Marine Corps Sgt. Luke A. Maxson, brother of Charles A. Maxson of Ilion, N.Y., is currently deployed with fellow Marines and sailors of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), Camp Lejeune, N.C., assigned as the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Afghanistan (SPMAGTF-A), Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The Marines recently graduated 150 Afghan national policemen from an eight-week training program that focuses on security, weapons handling, marksmanship, advanced first aid, non-lethal weapons techniques and human rights.
With the Afghan National Police (ANP) in the lead, Marines conducted a search of a high-interest village, resulting in the discovery of 150 pounds of explosive materials, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive device materials. The Marines also found evidence leading to the identification of suspected insurgents. The Biometric Automated Toolset, or BATS system, was used to record fingerprints,photographs, background information and iris scans to be added to an international database accessible by any federal agency for future identification of individuals.
A select group of all-female Marines within the SPMAGTF-A are trained specifically to interact with the Afghan female population, a task that is culturally unacceptable for male Marines to perform in the Islamic Republic. The female Marines deliberately donned brightly colored head and neck scarves, respecting the cultural beliefs of the community and enabling them to perform valuable community relations while gathering intelligence during Operation Pathfinder.
Operation Pathfinder required Marines to partner with ANP to target suspected insurgent cells and perform security patrols in southern Afghanistan along Route 515. The Marines discovered numerous caches containing more than 200 pounds of explosives and weapons and detained 11 suspected insurgents.
SPMAGTF-A’s mission is to conduct counterinsurgency operations, with an emphasis on training and mentoring Afghan national police.
Maxson is a 2004 graduate of Ilion Senior High School of Ilion, N.Y.