AFGHANISTAN - ANSF and CF worked together in Khowst and Paktya Provs., Oct. 13-21 during Op Duke Blitz, a mission to push Haqqani network insurgents out of the area. The large-scale op, part of an even larger op, spread across 2 provinces. It was led by the ANSF and supported by several bns., from the Fort Knox, Ky.-based 3rd BCT, 1st Inf Div, TF Duke.The main effort of Op Duke Blitz, dubbed “Op Nike IV,” was assigned to the 3rd BCT’s 1st Bn, 26th Inf Regt, TF Spader.
“This op showed that Afghan forces can extend the reach of their govt into the most remote, mountainous areas of Afghanistan, to provide security for the populace," said Army Maj. Ed Hollis, a native of Calif., and the ops officer for the 1st Bn., 26th Inf. Regt. “The ANA put a great foot forward in an area that has been controlled by insurgents,” said Capt. Joshua Wiles, cmdr. of Co D, 1st Bn., 26th Inf. Regt. “The locals were very receptive to a permanent ANSF presence in the area,” he added.
Insurgent attempts to respond to the Afghan and coalition efforts met little success. One notable failure was an attempted complex attack in Gardez City, Paktya prov., Oct 16. A policeman noticed a suspicious vehicle, and signaled for the driver to stop. A bomb inside the vehicle detonated, and was followed by attempted suicide attacks. Police killed 3 suicide bombers before they could detonate their vests. No civilian injuries were reported from the car blast. The failed Haqqani efforts to lash out at the Afghan and CF didn’t surprise Army Lt. Col. Jesse Pearson, an Ill. native, and cmdr. of the 1st Bn., 26th Inf. Regt. “This is a center of Haqqani support ops, and that’s why they’re fighting so hard to retain it,” said Pearson. He added that much was learned about the Haqqani network, and how they operate in the area. “Op Nike IV was a very successful op,” said Pearson. “We captured some very important weapons caches and detainees.” TF Creek sweeps enemy from plains, mountains. 'Shamsheer,' which translated from Dari means 'Sword,' is the name of the mission that brought the soldiers of the 1st Bn., 279th Inf. Regt. to the forefront of the fight. This prong of Op Duke Blitz was aimed at disrupting insurgent freedom of movement, and targeting locations associated with insurgent leadership in Zormat district, Paktya prov. Similar to its parent op, Shamsheer was extremely successful in all respects, said Army Lt. Col. Chuck Booze, an Okla. resident, and cmdr. of the Oklahoma N.G.’s 1st Bn., 279th Inf., TF Creek. He added that the lingering benefits of moving unhindered into Haqqani network HQ, while experiencing no harassment, may prove to be the most lasting impact. “This op demonstrates the continued development and capabilities of the ANSF in taking the fight to the insurgency,” Booze said. ANA, AUP and several companies of TF Creek soldiers collaborated to remove weapons caches, IEDs, and safe havens that had been used by insurgent forces. The efforts were directly responsible for the capture of a known Haqqani sub-cmdr. Booze echoed the sentiments of fellow Op Duke Blitz officers, noting that the greatest benefits of the related ops may have been the reception offered by local citizens to the Afghan troops, and that reception’s effect upon the Haqqanis.
“We continue to see that when ANSF move into an area, the population responds favorably, and the insurgency is powerless to stop them,” he said. TF Raider sends tremors through Haqqanis. For Troop C of the 6th Sqdn, 4th Cav Regt, TF Raider, 'Op Raider Earthquake' began before the sun rose on Oct. 19. Air-lifted by helicopter to the Qalandar area, the troopers moved on to the village of Star Kot. "In the village itself, we ended up finding some anti-tank mines, grenades, a lot of machine gun ammo, 3 AK-47s and numerous mags,” said Capt. Mark Snowbarger, an infantryman from Ohio, and the cmdr. of Troop C, 6th Sqdn. 4th Cav. Regt. Snowbarger credits good intel for leading them to the house where the cache was discovered. “The intel was very good, and the source was very descriptive," said Snowbarger, who further explained that, "according to villagers, the homeowner had left several days earlier, allegedly for Pakistan." From there, Troop C moved on to the next objective. Another cache was discovered in northern Nadir Shah Khot, consisting of 8 mortar rounds, recoilless rifle and RPG rounds, and small-arms ammo. In addition to praising the performance of his troops, Snowbarger also felt that the ANSF performance was noteworthy, not only by providing security, but in responding to the needs of the people. "The ANA did a very good job with the outer cordon part of the objective areas,” Snowbarger said. "In Starkot, the AUP conducted about a 45-minute key leader engagement (KLE) at the end with village elders, ensuring they knew who to contact for security concerns.”"The cavalry was also there to support the main effort, with Troop A setting a blocking position to the west of TF Spader's objectives in Musa Khel," said Capt. Dean Carter, cmdr. of Troop A. Carter, a native of Fla., said the blocking position prevented any insurgents from fleeing to the west. "The ANA were in the lead on the blocking position, searching all vehicles and personnel moving through the position. We mentored them in the procedures up front, and they took the mission from there,” said Carter. "Insurgents may also find it increasingly more difficult to fund next year's fighting season," said Carter, due to ANA destruction of almost 30 acres of hashish. *Maj. Travis Dettmer and 1st Lt. Paul Jackson contributed to this report.
Staff Sgt. James Richardson (left) and 1st Lt. Bruce Griffin of both of Okla. (center), discuss current ops with their ANA partners during Op Shamsheer, in Paktya prov. Both soldiers are part of the 1st Bn., 279th Inf Regt, out of Tulsa, Okla. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha Bennett)
Army soldiers of Co D, 1st Bn, 26th Inf Regt, 3rd BCT, TF Duke, climb a hill in Musa Khel District, Oct. 15. The soldiers were participating in Op Nike IV, part of a brigade-wide op to root out the Haqqani network in eastern Afghanistan. (Army photos by 2nd Lt. James Hodges)
Pfc. Daniel Love, an infantryman from Colo., attached to TF Duke, descends a hill in Musa Khel district, Oct. 15. Love was participating in Op Nike IV, meant to counter Haqqani influence in Khowst prov.
Army Pfc. Levi Baldon, a Colo., native and infantryman attached to TF Duke, searches a home in Musa Khel District for contraband.
Blackanthem Military News
NANGARHAR PROVINCE — A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained numerous suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Taliban facilitator in Khugyani district, Oct. 27. The facilitator provides weapons, ammo, and roadside bombs to insurgents in the region. Multiple weapons were confiscated.
KHOST PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor captured a Haqqani network leader and detained multiple additional suspected insurgents, during an op in Nadir Shah Kot district, yesterday. The leader was responsible for coordinating attacks against Afghan forces.
----- Three insurgents were killed in Khowst District Center, after engaging Afghan forces with mortar rounds, yesterday. AUP detained 9 individuals, suspected of throwing an IED at an AUP checkpoint in Khowst District Center.
LOGAR PROVINCE -- In Pul-e ‘Alam district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Haqqani network leader, yesterday. The leader directs attacks and distributes weapons throughout the area for use against Afghan and CF.
GHAZNI PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op to disrupt an insurgent network in Gelan district, yesterday. The network is responsible for multiple attacks and ambushes against Afghan and CF.
----- Two insurgents were killed during an airstrike in Zankhan district, after possessing PKM and RPG weapon systems, yesterday.
KUNAR PROVINCE -- Three insurgents were killed in Nari district after they were spotted before a rocket attack on a coalition base, and another 3 were killed in Bar Kunar district, during airstrikes after they attacked a coalition observation post (OP).
PAKTIYA PROVINCE -- Three insurgents were detained by ANA and CF for illegally having weapons on their possession in Gardez district, yesterday. CF seized a weapons cache consisting of 150 x 7.62 rounds, an AK-47 and a 82 mm mortar round.
-----Another 3 were detained by CF, after testing positive for explosive residues in Zurmat district.Operations in RC-East are still ongoing.
COB KALSU – Lt. Col. Stephen Dawson, the cmdr. of the 1st BSTB, 1st Bde, 1st Cav Div, had some special words for these soldiers. “It’s an honor and privilege this morning to be able to inaugurate your re-enlistment, to reaffirm your oath to the U.S. The Army is a profession, the most honorable and noble profession in all the U.S., and it's the most trusted profession,” said Dawson.Some of these soldiers are re-enlisting for the first time, deciding to carry on Army life for another few years. “Originally, I was going to do 3 years and get out. Then I started looking back; there's nothing back home for me,” said Ill. native, Spc. Steven Solomon, a petroleum supply specialist, assigned to HHC, 1st BSTB. Solomon said that he looks forward to becoming a warrant officer or a CID agent, during his next installment of Army life. He would also like to go to Alaska or Germany at some point in the next few years. He said it all depends on what happens in the next 2 years. “The Army gives you a guaranteed job for the next few years, get some education, free benefits; all you have to do is raise your right hand,” Solomon said. “Even with the Army drawing down, retention is still very important,” said Sgt. Joaquin Goicoechea, an ops sgt., who practices retention responsibilities, assigned to HHT, 1st Bde, 1st Cav Div. Goicoechea said that he would advise all soldiers who are considering re-enlisting, to look at their available options prior to reenlisting. He said, "if you have family, it's best to discuss this with them. A soldier with family support is one that is set up for success."In making the decision to re-enlist," Goicoechea said, "it's more than a soldier signing a contract; the Army is making an obligation as well. When signing a contract, the Army makes a deal to pay and care for the soldier and their families for up to 6 years. “Nowhere in the U.S. are you going to find someone willing to pay you and promote you for doing your job, and guarantee that deal for up to 6 years,” Goicoechea said. For some soldiers, it's their 2nd or 3rd time signing a contract, and for a select few, they've signed papers for the last time until retirement. “I love the Army; I love my job; I’m glad to be here,” said Puerto Rico native, Staff Sgt. Antonio Rodriguez, a squad leader assigned to Co C, 1st BSTB. “Everything I have, the Army gave me, and I’m not complaining.” Rodriguez explained that he enlisted because he has always liked the Army, and he was looking for something he could do for a long time. Rodriguez originally planned on getting out after his first term, because of his experiences in the Army. He discussed the issue with his wife; she urged him to give the Army another shot. It's now 10 years later, and today marks his 5th and final enlistment until retirement. “Most soldiers today reenlist because they love what the Army stands for, and are proud to be serving with their fellow brothers and sisters in the Armed Forces,” said Master Sgt. Cynthia Kling, a native of Texas, and the senior career counselor for the 1st Bde, 1st Cav Div. "When considering re-enlistment, all questions should be addressed to one’s career counselor, as re-enlistment policies are constantly changing, and the opportunities of the past are not there anymore," Kling said.
Lt. Col. Stephen Dawson, cmdr., administers the Oath of Enlistment. Dawson said that he's proud to be part of moments like these, to see soldiers make and fulfill commitments to their nation and the Army.