The soldiers have been pinned down in a muddy mound, the thorny weeds cutting through skin. They recover soon enough, however, manoeuvring away from the Taliban's crosshairs and driving them away with heavy machine-gun fire.
"I pray in the morning and at night, hoping that someone up there is looking after me," says Lance Corporal Justin Blancas, serving with the Marines 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment Alpha Company's 2nd Platoon.
"I have already made my peace with God because this war is different, it's not conventional," the 23-year-old bespectacled Chicago native says.
"These Taliban have learned their lesson. They adapt as fast as we do, but we are bound by our strict rules. They are not," he adds, panting after a 100-metre dash for cover behind an abandoned mud house.
"It can be a death run like this every day."
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