by Sgt. Zach Otto
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Dec. 6, 2008) – There are many villages within Afghanistan that are spread out among vast mountains and dusty valleys. Locating these villages is simple, yet conducting searches and talking with the residents that live there is complicated due to the harsh terrain. Soldiers need to be flown into these areas, into and through highly hostile environments to secure, search and talk with people in these villages.Soldiers from 3rd and 4th Platoon, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, Combined Task Force Currahee, along with Afghan National Army soldiers and Afghan National Police conducted an air assault in a village in Khowst province. “The point of an air assault is to catch the enemy off guard,” said Spc. Philip Sanders, a line medic. “We can enter an area much faster by helicopter.”
Once initial security was set up, the platoon leaders took control and began the operation. Some Soldiers took high ground to help provide over watch of the village while the main force conducted searches throughout the village. “I was to control my fire team, maneuver them to set up security and control their fire,” said Sgt. Bruce Hunter, the platoon’s 2nd squad leader.
The first few houses promised that this air assault would be a rewarding one. The ANP discovered various munitions within the first search.
As darkness fell, Soldiers slept among the rocks on top of a mountain ridge while rotating guard shifts for security. At first sunlight, everyone was up and moving to keep warm in the sub-freezing weather. The Soldiers set out over and around steep mountains in order to reach the second village. “I’m happy the way the guys are adapting to mountain warfare,” Hunter said, a native of Carbondale, Ill. “It’s challenging carrying heavy gear up in the mountains during extreme weather.”
Once the Soldiers arrived at the second objective they set up security and preparing for the village to be searched. While houses were being searched, the leadership within the platoons talked with the locals and established relationships with the elders. Building relationships is a vital step in economic growth for the people of Afghanistan. “With the ANP leading the search, everything went smoothly,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Goodall, a section leader with 4th platoon. “We had the opportunity to talk with the locals and improve the local’s view of us.”
The search of the second village revealed little. The ANP confiscated dynamite from one home. All munitions from both days’ searches were properly disposed of. By air assaulting into desolate locations Soldiers not only maintain the element of surprise but it provides them with the ability to reach villagers who do not receive much contact. The searches of the villages in the area did not result in much, however the Soldiers achieved much more by talking to the local people.