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Pentagon IDs 6 Marines killed in Helmand

Aug. 13, 2012 - 05:51PM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 13, 2012 - 05:51PM  |  
A Marine carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Staff Sgt. Scott E. Dickinson on Aug. 13 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Dickinson died Aug. 10 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
A Marine carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Staff Sgt. Scott E. Dickinson on Aug. 13 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Dickinson died Aug. 10 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Luis M. Alvarez / The Associated Press)
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Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote, 27, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 10. ()
Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, 31, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 10. ()

Six Marines were shot and killed during separate attacks Friday in southwestern Afghanistan, both incidents allegedly perpetrated by Afghans believed to be allies.

The killings occurred in Helmand province, where Marine-led coalition forces hustling to prime their Afghan counterparts for greater ownership of the 11-year-old war. The first attack happened in Sangin district, according to numerous media reports. Marines there have been locked in a tense fight with the Taliban since taking the lead from British forces two years ago. The second happened to the south, in Garmser, where steady security gains compelled commanders in May to replace an entire infantry battalion with a single reinforced company of Marines.

There are conflicting reports as to how three members of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command were killed Friday morning in Sangin — and precisely who their assailant was.">Initial reports suggest they were shot to death at a police checkpoint, possibly by a member of the Afghan National Police. However, an anonymous member of their team told the San Diego Union Tribune that the attack was carried out inside their operations center by a man dressed as local police, whom MARSOC and the ANP are tasked with training.

Capt. Matthew P. Manoukian, 29, Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, 31, and Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote, 27, died in the attack, according to a Defense Department news release issued Monday. They were assigned to 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

A fourth Marine was wounded in the attack, according to the Union Tribune. Initial reports suggest the shooter was detained. And the incident is under investigation.

Manoukian, of Los Altos Hills, Calif., was a special operations officer serving as a Marine special operations team leader. A two-time Purple Heart recipient, he had deployed in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was an infantry platoon commander with Camp Pendleton's 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, before joining 1st MSOB in 2010, according to a news release from MARSOC.

Jeschke, of Herndon, Va., was a critical skills operator serving as the MSOT's chief. A Purple Heart recipient who had deployed in support of both wars, he earned four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, one with a combat V device, according to MARSOC. Before joining 1st MSOB in 2009, Jeschke had served with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion and, for a time, in the Marine Reserve.

Mote, of El Dorado, Calif., was an explosive ordnance disposal technician. A Purple Heart recipient with experience in both combat zones, he joined MARSOC in 2009. Mote was a bulk fuel specialist before becoming an EOD tech.

The attack in Garmser happened Friday night, at an unidentified base shared by Marines and Afghan forces, according to The Associated Press. The alleged shooter, who was detained as well, is an Afghan civilian who was employed at the facility, an Afghan government official told the AP. The Taliban, however, claim the shooter was a member of the Afghan security forces.

This incident also is under investigation.

Staff Sgt. Scott E. Dickinson, 29, Cpl. Richard A. Rivera Jr., 20, and Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley, 21, died in the attack, according to a Pentagon news release. They were members of Headquarters Company, 3rd Marine Regiment, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii. However, in theater Dickinson, Rivera and Buckley were attached to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, out Camp Lejeune, N.C. They were assigned to the Afghan National Civil Order Police Garrison Advisory Team, said Staff Sgt. Kristin Bagley, a Marine spokeswoman in Hawaii.

Dickinson, of San Diego, was an embarkation chief by trade, but he was serving as a logistics adviser to the Afghan police, Bagley said. Rivera, of Ventura, Calif., was a supply noncommissioned officer, but serving in theater as a logistics and facilities adviser. Buckley, of Oceanside, N.Y., was a supply clerk serving as a logistics and facilities adviser.

Officials have not identified the precise location of the Garmser shooting. Camp Dwyer is the largest coalition base in the region, but Marines there also operate from Forward Operating Base Delhi.

Garmser was the scene of heavy fighting a few years ago, but security there has improved markedly. In late May, when members of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, cycled home to Hawaii, the 1,000-man battalion was replaced by Kilo Company, 3/8, a significantly smaller infantry unit. Officials said at the time that Afghan security forces would be ready to take the lead there this year.

So far this year, at least 34 deaths throughout Afghanistan have been the result of "green-on-blue" incidents, AP reported. Military officials use that phrase to describe attacks on coalition troops carried out by individuals perceived to be allies. Three British troops were killed during such an attack in Sangin on July 1.

The">Marine Corps' mission in southwestern Afghanistan is evolving significantly, with a drawdown of conventional forces well underway throughout Helmand province. Officials have said that, by the fall, the Marine footprint there could fall to about 7,000 personnel, down from a high of about 21,000 after President Obama ordered a surge of forces there in 2009.

As the Corps' presence in Afghanistan dwindles, the Marines who remain are shifting to a support role, stepping back from the lead as Afghan forces gradually take on greater responsibility for providing security. Yet even as the withdrawal plays out, deadly attacks on Marine units have continued.

A week ago, for instance, an improvised explosive device killed a Navy corpsman on patrol in Helmand. Petty Officer 3rd Class Clayton R. Beauchamp was assigned to Camp Pendleton's 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. A day prior, on Aug. 6, an M1A1 Abrams tank crewman, Cpl. Daniel L. Linnabary II, was killed by shrapnel during a foot patrol in Helmand. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune's 2nd Tank Battalion.

For MARSOC, Friday's losses come approximately two weeks after the special operations community lost">three critical skills operators during separate incidents in Afghanistan's Badghis province, northwest of Helmand. Sgt. Justin M. Hansen was shot and killed during a house sweep July 24. Gunnery Sgt. Daniel J. Price and Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan W. Gifford died five days later during a patrol. The details of that incident remain unclear.

Staff writer from reader">Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

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