Marine 'Lava Dogs' suffer casualty in Marjah fighting


POSTED: Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kaneohe's Marine Corps “;Lava Dogs”; suffered their first combat casualty during the biggest offensive since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The Pentagon reported yesterday that Lance Cpl. Noah M. Pier, 25, of Charlotte, N.C., died Tuesday in Helmand province. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which has been in Afghanistan since November on a seven-month combat tour.

Since the offensive began five days ago, three Marines have been killed, some by Taliban snipers.

Pier was the 21st Marine with Hawaii ties to die in Afghanistan since 2001.

According to a statement released Tuesday by NATO's International Security Assistance Force, the Marine was killed by a hidden improvised explosive device in Marjah.

“;Most of the IEDs we've found were concentrated on the routes of entry into the city, though we are still finding IEDs throughout Marjah,”; said Maj. Billy Moore, a Marine spokesman in Afghanistan, in the statement.

Nearly 1,000 Kaneohe Marines from the 1st Battalion are among some 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops taking part in the offensive around Marjah, population 80,000, the largest town in southern Helmand province under Taliban control and an opium hot spot.

The offensive operations began early last Saturday.

The “;Lava Dogs”; battalion, led by Lt. Col. James Baker, has lost four Marines during its second Afghan combat deployment.

Earlier this week, a Los Angeles Times reporter embedded with the 1st Battalion's Bravo Company reported the “;thump of artillery pounding at Taliban positions in Marjah rumbled in the distance”; as the Marines performed a “;presence patrol”; to show the Afghans that the Americans were there to protect them.

The commander of Bravo Company is Capt. Tom Grace, 33, from New Jersey.