February 22nd, 2010
10:50 AM ET

Reporter's diary: Inside Operation Moshtarak

For more than a week, CNN International Correspondent Atia Abawi has been embedded with U.S. Marines who are working alongside Afghan soldiers to rout out Taliban forces from the southern Afghan province of Marjah.  Abawi filed this inside look at Operation Moshtarak:

It's been over a week now since Operation Moshtarak began here in southern Afghanistan. The city of Marjah shakes with the sound of improvised explosive devices, most of them set off by controlled explosions.  Between IED blasts, the air is filled with the sounds of whizzing bullets, booming mortars, clacking helicopters, and other noises of war that I can't even express in writing.

The U.S. Marines and the Afghan Army are fighting a fierce battle against the Taliban inside Marjah while other NATO forces are in the surrounding towns in villages.  The story started well before the launch of Operation Moshtarak on February 13.  In fact,  journalists - aware of the impending operation - began deploying to Helmand province at the beginning of the month.  

Before Marjah

"I'm scared as f**k!" one Marine told me as he headed out, days before the operation started. "And I'll tell you now, we all feel this way."

I instantly connected with that emotion.

For over a week, journalists camped together shared our concerns about the impending military strike, not knowing why we were brought in so early or why we were given the OK to report so much on the operation.

The fear mainly stemmed from the fact the Taliban knew what was about the cross those city lines.  NATO commanders have said for many months that Marjah would be the next major battle of the war.

And they've made sure that we, the media, passed the message along to our audiences.

At Camp Leatherneck, print journalists, photographers and TV journalists arriving from all over the world shared one big tent.  Some were veterans and some were newbies.  But one thing almost everyone had in common was that this was the first time we were all actually a bit nervous of what was ahead on our military embeds.

And as odd as it sounds, there was comfort in knowing you are not alone in feeling that way. But those nerves didn't stop us from wanting the story.

We all eventually separated to join our units and learn about the mission ahead.  The CNN team was about to embed with the 1st Battalion 6th Marines, Alpha Company.  We were told this was the main company in the battle for Marjah.

Entering Marjah

It was hard not to look around at the faces sitting near me as we sat on the CH-53 transport helicopter with the Marine unit heading into the city.  The unit was made up mostly of young Marines in their late teens and early 20s, but also veterans – the ones the young guys look up to.

Their expressions did not show fear or excitement; the faces I read were those of acceptance – accepting the unknown of what they were about to encounter.  The men weren't cocky, as infantrymen are sometimes thought to be.  But at the same time they weren't showing their nerves.

You could tell that prayers were abundant and their minds were racing with thoughts of their wives, girlfriends, parents, siblings or children.

I remember feeling one-third fear of what was ahead and two-thirds of something I can't describe.

Talking to the Marines on that day, they said they were expecting to be surrounded by Taliban small arms fire the second they stepped off the bird.

As our helicopter was flying overhead I was half hoping we would get there already so we could face whatever was there.  The other half of me was hoping we'd be called back to the airfield.

When the bird landed, a Marine interpreter, Solomon, helped put my extremely heavy bag on my back. The pack was so much easier to carry without a flak vest and trudging through a muddy field in the black night.

All I kept thinking was, "Head down, head down" to make sure I didn't hit the rotor blade. And as I ducked with my heavy bag, I fell. And I wasn't alone. The Marines carrying all their heavy equipment and weapons didn't have an easy time either:  the first four members of Alpha Company that were wounded were the result of the tricky terrain and the heavy packs they were carrying.

But luckily the Taliban were not firing, at least not when the sun was still down. Marines used night-vision goggles and Afghan soldiers walked blindly.

The explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team went ahead of everyone scanning the fields for IEDs – the Taliban weapon of choice and a very effective tool of engagement for them. IEDs are the number one killer of NATO troops in Afghanistan.

We stood in the muddy field in freezing temperatures, huddling together to stay warm as we waited for word on when we could move again. The night was so bitterly cold that one Marine was medevacked out to be treated for hypothermia.

When the hot sun began to rise over the horizon, the crackles of AK-47s could be heard from various locations. The Taliban's targets were in sight and the bullets were flying.

Our initial reaction was to get to the ground – and we did.  Our second reaction was to run – but we couldn't. Running through the empty fields of Marjah would be gambling our lives. You don't know when your next step could be your last because of the threat of those unseen IEDs.

The EOD team who went ahead of us were the ones taking the gamble, as their IED detective dogs sniffed the fields for potential bombs.

When it was all clear, we went running across the muddy fields as the Taliban continued to fire from their perspective areas.

The fire increased as the sun continued to rise. Crackles of fire erupted from various parts of the city as the Taliban woke up to the fact that D-day was here and the Marines had arrived.

And that's when the real fighting began and has yet to end. We are in week two of Operation Moshtarak, and yet the battle for Marjah is nowhere near over.

soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. Nathanael [desert voice]

    It is difficult not to agree with Gurbir, with some caveats. There are many skeletons in every human closet, not just America's! There are many "enemies within," whom we all fight throughout our lives! Even more conspicuously, there are many skeletons in politics! America has had a good share of them in the past. Some wars were simply uncalled for. But some actions against violence are necessary. I am against all wars, but I also oppose terrorism as a crime against humanity. I wish the Afghan War was over! I wish that all American politicians were transparent and saintly! It may never happen, but we must hope against hope. We must not stand idle, but get involved shaping a better destiny for us and the world, including Afghanistan.

    March 3, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gurbir S Bhullar

    Prayers for all and wish for the early end of war with less bloodshed. But the point is that America is fighting with Enemy of its own making. Will they learn anything from this experience? Will they again abandon the people after using them? Wil they stop supporting rogue states which are hand-in-glove with terrorist? Hope better sense prevail and America uses tits good influence to promote peace and harmony.

    March 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Anshuman Mishra

    For the safety of your kins and their mates serving in Afghanistan, please do not disclose their names, rank, unit names and locations on the post.

    Internet is available everywhere now, even the enemy in a remote cave in Afghanistan can read the blogs and inflict a mental blow in the battlefield.

    Please hold back your excitement and put faith in God who will bring your dear ones safely to home.

    March 2, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. Zim

    Good luck to guys and girls over there. When are done in Afghanistan can you please stop by Zimbabwe and sort out the mess there.

    March 2, 2010 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. mary weston

    Atia ,Thank you for all your dedicated work, in one of your videos you show the 1/6 alpha coming into Marjah and there in the middle of all this hell was my nephew LCPL Josh Williamson. What a sight for sore eyes.I will always be eternally thankful to you for your work. Your all I my Prayers Go Marines Stay Motivated. Love Aunt Mary.
    Could we ever get a shot of the company?

    March 1, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. R Elder

    My son is in the 3/6 WEPs, Thank You for reporting on whats going on over there. It seems like or son's and daughters are second rate in the news. There is very little if nothing on tv news. I have to scan the internet for the news. Its news and blogs like this that Helps calm my heart! Thank You again.

    February 28, 2010 at 4:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sheila

    Thanks!! My son is also part of the group, he's in communication for 3/6. Always trying to find out anything going on. Appreciate your dedication! STAY SAFE!!

    February 27, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mary Elizabeth

    My son is in Afganistan with the army, 101st Airborne. Thank you for being brave and going over there to report on the men and women fighting for our freedom- including freedom of the press!

    February 27, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Debi B

    Thank you for all of your reports. We finally heard from our son this week. He is one of the MP Dog Handlers, and you have him on film several times and talked to him once. It was wonderful to be able to see him. You are doing a great job covering this operation.

    February 27, 2010 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joan Carpenter

    Bravo Zulu to the American and Canadian troops. Stay safe. Up here in Canada we have a very high regard for American Forces and we know you are all watching out for each other. God bless.

    February 26, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Nathanael [desert voice]

    Mcnertny, you should be more specific. Otherwise, your post breeds defeatism and pesimism in the extreme. It is difficult to figure out what you are really trying to say, beyongd whining. There many well-intentioned people on this forum, trying to give a good advice so that soldiers will not unnecessarily be maimed and killed. Such are not "armchair generals" but good and patriotic Americans. If you feel that this kitchen is too hot for you, get out of the kitchen. But do not criticize those who know somthing and are trying to help out of sheer human responsibility to the country of their citizenship.

    February 26, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dale Blan

    -response to : Danielle Wilson's post
    The idea is not just to make them turn tail and run, i hope they don't. The idea is to kill them all and yes, we will loose Marines but the cause is just. Please don't think that I am writing this post merely from a spectators point of view either, i know i am not there yet but I enlisted into the Marines last June and am awaiting my ship date to boot, if I could, I would be over there fighting alongside my brothers as we speak.

    February 26, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. Gunny

    Folks,

    Please do not post full names, rank and units of Marines involved in combat operations. Families, please practice operational security. As much as you want to get word out to your Marines, practice restraint. The enemy is not dumb. They are not simple farmers. The enemy is sophisticated, intelligent and trained well in all forms of intelligence gathering. Keep in mind that there are other player advising them and supporting their combat operations. Remember, no news is good news. Keep the faith, pray and rely on the training they have received to keep them alive.

    CNN, take some responsibility. Delete sensitive info before posting.

    Semper fi
    Gunny C

    February 26, 2010 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. r mcnertny

    what nonsense,,another armchair general who knows the next battle will go just fine,,enlist nat and go there,,the media spin that the afghan military is carrying the load but has no casualties is as ridiculous as thinking the will hold the ground later.

    February 26, 2010 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Nathanael [desert voice]

    If this is true that Kandahar is next, and that the Kandahar campaign will be a replica of Marjah campaign, the common sense would indicate that one thing will need to be different. Namely, starting today, there should be a hundred or two paid road mine spotters, tracing on maps every bomb and IED that is being placed by the Taliban! This common sense initiative will speed up the Kandahar campaign, and may save hundreds of lives! The American Command must sign on this project!

    February 25, 2010 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  16. Soren

    Go get 'em Mariines!

    February 25, 2010 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
  17. Lynn

    Thank you for the reports and the photos. Our son Matthew is with Alpha Co. 1/6 and is probably with you. We read everything and search nightly for a glimpse of our son. We haven't seen him yet in your photos, but we have seen other Marines we know. Thank you for letting us see photos of the daily lives of our loved ones. Stay safe and keep the news coming.

    February 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Moshpit

    Mary Lee, please refrain from giving soldier names and unit designations to protect your son. While the media is giving out info of unit movements, you really don't want the Taliban putting two and two together and directly targeting your son on the battlefield.

    February 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Michelle Stermer

    Thank you for covering this so closely. My son is a Marine in the 1/6 Alpha Company so knowing that you are with his company and just knowing what is happening puts my mind at ease a little. Thank you again for the updates!!

    February 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Joe M

    Atia thats a wonderful perspective of feelings you wrote about. I have a son Michael in 3/6 Lima. co. He's a wonderful human being and its great to hear some news on them but the only news I want to hear is that they are coming home. I guess that some of these guys were in High School just a few months ago, might account for the fear factor for some . They are now learning what war is all about. Except with New rules of engagement This is Not a war.. this is target practice for the Taliban. I had a photo journalist email me about my son and how proud he was that men like my son protected him. As you can see lots of family here expressing their concerns for their loved ones who are all Real American Hero's. Cnn does a terrible job on reporting what's going on there as well as CBS NBC ABC and Fox. Politics and Celebrities dominate the news casts. While we all wonder what we are doing there and how our loved ones are Fodder for War. We go to work everyday not knowing if one of our Heros might not be alive when we get home.. Atia .. if you were afraid can you imagine how we feel raising those boys who are Thousands of mile away with no contact. Whom ever your God is."God Bless the United State Marines."

    February 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  21. fonda

    My son is also a 1/6 Marine on the front line. Thank you for reporting back to us. It been the hardest 3 weeks of my life wondering if everything is going to be okay. I wonder if you had the chance to meet him? he is wonderful.. but not alone.. they are all wonderful, brave young Marines.. I look foward to the rest of your story.. Thanks again!

    February 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Anshuman Mishra

    A user Mary Lee Drake has mentioned about his son ( a marine) who is serving in Afghanistan. She has mentioned his rank, company and location.
    Please do not provide such details of your kins because it might jeopardise their and their comrades safety

    February 24, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  23. Alex

    It is so nice to read and know that so many people are still in support of our troops, nation and reason for war. It is much appreciated to receive such detailed news from the front-line. Keep up the good work and smiles, reporters and Marines : ) Semper Fi.

    February 24, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  24. gil unger

    Thankks for the update. Haven't read much news lately. My son John is with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, Lima company. Keep up the good work.

    February 24, 2010 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  25. Crystal

    Oorah Marines. Thank you for reporting the good things our U.S. Marine Corps does. As an active duty Marine, I appreciate this article. More than often, the work of Marines goes unnoticed. Thank you.

    February 24, 2010 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  26. maria goretti

    Thank you for getting information to all of us whose sons and daughters are fighting in Helmand Province. We keep all of these brave soldiers in our prayers.

    February 24, 2010 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  27. Colleen Amra

    I have two sons in this war and I am continuously reading the news and then some. I dont want to know but I have to know. Thank you for telling the story through a soldiers eyes, it brings evreything into perspective and makes me realize what is important and what is not.

    February 24, 2010 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  28. Cassandra

    Please be safe. My thoughts and prayers are with US troops every day.

    February 24, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  29. Lynn

    Thank you so much for the wonderful reporting and updates on what is happening with this operation. My friend is with the 1/6 Alpha Co. and brother is with the 3/6. I worry about them each and every day, as does every marine wife, girlfriend, family member, or friend. I pray for their safe return and feel lucky and grateful to know such amazing heroes!

    February 23, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Cathy

    Thank you for your reporting. My son-in-law is a SAW gunner with 1/6 Bravo company and it reassures me to read these reports. I know he's going thru hell right now but I also know how hard the Marine Corps works to ensure their men are covered and supported. Note to other families: please stop giving names, it's against OPSEC and very unsafe as a poster above has mentioned.
    To everyone: Keep praying and supporting our servicemen and women. There are some updates available on Marines.mil as well. Love to all and Semper Fi.

    February 23, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Cassie De La Cruz

    My husband is in the unit you are traveling with. LCpl De La Cruz, a lot of the guys call him Delta. I hope and pray that you are all safe. If you come across him in your writing and travels with him tell him I love him and I miss him and he has a promise to keep. Any inside information is always good for us to hear, at least we know what is going on and what they are doing even if it is hard to read.

    February 23, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  32. FAYE

    HI ATIA,
    THANKS FOR YOUR INFO. I HAVE A GRANDSON IN KILO 3/6 THAT I RAISED. MISS HIM VERY MUCH AND AM PROUD OF HIM AND ALL THE REST OF THE GUYS OVER THERE.(JOSH). THE REPORTERS ALSO ARE VERY BREAVE AND I THANK YOU FOR YOUR JOB. BE SAFE AND TELL THE MARINES WE LOVE THEM VERY MUCH.

    February 23, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  33. keith

    atia,
    my nephew is with the 1/6 a co..thank you for your reporting on his co..hope all is doing well and they all come home safe and sound..we have not seen him yet in any of the photos..keep the reports and photos coming this is all we have till they get to call home which i hope is soon..if you see or talk to chad from pa.tell him his mother,grandma and little sister are doing find just waiting for him to get back home.......

    February 23, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Jill

    Thanks for the great reporting and keeping us informed here in the states. I have a son in Marjah with the 2nd AABN. My prayers are with all the Marines who are doing what they do best-protecting our freedom. A big thank you for being in such a dangerous area to bring us the news on how the operation is going and our Marines.
    God Bless you all and Godspeed for safe return home.

    February 23, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Lillie Hart

    My daughter is over there she's in kabul and i am so proud of her and all our troops and i am praying they all make it back here safe. Lillie

    February 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Ashton Kuhn

    My friend William Blake Clayton is in alpha company 1/6 and is fighting in marjah in the mission moshtarak. I pray you'll stay safe and I miss you!!!!

    February 23, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Nancy Ballard

    Many people have commented about the reporting and videos that Atia has been working on and that's great for family to see their loved ones. I'm in Atlanta Ga and I have a son in the Marines heading to Afghanistan within the next few weeks. CNN Atlanta has NOT been following the war in Afghanistan. We're lucky to get a 7 to 10 second blip about the operation in Marjah. We know everything there is to know about Tiger Woods and how he needs therapy!!

    Could someone on this page please tell me how to see these videos? I know there have been Marine casualties and we pray for them everyday. I need to be better informed. Thanks,

    SEMPER FI

    Nancy

    February 23, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Dad E.

    Glen:

    Or perhaps a Marine sensed her fear and said what he did so she wouldn’t feel alone. That would be an emotion called compassion, a leader letting her know fear is an emotion to be controlled because they were going in, she without a weapon. Recoil is a reaction to an input not an emotion. In case you didn’t read any of the other comments, almost all of them were posted by people who are related to a Marine in this fight. We love the warriors with whom the reporter is embedded and we respect and appreciate her efforts.

    February 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Alyssa

    Thank you so much for reporting. My boyfriend is a Marine and involved in this mission. It was hard to read your descriptive writing but good at the same time. Thank you and I pray that you and everyone involved stay safe.

    February 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Glen

    Marines rely on their trainning, their only emotion is the recoil of their rifle. Please be more postive in your reporting of the War. It appears your story is bent on motivating the ememy rather supporting the U.S. Troops. I know many Marines and their not fearful, perhaps the alledged Marine comment you made came from John Kerry, rather than a real Marine.

    February 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Suzanne

    My son is with the 1/6 A Co and I am so proud of him and of all the other marines. He is only 19 and I am terrified for him. I pray God will protect them all amd bring them home safely. I love you Corey. Come home safe. Thanks CNN for the updates.

    February 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Jerome

    I have that very same knife and sheath on the Marines' lower back. The knife is a Tom Brown Jr. Tracker (T1) and the sheath is from Hedgehog leatherworks. Both are great knives.

    I was also in the National Guard back in 2000, wish I had the knife back then.
    These soldiers are America's best.

    Go USA!!!

    February 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Ali

    My boyfriend is with the 3/6 L Company as well, and I, too, can only imagine that the experiences of the 1/6 are what each and every marine is encountering in Marjah. His rule was not to read the news but to some extent I find comfort in this. I heard from him this morning and he says they are okay and everything is going pretty well, always reassuring. Thank you so much for reporting the things he cannot and would not express to me, it brings me peace of mind in a very emotional time.

    February 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Steve Nell

    My son is with the 3/6, Lima Company. Thank you for your reports and for telling the story of Marjah. Your accounts of the 1/6 are probably typical of what all our sons are facing. I would love to hear more. My wife can't stand to hear or read about Marjah...it scares her. I, on the other hand, only feel better with as much info as I can find. Stay safe!!

    February 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Steve

    My brother is with the 1/6 Alpha company. He's a SAW gunner and he was briefly in one of the videos that you posted up. Thank you very much for your reporting! I think I can speak for many people when I say that your reporting helps the families keep up with whats going on. Thanks again!

    February 23, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  46. Ismael Vasquez

    Thanks alot for willing to tell the story of the battle in Marjah. As an expierenced combat Infantryman I know It takes alot of courage to go into battle and your doing it without any weapon. Stay strong and keep your head down!

    February 23, 2010 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  47. Todd

    My thoughts and prayers with you all in the mix. Complete the mission and come home.

    February 23, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  48. Harvey V. Jones

    CNN thank you for your unbiased coverage of the fight in Marjah and ongoing Operation Moshtarak. I find myself glued to your coverage on TV and online. My son is not directly part of the Operation; however, he is supporting operations in the Helmand Province. He is a Marine Sergeant in Gulf Co. 2/2. I am extremely proud of him and all the Marines as they continue this fight. Recently, my son lost a member of his squad to an IED pressure plate mine. He was fortunate that night that this is only thing that occurred. It was the first member of his squad that he had had killed in action. The mine basically tore the young Marine in half. Now how do you comfort your son who has just experience an event that horrific? All the years I spent in the military (US Army) as an infantryman didn't prepare me on how to comfort my son. Nor did it prepare me on how to minister to his wife who must deal with the consequences of what he has seen and done. He and his Marines are continuing to drive on in spite of this lose and all are dealing with it in their own way. I pray that our LORD and SAVIOR gives all of them a "peace" that goes beyond all understanding. I pray for the families who have lost love ones or had love ones wounded in action; and I pray for your safety as you are in harms way with our sons and daugthers. It is hard to explain to someone who has never experienced war...however, you are in the thick of it and have a first hand knowledge of all their fears, prayers, hopes and challenges. God Bless you and our Men and Women in Uniform!!! Screaming Eagles!

    February 23, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  49. Ray

    Yeah !, I look at the Pic and Say God is Great !, God be with you and the Marines, Let people look at this Pic and Know that always the Brave are those who want peace , Tactful, now what we need is the situation where the so called Talibans are Standing Still and Face the Fight not Just retreating and Using Shameless skills and Oversize Ak-47 from Iran............

    February 23, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  50. Lucy Williams

    Atia,
    Thanks for all your updates, videos and pictures. My husband is there in Helmand with 1/6.. HM1 Jason Williams. Last I heard he was with Alpha Company but is moving around where he is needed to help with the wounded, as he is a Navy IDC with 1/6 and provides medical care. I read your reports all the time for any and all info possible, so I can get any glimpse of how he may be. It seems that the families are always kept in the dark, so your info and reporting is so appreciated. I pray for all our troops to come home safely. Please tell all the troops they are missed and how proud we are of all of them. Be safe and thank you.
    Lucy

    February 23, 2010 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  51. Mary

    Thank you Atia for the great updates. My son, like so many others, is a marine too! He is attached with the 3/6, Cpl Alex Houston. Last time I heard from him was on Feb. 12th. He called to tell me he was going and I wouldn't hear from him for a long time. I don't know what he is doing, but just pray that he is safe and keeping out of harms way. I look forward to reading your articles and watching your videos. I always think that maybe I will see my son in one of the photos or videos. Continue to report and keep your head down and watch you back. Thank you! From Fremont, Michigan.

    February 23, 2010 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  52. Emmanuel

    Deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generocity.Many of our kids wl hav to pass through the valley of dearth again and again before they reach the mountaintops of there desires.Colosians 3:13.

    February 23, 2010 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
  53. Dan

    I'm at Kandahar and I'm proud of the military and what they do. I'm also proud of the family members left behind. You are just as important. Stay strong.

    February 23, 2010 at 4:21 am | Report abuse |
  54. Edith

    My son is in the US Marines and truly appreciate the updates. Every day I pray for everyone to be safe. Thank you for defending our country and our freedom.

    February 23, 2010 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
  55. Crystal

    Thank you Atia for reporting what a lot of us want to hear.
    My husband is in the Marines in Helmand. He had told me before his team left for an operation some weeks ago that he was attached to 3/6 and he is a 1st CEB 1st platoon of Bravo Co. I have been looking everywhere for any news on the 1st combat engineers attached to 3/6 but I cannot find any information on them. Do you know where I might find information or pictures of them? I can only find information on 3/6 but not the engineers.
    God Bless you and our Marines. Stay safe and be strong.

    February 23, 2010 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  56. jigga

    Keep fighting the good fight...we will see how far this administration will go to get end results.

    February 23, 2010 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  57. Mary Arbuckle Friedenreich

    Thank you for your support and the news you provide for all of us.You are doing a great job covering the operation.My son is Cpl. Eric Arbuckle with the 1/6 Alpha Company.
    Tell him that his mom is very proud of him and that I send him hugs.God Bless him and all of you.

    February 23, 2010 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  58. Jason from Wisconsin

    Atia,

    Thank you for your reports,

    Stay safe along with my fellow Marines. Atia you'll be safe knowing your with the Marines, they'll keep you in good health!!!

    Tell all the marines All of us from the U.S are behind them and wish them well!

    February 23, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  59. Susan

    Enjoyed this report. Our thoughts are with the Marines and the fight they are involved in.

    Would also like to let everyone know that U.S. military forces other than Marines are fighting too. Our son is a U.S. Army Apache helicopter pilot and is flying with Marine patrols in order to provide air support for ground troops.

    The U.S. forces are brave men & women and we are grateful for their courage. We pray for God's protection over all of them..

    February 23, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  60. Jody

    Ditto to what many other Alpha parents have already commented–thank you for your reports. We look forward to them each day to have some sense of what our sons are experiencing, even though it is rough on our motherly instincts (and dads', too!). As you can imagine, we are all tremendously proud of our Marines. Stay safe yourself!

    February 22, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  61. David Kain

    too bad this whole operation and mass killings are not at all connected with the US's homeland security at all, who is osama bin laden, is he even real or is he just too good of a friend of the US, you notice its all on the taliban now, before it was osama bin laden, this seems like bs and its a good enough reason to leave the US military near iran so that we can just move over there when they get a little rowdy and allow more private corporations to reap massive profits over this "war"

    February 22, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  62. Tracy Marine Mom

    My son is also in Alpha Co 1/6. His group is with you Atia. I can not begin to tell you how much your reports mean to me and my family. The videos are a Godsend! I have seen my son, Cpl B. Burkhart, in many of these and since I haven't heard from him for almost a month it helps me to know that he is still ok. I am so proud of him and all of the Troops in Afghanistan! I pray for their safe return everyday. Please keep up the great reporting and videos. If you happen to see my son tell him that we love him and keep safe! God Bless our Troops! Go Devil Dogs!!!

    February 22, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  63. Ryan

    Please do not give away the full names of your relatives in theater. It can be used by the enemy to spread false reports of a capture or KIA. We are all proud of your children, just don't give away their units and full names.

    CNN please redact emails that give away full names.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  64. Terri H

    Thank you for the good work you are doing keeping us posted as to what our loved ones are doing. This is my sons second deployment to Afghanistain with the 1/6 A Co. I pray everyday for him and the whole batallion to come home safe and sound. Keep up the good work heads down come home love ya all.... Very proud Marien MOM!!!!!!

    February 22, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Phyllis Revels

    My son is also in Afghanistan, he is in th 1/6 Marines. I look everyday to see if I can just see him or anyone in his paton. We pray everyday for them to be safe and for all of them to come home they have already lost two soliders. All the American people need to be praying everyday for them SEMPER FI. Keep sending the pictures, it's keeping us up with what is going on ever there.

    February 22, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  66. Neville Viviers

    To all ISAF men and women in Afghanistan a word of appreciation. Despite everything you are making the world a better place for those generations still to come. Never give up fighting evil and let the world's radicals never feel safe.

    February 22, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Jess

    Thank you ~
    Praying for the best of all~

    February 22, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  68. MaryB.

    Atia, thank you for the reports. They are hard foir me to read because my son Zach is a corpsman with the 1/3, Bravo Company. My hearts and prayers are to all in Afghanistan, especially the brave heroes in Marjah! Zach just left his base to set up a forwarding operating base, so I am more than worried and scared. All my prayers for everyone to come home safelyand to be hugged tightly by all their family members. Ooh rah!

    February 22, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  69. micki

    Thank you for putting everything on the line to get the story out there. We are waiting for word about Cody McGrew is is with the 1/6 Weapons Company and praying everyday that he is going to make it out of this fight. Please stay safe and thank you all for what you do!

    February 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  70. cindy wilson

    thank you for all your reports I turn to cnn first and then everthing else, just to find out what is going on in Marjah. My son is with the 1/6th marines weapons company and we are very worried about him, why cant this just be over and send our sons,daughters, husbands and wives home. We pray for a safe return for all over there. Keep up with the good reporting and stay safe. god bless our marines

    mom

    February 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  71. lisa

    Please keep the updates coming, My husband is over there and altough I don"t like the news I am hearing each day, just knowing something is more bearable than not knowing anything. Let the Marines know that we love them and are praying for them!

    February 22, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  72. reggie knox

    Thank you for your dedicated reporting of our Marines progress in Marjah. Your reports are by far the best and believe me, I have read plenty since 2-13-10. My son's name is Ryan in 1/6 weapons company. We saw him in your report-Operation Moshtarak Continues. If you run into him, tell him his mom and dad love him and that we are so proud of all those brave Marines. Thank again and keep up the good work.

    February 22, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  73. Mark

    Thank you Atia. You are truly a brave soul. My son is a 1/3 Marine in Helmand. Your reports are so important to the families of our troops. Keep up the good work and keep safe. Many times words are more powerful than pictures.

    February 22, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  74. Kaye May

    Thank you so much for the reports. You dont know how much that means to parents of a Marine in battle. My daughter is over there, and I havent heard from her in 3 weeks. And the last thing I did hear was they were gearing up to start the attack. She is in the Lioness program so she is out there in the battle. Thank God she is in the Marines, I am constantly reminded they take care of their own. Again, thank you for reporting, its very comforting to know you can at least keep up with what is going on from your reports. God Bless Our Marines! Go Devil Dogs!

    February 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  75. Elizabeth Trollmann-Shepardson

    Our Thank you's are multiple and barely audible, I'm sure, over the sounds of war. We are with all of you in spirit, daily. Again, our hearts, minds and thoughts are with all of you, 1/6 –you're the best of the best. You're in safe hands, Atia. They may be young, but they are sure footed and strong. You just tell them all their mom said to keep their head down and head in the game. One of them will smile about that. Thank you, and my best to you and your family, as well. Elizabeth

    February 22, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  76. Diana W

    My son is in the Alpha 1/6. I have really been looking at your reports daily.
    I am so glad to have a way to know whats going on with him.
    My sons name is Brett and we love him miss him and are praying for him and all the
    guys and of course you Atia.

    February 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  77. R. Canning

    As with others, my son is a Lt with 1/6 Alpha. In the first days, we were able to see and hear him in one of your reports. What a blessing! As a family, we look to CNN updates on Operation Moshtarak to learn more about what our Marine is experiencing. I can't thank you enough for your commitment to reporting the events in Marjah. My prayers have not only been for my son and his men, but for you as well.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  78. Joe

    Atia,
    Thank you for your reporting. As others have stated, my wife and I also depend on your reports to keep up with 1/6 Alpha. It was suggested we not watch the news but we as parents need to know if our son is well. As long as you keep reporting, we can assume he is well and know the 1/6 is ok and on the move.
    You are what a free press is all about.
    Keep you head down!
    Thank you
    Joe

    February 22, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  79. Mohammad A. Dar

    How about letting the public know, that you are not the one, who likes the the truth, but one of thos, who want to keep the people in dark and use the American Blood spilling for the Glory of the Pharisee. (The criminal) Thank you for not publishing my comments, perhappes they were not good for your malicious Agenda

    February 22, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  80. Betty Bergman

    My son is in the 1/6 Alpha Co., in fact he is the one shown launching mortars, Lcpl Anthony Bergman. We are so proud of him and all the men. Thank you for reporting

    February 22, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Mary

    My son is in Afghanistan, too, and I spend most of the day looking for pictures of him (his fiance found a great one!) and the evenings I spend watching the news...thank you for having this spot for me to see, too. Stay safe!

    February 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  82. dsd

    Thank you, Atia, for your detailed update. We parents, wives, family, girlfriends live for every accurate morsel of news from the front. My son is a Field MP and one of the IED dog handlers with 1/6 Alpha. His black Lab is Dakota, the others are Buck and Canvas. I'm glad they're doing their jobs to help keep everyone safe. All our Marines there deserve our support and prayers. They are carrying out a mission that they did not design, so their hands are almost tied by the limitations placed upon them. This is why it is so dangerous for them. I hope that soon you will all have a base camp to work out of, because from what I've seen thus far, your conditions are wholly inadequate. But they are Marines and can sleep anywhere, eat MRE's forever if need be, clean up with nothing but baby wipes, carry on their bodies an abominably heavy load of protection and equipment, clean their muddy weapons with the Q-tips we send them, and still shave every day! I do believe by now you're an honorary Marine. If a Slim Jim can make you so happy, you're a Marine in my book!
    God bless and God speed, let this initial phase be over with soon.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  83. Karin

    Thank-you for keeping our sons in everyone's thoughts. Mine is a Marine with the 3/6 Weapons Company. He's the REALLY tall one. If you see our son Kraig, send him our love.
    Thank-you
    A mom from Ballston Spa NY

    February 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  84. Mike Michalowicz

    That sheath on his back is a Hedgehog Leatherworks sheath! So great to see such high-end equipment being issued to the military. Go Marines!!!!!!

    February 22, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  85. Rene'

    My son is also a Marine fighting in Marjah – keep the reports coming – I just hope it is all over soon and all of the soldiers can come home

    February 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  86. David E.

    My son is with 1/6 Alpha and a Lieutenant. We saw him in one of your video reports so I can only assume you know him and the odds are high that he would have been in that helicopter with you. I don't suppose he's alone in his use of the F word over there but that is a word he's always seemed to be genetically predisposed to use so I supposed he could have been the source of that quote also. I see him in every picture and hear him in every word you write. Thank you so much for being there and sharing what you see and hear.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  87. Fred

    Atia : Thank you for the daily updates – in the 1 6 Alpha – Slap RAINEY on the back – for me !
    and although you must have 1000 requests .. please tell him Uncle Fred and all the family are behind him and love him !

    Atia: – I wish your your safety daily as well !
    Thank you and keep up the good work ...

    RAINEY WE LOVE YOU !
    and all the marines that surround you !
    UF

    February 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  88. c. smith union beach new jersey

    Sometimes you can't understand what people are actually going through until you have someone you care about over there. These daily reports have kept my very best friend as sane as she could be knowing her son (her heart) is in Afghanistan right now. Thank you for helping the family's and friends keep up with their loved ones.
    Lcpl M. Carter we love you and patiently wait your safe return.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  89. D. Kuhn

    A. Smith... the picture doesn't show a flattened Marjah, it shows Marjah. None of the buildings in the shot appear to have any damage at all. For some reason the media kept referring to Marjah as a "City"... but it's not a city in any sense that you or I would be accustomed to. It's a region of irrigated small farms, single story or small multistory dwellings in walled enclosures seem to be the typical buildings.

    I strongly recommend anyone interested in what we're doing over there get a copy of Google Earth and take a look at the region. The spot pinpointed as the center of the "City" is a empty desert plain wedged between two irrigated blocks of green. In the US the region would be considered rural.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  90. Danielle Wilson

    I think your story is great but I am a little concerned for our soldiers in the great offensive attack. What are we expecting? That the Taliban turn away and run while we attack? That is not a part of their tactics and I thought from the January 18th attack in the city of Kabul that we would realize that they are not backing down. Attacking within the city of Kabul is not one of their normal tactics but they conducted the attack anyways, in response to the Afghan government offering jobs to Taliban that switch over. The Taliban's tactics are changing and they are making sure that we hear them. I pray for all of our soldiers involved in the offensive attack and hope that God watches over them. When this attack is over I am afraid we are going to loose several soldiers.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  91. David

    Thank you for your reports. Like oithers back in the States we search for news and pray for the safe return of all those involved. More importantly may their work have staying power.......1/6 Alpha in our prayers.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  92. Jeanne

    I hope that many Americans are keeping you all in their thoughts. You wrote this well as it expresses the reality of what our Marines face and everyone should know just what they do for us as we sit in our comfy couches reading this. I pray for all of you every day.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  93. A. Smith, Oregon

    Sometimes a picture contains a thousand words. This photo appears to show a section of Marjah that is flattened. I suspect much of Marjah is destroyed and flattened. A literal ghost town that is mostly flattened and destroyed. Still thou, it'll take 30 more days to secure and capture?

    February 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  94. corinne

    GO MARINES!!!

    February 22, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  95. HM2

    Atia,

    I rely on CNN to update me daily on the war. I am currently in southern Afghanistan and have no clue as to what happens on a daily basis unless I read the news myself. I'm always intrigued by the stories that Atia writes. I feel like i'm right there with her. The Marines are doing an awesome job in Helmand, and i'm very proud to say i'm in the US military. I would like to thank each and everyone of therm for what they do and to Atia for being there when she doesn't have to.

    I'm still waiting for Atia to come interview us in Kandahar. That is when she gets some time. I spoke to her a couple months ago on the phone and she was a genuinely very nice person.

    Thank you and keep up the great work!!!!!

    February 22, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  96. Dan Nelson Lafayette,IN

    It's always good to hear your reporting Atia. Please stay safe.

    February 22, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  97. Mary Lee Drake

    My son is Thomas D. Drake who was mentioned in an article in the NY Times. He is a Cpl in operation Marshtarak who went in on 2-13-09. He is in Kilo Company 3rd Battallion. I sincerely appreciate all the news coverage. Thank you. If you can get a message to him at all, please let him know that EVERYONE in our family is proud of him. I saw his picture and I can see that he is good at his job. We all have him in our prayers. The Taliban are very bad guys and our whole family sincerely believes in what our guys are doing over there. I sit here in peace and type this note – thanks to all military troops and their families involved. – Mary Lee

    February 22, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  98. Guest

    Thank you soo very much for the news you report on a daily bases. I am truly greatful for the support that you show our men by being over there. Please keep reporting the news on whats going on out there. My brother is in the 3/6 and I am glued to the news wherever it may come to read about the progress being made.

    February 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  99. JenH

    Thank you – you are all in my thoughts and prayers. Be safe.

    February 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  100. lisa

    Thank you for the reports. My son is a marine involved in the offensive and we are trying to get information wherever we can find it! Stay safe!

    February 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
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