By Staff Sgt. Lindsey Kibler, ISAF Joint Command PA
By Mollie Miller, 1st ID PA
"We're separating the insurgency from the people, eroding their resources, and hindering their capabilities," said Lt. Col. Michael Katona, cmdr. of 4th Sqdn, 4th Cav Regt, 1st HBCT, via video teleconference. "We have the enemy against the ropes, and we're punching them hard right now." Katona, along with his senior NCO Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Cook, and 2 of the sqdn's Soldiers, joined Lt. Col. Christopher Kidd and Command Sgt. Maj. John McDwyer, the command team from 2nd Bn, 34th AR Regt, for a video teleconference with Central Kansas media. "We've defeated the Taliban, and we're now moving into training the ANSF," Katona said. "We're securing the people, and have empowered the GoA, and we must now remain vigilant."For the more than 1,000 men and women of the 'Pale Rider' and 'Dreadnaught' bns., remaining vigilant means that the Soldiers will continue to partner with their Afghan counterparts on the training and construction projects, and air assault and dismounted patrol missions, that have kept them very busy. "We've got the enemy against the ropes and we can't stop now," Katona said. "We're going to move forward with all our projects, and continue intel driven air assaults, to prevent the enemy from regaining any sort of foothold." For Kidd, the next few months will mean that his bn. will give the Afghan troops and police who they've been training, more room to take the lead in securing their own country. "We're constantly moving our Afghan partners along and letting them take the lead more and more, so they can succeed long after we're gone," he said. Getting their Afghan partners into the lead, and getting the enemy "against the ropes," however, has come at a high price for Fort Riley's Soldiers. Since arriving in country in early 2011, 9 members of the 2 bns. have lost their lives, more than 120 Soldiers have received Purple Heart Medals, and 90% of the Soldiers assigned to 4th Sqdn. have been awarded some sort of combat action badge."These guys and gals have seen some intense combat," Katona said. "Our area of ops (AO) has been very kinetic, but we have beaten the enemy down and they're not coming back up." "Being in an environment like the combat zones of southern Afghanistan is not something you can understand unless you have been there yourself," said Staff Sgt. Jared Davis, 4th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt. "It's a difficult situation anytime you get those bullets whizzing by you, or those bombs going off, but I wouldn't choose to be anywhere other than where I am right now," he said. "I've got a great plt. under me. We go on every air assault and do every foot patrol we can, and I'm proud to say that none of my guys have been injured in a way that they can't continue to fight. We hope to keep it that way."
"We've accomplished the mission, and will continue to accomplish the mission until the day we get on the plane," Katona said. "We owe it to the unit replacing us to hand this battle space over in the best shape possible, and I'll fight until the day I get on the airplane, to ensure that we continue to make gains all the way to the last day. That's what I owe the Army, and that's what I owe our Soldiers." Command Sgt. Maj. John McDwyer, the senior NCO for 2nd Bn., 34th AR Regt., said, "Central Kansas and the entire Flint Hills community should be very proud of their Fort Riley Soldiers. These young men and women go out onto an uncertain battlefield, not knowing what to expect from day to day, and are doing incredible things out there," he said. "I'm just as proud as heck of them, and I think everyone back home needs to know that Soldiers like these are the reason we're going to win this war."
PAKTIKA PROVINCE – Traveling in Afghanistan is not an easy task. The roads are narrow with steep drop-offs, riverbeds are strewn with rocks, and raining can cause mudslides where portions of the mountainside literally disappear. When supplies and vehicles need to get somewhere, the soldiers from the 172nd SB will drive almost anywhere to accomplish the mission.“We're constantly moving stuff around to different FOBs,” said Staff Sgt. Clinton Bailey, from Texas, a transportation plt. sgt. “We transport whatever the brigade needs.”
Co A soldiers are currently conducting a 2 to 3 week-long mission, in order to pick up MRAP all-terrain vehicles from COP Curry, and bring them back to FOB Sharana to upgrade their armor.“The vehicles currently can not be used on the battlefield, because of their level of armor,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Torres, from Calif., a gun-truck plt. sgt.Soldiers conducting supply missions have a lot of preparation beforehand. The majority of the planning goes into getting the vehicles ready for convoying. “The soldiers perform preventive maintenance checks and services on their vehicles, and go through a 20-level, quality checks and quality services before they dispatch their vehicles,” said Torres. “They check the vehicles out, and make sure they're up to standard for mission.” With proper checks on all the vehicles, the soldiers hope to mitigate the risk of traveling, and prepare in case the enemy engages them along the route to FOB Orgun-E, according to Bailey. “We control about 90% of it through our planning, execution, precombat checks and precombat inspections,” said Bailey. “The other 10% is influenced by the enemy.”Torres said that the route to FOB Orgun-E was not always as safe as it currently is.“We did encounter small arms fire and indirect fire when we first started taking these routes, but lately, the ANA has setup checkpoints along the route,” said Torres. “This has decreased the amount of enemy fire.”According to Torres, by utilizing existing vehicles and upgrading their armor instead of buying new vehicles, the Army is using their existing resources, and saving money in the process. Along with saving money, the mission will deliver more vehicles that are able to occupy the battle space, providing more of a force presence in the area. Soldiers from the 172nd Support Battalion have conducted around 15 successful missions, since being deployed to Afghanistan. With more supplies and vehicles needing movement, the soldiers will remain busy for the foreseeable future. “Us going out there and risking our equipment and our lives for the better of other soldiers; that's a good thing,” said Bailey. “It’s soldiers helping soldiers.”
PAKTIYA PROVINCE -- In Sayyid Karam district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor captured a Haqqani network leader and detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op, yesterday. The leader coordinated roadside bomb attacks in the Gardez district. Bomb making materials and multiple AK-47 assault rifles were also seized.
KHOST PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor captured a Haqqani network leader and detained one additional suspected insurgent, during an op in Khost district, yesterday. The leader constructed roadside bombs, and distributed weapons throughout the area.
GHAZNI PROVINCE -- In Andar district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor discovered a weapons cache, today. The cache consisted of 2 RPGs, 3 RPG boosters, an RPG launcher, 175 7.62mm ammo rounds, a grenade, a pistol, and an AUP uniform.
HELMAND PROVINCE — A combined Afghan and coalition SECFOR captured a Taliban leader and detained several suspected insurgents, during an op in Nad ‘Ali district, Oct. 30. The leader was responsible for conducting attacks against CF. The SecFor also seized 70-lbs (31 kgs) of homemade explosives.
COB WARRIOR -- In an ever-changing technological world, there exists an invisible plane of physics that allows communication devices to transmit their intended signals. Sometimes those signals work for us. Sometimes they work against us.To mitigate those differences, Army electronic warfare soldiers assess and analyze the electromagnetic and radio spectrums, in order to protect ground forces in hostile environments.Electronic warfare, according to military doctrine, is defined as any military action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy, to control the electromagnetic spectrum to attack the enemy or adversary. With the rise of radio-controlled IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army realized a growing need for experts in the electromagnetic spectrum. “The Army didn’t have an electronic warfare program going into Op Iraqi Freedom,” explained WO1 Steven Quast, an electronic warfare officer with the 4th Advise and Assist Bde, 1st AR Div. “When our adversary started using RCIEDs the need became obvious.”That’s why, last year, the Army established a military occupational specialty, specifically dedicated to the electronic warfare realm. “The Army stood up a whole new MOS just for electronic warfare – and that’s exactly what was needed,” he said.As an enlisted soldier, Quast felt he had reached the pinnacle as a fire support specialist, and sought out a new role within the Army, this time as a warrant officer. “I was looking for a brand new challenge – something that was fresh and was new,” he admitted. “I actually put in a warrant package, and I requested a re-class into electronic warfare.”Along with 5 other WOs, Quast was among the few graduates of Fort Sill’s inaugural electronic warfare course. “My class was the very first ‘official’ 290A class,” he said. “There were 3 pilot courses to validate mine, but we were the first.”Under the Army’s Info Ops, electronic warfare is divided into 3 divs: electronic attack, electronic protect, and electronic support. "The most prevalent piece of electronic warfare equipment in the Army’s arsenal is the Counter-Radio Electronic Warfare (CREW) system, which acts like a mobile-based “jammer” to attack the enemy’s use of the radio spectrum," said Quast."However, because CREW systems manipulate the radio spectrum, EWOs must work closely with communications specialists, to ensure that military communication remains reliable and unaffected," Quast continued. “That’s where the finesse, so to speak, comes from - being able to attack the enemy’s use of it, while preventing degradation of your assets,” said Quast.Having been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, Quast revealed that understanding an area’s communication network, is imperative in determining how to protect or attack the radio spectrum.“Iraq obviously has a lot more infrastructure - lots of modern-day type of communications,” he said. “Afghanistan, by contrast, has a lot less infrastructure, but a lot better use of different types of radios.”"As a result, electronic warfare is quickly emerging as a fully integrated warfighting enabler in areas like Afghanistan, where a large number of equipment and targeting techniques are being fielded," said Quast."Although a newly created Army specialty, electronic warfare has played a significant role in military ops since WWII, where radar and jamming equipment heavily contributed to the successes of an Allied victory," Quast said.Prior to Op Overlord at Normandy in 1944, a Royal AF sqdn deceived the German army, and convinced them that a second fleet of Allied ships was approaching another French coastline, according to the historyofwar.org website. "Armed with specialized jamming equipment, the sqdn’s planes mimicked the radar signatures of warships by flying “low and slow” across the English Channel," said Quast. "The use of radar also helped the Allied achieve victory in the Pacific campaign as well," Quast explained. “Once we started putting radar into American bombers and torpedo bombers, that’s when the tide started to kind of turn,” he said."The newly incorporated radar systems allowed American planes to successfully conduct night missions against a powerful Japanese fleet, which controlled the Pacific for most of the war," said Quast.Like its use in WWII, electronic warfare has become a cornerstone in today’s military ops. One of the most important pieces of that cornerstone lies in the instruction and education of equipment that keeps soldiers protected. “That’s one of the reasons I really love this job,” said Quast. “I still get to be down at the company and battalion level talking to soldiers, seeing how they’re doing, and educating them.” As Quast checks the health and functionality of vehicle systems, he will quiz soldiers on the basic “know-hows” of the systems, and respond to questions that they may have. From his perspective, soldiers seem very attuned to what he has taught them.“Today’s soldier is very technologically oriented; they catch on very quickly,” he said. “A lot of the time they want to know more about it. It almost gets to the point where you have to stop talking.”"The limits of modern technology are constantly being tested, and as that happens, the Army’s electronic warfare program will adapt and evolve with it," said Quast.