Marine LCpl. Irvin Ceniceros, a ‘lion warrior’ of the 3/5 in Sangin ( video)
SAN DIEGO: Every day is Memorial Day for heroes like U.S. Marine Lance Corporal (LCpl.) Irvin Ceniceros. Ceniceros, with machine gun blazing, saved many Marine lives in Sangin, Afghanistan in 2010. Just before he succumbed to a Taliban bullet.
It was a most deadly era of fighting with mounting losses heavy burdens to bear. Ceniceros, attached to Ronin 3 Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5) (Darkhorse) was deployed to take down the heavily embedded Taliban. The Taliban making life miserable for the locals.
Taliban are notorious for human rights abuses, and in 2010 were very active moving fighters, weapons, and drugs. The enemy promised to destroy those who came to protect them. The attacks rained down daily and every step was uncertain over a sea of emplaced IEDs.
This young Infantry Marine was ‘all in’ with his brothers to take down these terrorists ending their siege of Helmand Province, an agricultural area. The Taliban was controlling the Kajaki Dam (a U.S. star project), denying locals needed water and electricity.
When on his first patrol outside Patrol Base (PB) Fulod, Ceniceros carried a heavy 240 machine gun and ammo, a human guardian to lay down cover fire.
Young, spunky Ceniceros was everybody’s friend – always extending an outstretched hand.
The Ceniceros family immigrated to the U.S. in 1985 from Mexico. Lance Corporal Ceniceros answering the call to duty, gave his own life for his country. Oct 14, 2010, is a day in infamy for the Marines of Ronin 3 platoon.
Ceniceros opened up his machine gun to save the lives of two Marines pinned down by a Taliban ambush while crossing open ground.
Ronin 3 First Squad leader Sgt. Adam “Kelii” Keliipaakaua (RET) had seen plenty of combat in previous deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. He described Ceniceros’ action on that fateful day, as “roaring like a lion” continuing to shoot after the Taliban had stopped. Thus, allowing the trapped Marines to advance to safety.
In order to get back to PB Fulod, the unit was forced to go back over the open ground they had come from due to known enemy strongholds and IED emplacements in other possible routes. Ceniceros volunteered to be one of the first to go. His incredible story is told here, showcasing his heroic life, not death,
The unimaginable danger in Sangin for Ronin 3.
(Then) Platoon Sgt. Dan Robert was Platoon Guide and the right-hand man to the platoon sergeant and platoon commander.
Nothing in Sgt. Robert’s 4 previous combat deployments had prepared him for the environment Sangin presented.
Military Times selected Robert as 2017 Marine Corps Times Marine of the Year and reported on Robert’s experience in Sangin.
“Our first killed-in-action was on our very first patrol, Day One, in Sangin,” Robert recalled. “That kind of set the stage for how serious the next seven months were going to be for us.”
“Every day, the Marines experienced roadside bomb attacks, which killed Marines and other service members and local Afghans and cost them their limbs and lives,” he said.
In a 2021 exchange with this writer, Robert shares the following for an upcoming full-length documentary on 3/5 Ronin 3’s battle for Sangin,
“As the guide, I took the roles early on of base security and build up to make sure we had the safest perimeter possible. I built an ammo supply point, a detainee facility, and helped manage the COC during operations,” says Robert.
He also went out on patrol.
Robert has since risen to Company First Sergeant, currently attached to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Camp Pendleton.
The bonds of combat are forever for 3/5 Darkhorse Marines.
We can now hear the real-life accounts from Keliipaakaua and Robert and other 3/5 Darkhorse Marines, including their commander Major Josef Patterson (then a 1st Lieutenant) as they reunite 11 years later to honor Ceniceros, a missed beloved brother.
His tribute is a searing snippet of the price paid in Afghanistan by our troops.
The 3/5 Darkhorse Marines in 2010.
They hunted the Taliban down, destroyed their IEDs and weapons caches, and took down the insurgents killing the innocent. Life got a little better for the locals in Sangin. Just ask the Marines who came into Sangin after 3/5 left and they’ll tell you it was not as bad for them because of what 3/5’s Ronin 3, India, Lima, and Kilo companies did before them at a bloody cost.
How much has changed from 2010? When 3/5 Ronin 3 hit the peak of fighting and bloodshed for our troops?
In 2014, when our military presence switched mainly to train, support, and assist, U.S. casualties dropped dramatically (from 496 at peak in 2010 to 54 in 2014). The ground fighting was not our lead anymore.
The 3/5 Marines’ feats in Sangin were legendary.
Never to be repeated in the way it rolled out for them because it was a unique group of warriors. This includes, not only Ronin 3, India, Lima, and Kilo companies in 2010, but also Marines who went before and after to Sangin. They all did a helluva lot of fighting. The Taliban learned a lethal lesson that Marines strive to rise above hard to result in being feared.
“Do you know who you’re messing with?” screamed Sgt. Kelii at the Taliban while running over open ground dodging bullets coming from all directions in order to cover his men. He didn’t have to tell Ceniceros, holding an M240, a thing. You’ll see in the Tribute.
Please share LCpl. Irvin Ceniceros heroic story to those around you. We can be thankful we’re Americans who walk free because of Ceniceros and all 3/5 Darkhorse Marines in Sangin.