In 2010, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment deployed to Helmand Province, a Taliban hotbed in Afghanistan's arid south. The Marines of 3/3 arrived in country on the heels of Operation Moshtarak, the 2010 NATO-led offensive in Helmand that involved some of the heaviest, and bloodiest, fighting of the war. For the next six months, 3/3's mission was to sustain the progress that had come at the cost of many American, British and Afghan lives. It was a complex assignment, one that required the Marines to function as both warriors and diplomats, working in partnership with the Afghan National Army in order to achieve stability in an area still rife with insurgents.
"There were dozens of combat operations," says SSgt. Mark Fayloga, who photographed the tour, "but their missions ran the gamut - from patrols, vehicle checkpoints and clearing operations, to community building and training Afghan forces." As a U.S. Marine Corps combat corespondent directly attached to 3rd Battalion, Fayloga's job was to circulate the battlefield documenting 3/3's deployment from multiple vantage points. "It was the most gratifying experience I've ever had. I was constantly amazed by what these men could do." This is his story.
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Photos by SSgt. Mark Fayloga