The Danger of Afghanistan
In four years there, the British had lost more than 100 soldiers, about a third of all their nation's losses in the war.
In four months, 24 Marines with the Camp Pendleton-based Three-Five have been killed.
More than 140 others have been wounded, some of them catastrophically, losing limbs and the futures they had imagined for themselves.
The Marines' families have been left devastated, or dreading the knock on the door.
"We are a brokenhearted but proud family," Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly said. He spoke not only of the battalion: His son 1st Lt. Robert Kelly was killed leading a patrol in Sangin.
The Three-Five had drawn a daunting task: Push into areas where the British had not gone, areas where Taliban dominance was uncontested, areas where the opium poppy crop whose profits help fuel the insurgency is grown, areas where bomb makers lash together explosives to kill and terrorize in Sangin and neighboring Kandahar province.
The result? The battalion with the motto "Get Some" has been in more than 408 firefights and found 434 buried roadside bombs. An additional 122 bombs exploded before they could be discovered, in many instances killing or injuring Afghan civilians who travel the same roads as the Marines.
Some enlisted personnel believe that the Taliban has developed a "Vietnam-like" capability to pick off a platoon commander or a squad or team leader. A lieutenant assigned as a replacement for a downed colleague was shot in the neck on his first patrol.
At the confluence of two rivers in Helmand province in the country's south, Sangin is a mix of rocky desert and stretches of farmland where corn and pomegranates are grown. There are rolling hills, groves of trees and crisscrossing canals. Farmers work their fields and children play on dusty paths.
"Sangin is one of the prettier places in Helmand, but that's very deceiving," said Sgt. Dean Davis, a Marine combat correspondent. "It's a very dangerous place, it's a danger you can feel."