Chico soldier checks in

Marine Sgt. Jordan Freeland

Sgt. Jordan Freeland with Sgt. Major Ali from the Afghan National Army in Sangin.

Sgt. Jordan Freeland with Sgt. Major Ali from the Afghan National Army in Sangin.

PHOTO by CPL. Joseph Scanlan

Since 2001, the U.S. military and other NATO forces have fought against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan. One of the most dangerous areas there has been the Sangin District in the Helmland province. Chico’s Sgt. Jordan Freeland, 36, and his 1st Battalion, “Suicide Charley” 7th Marine Regiment, spent two months making Sangin safer. On May 5, they transferred to the quieter Dwyer region, and handed command over to the native Afghan National Army as part of the U.S. plan to evacuate all but a handful of troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and all troops by 2016.

What inspired you to join the Marines?

I originally went to Butte College to play baseball, hoping to get drafted in the majors. But I was young and my priorities weren’t right, so I was kicked off for bad grades and had to do something with my life. I planned to sign up for only four years, but there is something truly different about the Marines that’s kept me in for 16 years. Being a family, and leading Marines into combat—there’s no other experience like it.

How long were you in Sangin, and did you interact much with the locals?

We were in Sangin for two months and during this stage of the war we had very little contact with the local populace. However, we did interact quite a bit with the local police and Afghan National Army [ANA] to keep a pulse on the kind of security and operations they were conducting.

What kind of combat have you seen?

This is my ninth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan and luckily I haven’t been wounded. I lead 200 Marines and I’ve seen lots of battles but I focus on the successes. From 2010 to early 2013 we were engaged almost daily with improvised explosive device strikes and fire fights. We were able to push a lot of the enemy out without much ANA presence. But through time we developed their war fighting functions, which enabled them to become better fighters, warriors and military. That has led us to the point of leaving Sangin.

How do you feel about transferring out of the Sangin area?

It’s kind of bittersweet. On one hand, you always want to be fighting next to the guys who are fighting for their country, and support them in every way. The sweet part is that we were able to help them stand on their own two feet and get the Taliban out. We’re transferring to the much less volatile Dwyer region in Helmland province.

Do you worry about long-term emotional effects of your service?

No, the Marine Corps is really good about prepping us and giving us classes for things like PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and any unseen conditions. But the biggest thing they do is teach us to identify warning signs in each other and to be there for each other.

Are you planning to visit Chico anytime soon?

My wife and I have friends and family there … so we’re hoping for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Any thoughts about your future in the Marines?

I wish I could change the world. If I’m not having fun or having an impact on the Marine Corps it would be time to leave, but I truly enjoy leading.