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In Afghanistan, casualties mount among Marine battalion from Camp Pendleton

October 27, 2010 |  3:03 pm

Afghanpix In Afghanistan barely a month, the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment has drawn one of the most deadly assignments: pushing Taliban fighters out of the Sangin area of northern Helmand province.

The Three-Five is in a spread-out area formerly occupied by a Marine battalion from Twentynine Palms and a group of British Royale Marines.

"However, the battalion is entering some new pockets in an effort to keep pressing the enemy," Lt. Col. Steven J. Grass said by e-mail. The enemy is fighting back with sniper shots and buried roadside bombs.

Ten Marines from the Three-Five have been killed in the last three weeks, most by roadside bombs. An untold number of additional Marines have been injured.

One of the latest is Lance Cpl. Christopher Billmyer of Dubuque, Iowa, who stepped on a buried bomb. He survived but was badly hurt. During surgery, doctors were forced to amputate both of his legs.

A week earlier, Billmyer had talked to his parents. As troops battle the oncoming Afghan winter, he asked for warm socks, which his family sent.

"And of course, now, he won't need socks," his father told KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids.

The lance corporal is set to be airlifted to the U.S. for care.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: A U.S. Marine meets with an Afghan village elder. Credit: Marine Corps