), conducted a combat logistics patrol in support of counterinsurgency operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 4–7.
The patrol delivered helium needed to operate the Persistent Ground Surveillance System, also known as an aerostat surveillance balloon, along with other supplies to forward operating bases manned by Regimental Combat Team 6.
“Keeping the PGSS personnel supplied with helium helps to secure the area of operations around the forward operating bases for both mounted and dismounted patrols,” said 1st Lt. Ryan L. Cornwell, platoon commander, 1st Platoon, Bravo Co., CLB-4.
Aerostat balloons float above forward operating bases providing platforms for cameras to monitor the surrounding area and remotely transmit video to decision makers on the ground.
“The blimps are the eye in the sky; an observer who never gets tired or falls asleep on post,” said 1st Lt. Clayton Anderson, intelligence officer, CLB-4.
The floating observation post, combined with other assets, provides a comprehensive surveillance solution around forward operating bases.
“When we are in a defensive position we have overlapping fields of fire,” said Anderson. “This is the same thing; the blimp is one more tool that ensures redundancy in our observation of the area.”
Highly visible surveillance tools such as blimps can do more than simply monitor security threats.
“Blimps discourage enemy activity,” said Cornwell. “The insurgents are less likely to be active when they know they are being watched.”
The visible nature of the blimps also serves as a reminder to Afghans that the Marines are committed to improving the local security situation and protecting them from extremist threats.
“We are here to ensure the daily pattern of life for the majority is not disrupted by the minority who would cause harm,” said Anderson. “The blimps are a reminder to the [Afghans] that we are not leaving them, and that we are maintaining a presence.”
The CLB-4 patrol also brought power generators, mail and food supplies to the forward operating base. On the return trip, they back-hauled vehicles for repairs and upgrades and brought unused gear back to Camp Leatherneck in preparation for redeployment to the U.S.
“We are assisting with retrograding equipment from the base however we can,” said Cornwell. “If we can haul it back now, we don’t have to haul it back later.”
According to the patrol leader, the combat logistics patrol was completed successfully thanks to the small-unit leadership exhibited by Bravo Company’s Marines.
"I think the success of the mission is a credit to our [noncommissioned officer] leadership," said Cornwell. "We delivered all of the supplies to the supported units and returned all Marines and gear safely."