The preparation for Op Overlord was months in the making. “Traditionally, insurgents have used Naka as a staging area and bed down location, so they can conduct ops throughout our area of operation (AO), and AOs to the south,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Nunes, the plt leader with 2nd Plt, Co. E. “Throughout the deployment we've been doing shaping ops to cut off their access to the rest of our AO, and basically limit them to only being able to operate in Naka. This was our big push to take Naka away from them too.”According to Spc. Rex Hann, an infantryman with Co E ‘Easy,’ their mission was to disrupt any enemy that might be in the area, and keep the local populace in Naka safe. “It affects the overall security, because we have pretty much pushed the Taliban and foreign fighters to Naka, the farthest point from our COP, and we're trying to push them completely out of our AO." Not only did the Soldiers face the challenge of clearing unfamiliar hostile territory, they accomplished it in weather conditions that included rain, hail, cold temps and gusty winds, with 110-lbs worth of equipment on their backs to last a minimum of 3 days.During missions to remote villages the Soldiers face other challenges outside of the enemy threat. “There are a lot of challenges, but one of the biggest is the communication barrier,” said Hann. “It's hard to speak to the locals not knowing the language—a lot of times they won’t trust the Americans, because the Taliban has influenced them, or told them false things about us.” To counter the issue, the Soldiers of Easy Co encouraged their ANP counterparts to take the lead when dealing with their countrymen. “We worked with the ANP on this mission,” said Spc. Sean Bedard, a counter-insurgency team leader with E Co. “It really helps to have them with us, because it puts a local face on what we're trying to do." The Currahee Soldiers and their ANP partners occupied the area around Naka for more than 11 days, and they faced an enemy that didn't seem content attacking their combat force head on. “Insurgents had left the villages by the time we got there,” said Nunes. “Their only option was then to operate on the outskirts in the mountains around the towns, because they were unable to operate in the town. That only left them able to attack our blocking positions, our support by fire, and our PBs.” “I think they were expecting some kind of mission to come to Naka, but I don’t think they expected it to be on the level that we did,” said Nunes. “I think they'll be frustrated now, because they won’t be able to use Naka the way that they always have.”“When we got to COP Zerok, we were getting hit with indirect fire (IDF) on a day-to-day basis,” said Nunes. “The co. made the effort to go out and do repetitive, monotonous, horrible patrols in the mountains, and we took the IDF locations away from the enemy. Then, we expanded further to more and more towns, and are having more and more shuras with the villagers. We've put in the work to make sure the insurgents are unable to bypass our presence.” The mission resulted in 4 suspected and 2 confirmed enemy-killed-in action, the discovery of several IEDs. “Naka was known as the ‘place where the bad guys are;’ it was their safe haven; it's said that the Americans can’t really go in there, but all year we've been locking down the AO,” he said. “It's rewarding to finally be able to go in, and say that nobody has been able to go here before, and now we've done it.” Hann said that he's proud of what he and his fellow Currahee Soldiers accomplished. “This was the last stronghold of the Taliban in our AO, and we pushed them out of this area. Now our AO will be pretty much secure, and the local people can go on about their daily lives, and not have to worry about being harmed by the Taliban,” said Hann. “I love my job. I love the fact that I'm helping protect my fellow Americans, and that I'm helping to protect the Afghans. I believe that everybody has a right to be free.”
Capt. Eric Eggers, the 1st Sqdn., 113th Cav. S-6 officer-in-charge, learned about the project when the Cavalry, a part of the 2nd BCT, began their deployment. Eggers, who works as a project mgr. in Iowa, said he used his experience to complete the project as quickly and efficiently as possible.“Having that experience in project managing helped me to better run the project here,” said Eggers. “The knowledge and experience I gained in Iowa helped me to better assess the project and know what needed to be done; how the project needed to be run for it to work and happen in a timely manner.” The younger enlisted Soldiers benefited from the experience of those appointed above them.
Sgt. 1st Class Russell Steffen, the NCO-in-charge of the 1st Sqdn, and a member of the Local 231 Electricians Union, took a lead role in completing the project correctly. “He brought a lot of experience with him, and it is blatantly obvious when he is instructing or teaching, that he has done this before, and everyone really listens to what he has to say,” said Spc. Andrew Johnson, a signal support systems specialist with HHT. “When he was showing us how to lay the terminated ends into the boxes under the workstations, he was showing that you have to go a certain distance into the terminated end to make a good connection; he was very specific and very detailed about it.” The project itself also lent one Soldier skills toward a future career. “I did extensive work with physically laying the cable and working with the patch panels, so it's a trade that I now know and can implement, which opens up several job fields when I get back home,” said Johnson, who is studying computer science at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. "Understanding the infrastructure and layout of buildings, like the ops center, will help Johnson do his job better in the future," said Eggers. “I look at it as an accomplishment. I can take this project and say ‘I did something today,’” said Eggers. “Or, when we go home these guys can say, ‘I built this fantastic JDOC, and the guys that came in after us will be able to use it and know that they have it way better than we had it, and that’s because of me.’”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rachel Hall, a medevac pilot with Co. C, is one of several Soldiers of the unit who have deployed with 10 months or less dwell time – in fact, this is her 3rd deployment with 10 months or less dwell time. Hall is on her 5th deployment since she first entered the Army 10 years ago. “It’s nice to know that our mission is respected, and that our time and energy is not wasted or forgotten.”
Compiled from ISAF Joint Command News Releases