Looking to change this, Soldiers of Co B, TF Black Scarves, assisted ANSF during a 5- day mission, Oct. 17—21. The goal, according to Capt. Michael Roesler, of Minn., Co. B cmdr., was to disrupt insurgent activity, facilitate Afghan governmental control, as well as expand ANSF influence.Landing in the middle of the night just outside the village of Kut Kay, the combined forces took their first enemy contact. “It was a pop shot with an AK-47 assault rifle or a PK [machine gun],” said 1st Lt. Laurent Lundy, of Mass. After the enemy quickly broke contact, the troops went ahead and cleared the location; finding a large weapons cache. “We found approx 13 RPGs, 23 detonators, 3 RPG boosters, several feet of detonator cord, and a few sticks of TNT,” said Lundy. “It was the biggest one we've found so far, since we've come to Logar prov. It felt pretty good; the guys were excited, and you could see it in their eyes.” The second day began early with the goal of clearing the area inside the Maani bazaar. Once again, the unit came under enemy fire. While a team was in the bazaar, an RPG struck a hillside near an over watch team; landing just 5 meters from the element.“Everybody was stunned right at first, so we hopped over our makeshift fighting position and took cover down the other side of the hill,” said Spc. Benjamin Brock, from Iowa, and a sniper with HQ plt. “We got everybody together and saw that everybody was all right. Then we went back up and tried to get eyes on whoever shot the RPG.”The Soldiers returned fire, later intercepting insurgent radio chatter, saying they killed one insurgent and injured another. Speaking with locals in the bazaar, ANA Capt. Namutllah, cmdr., appealed for peace. “Let us seize the opportunity to end the destructive influence of the Taliban and to embrace the opportunity that the GoA is providing for them,” he said. “It's up to you. It's your responsibility to make this positive change for the future.”Day three began establishing an outpost above the village of Omarkhel. After occupying a hilltop, Black Scarves Soldiers took contact early that morning from the west, and a ridgeline from the NE that overlooked the entire area. What ensued during the fire fight was a unique display of firepower that they could deliver.With a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a 6-wheeled vehicle, and a grenade launcher mounted on another, the ANA and Black Scarf Soldiers returned fire. Forcing the fight, they moved quickly to claim the ground the firing had come from. While there were no bodies recovered, insurgent radio chatter reported they killed 2 Taliban and wounded one. With memories of the previous day’s fight still fresh, the Soldiers headed out early to a small village called Azurkhel. With the high ground well covered, the forces moved in to quite a different mood than the day before. “Kids came out to greet us, and so did the elders and the rest of the villagers,” said Lundy. “We were able to maneuver easily about in the village, which is typically not the way it goes.” With the villagers’ cooperation, the clearing op began and ended in a relatively short period of time. “The ANA were actually sitting and breaking bread with the locals, which is a good sign,” said Lundy. “Nonetheless, the threat remains the same. We did have chatter that day, saying that they're going to try to shoot down a helicopter, and continue attacking CF.” Lundy’s words proved ominous and, once again, they took contact. “Some Soldiers were on a ridgeline west of the village of Azurkhel, when they started receiving fire from about 5 enemy insurgents from the south, 4 to 6 hundred meters away,” said 1st Sgt. Todd Bair, of Utah. “There was a small amount of intermittent fire going back and forth between the CF and insurgents, which lasted about an hour.” “We did end up shooting an insurgent in the leg that was on a motorcycle fleeing the area with a weapon,” Bair said. “Later on the ANA destroyed the motorcycle.” Afterwards, the forces moved on to their last task, the village of Muchkhel, just a few kms. away. That afternoon, an outpost was secured from an old set of ruins in the village. The forces spent the rest of the evening there without incident.On the final day, the mood around the camp was much more upbeat than the previous 4 days. The men were ready to finish their mission, and return to FOB Altimur for a hot shower and a warm meal. Laughter could be heard all around the camp, as the Soldiers recanted stories and told jokes.While the ANA and Black Scarf Soldiers made their rounds clearing the village, Roesler purchased a sheep from the village cleric. Afghan troops bought vegetables and bread, and began to prepare dinner.“I think things like this go a long way in our relations with the ANA and the people,” said Roesler. “It shows them that we aren’t much different than they are. I think this actually makes us a little more human to them.”While the troops could almost see the helicopters coming to pick them up, the insurgents weren’t ready to let them go so easily. Shots rang out and once again, the Black Scarves took action. Rolling the .50-caliber and the grenade launcher into position, they returned fire.As the insurgents ran for cover, darkness settled in and the forces prepared to come home. “The biggest thing for all of us is that we took a lot of contact during the last 4 days, and everybody’s okay. No injuries or scrapes, and that’s due to individual Soldier discipline.”
Sgt. Chris Gonzalez, the civil affairs team chief with Bravo Co, 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regt, speaks to local residents at the Kajaki Sofla Bazaar, during a recent visit. The district was securely under the control of insurgent fighters who operated in the area. However, the bn. has been working with Afghan soldiers in Op Eastern Storm to secure the area, making it safe for merchants to return to the bazaar, and bring commerce back to Kajaki.
The bazaar, a major hub for the local community, is a clear indicator of the op’s success thus far. The number of people shopping and selling their wares, the reception Marines and ANSF members receive when they pass through, and the number of local residents who hang around when CF are present, serve as indicators of the improved conditions.With the majority of insurgent forces on the run, having fled since the outset of the op, the Marines find themselves with a rare opportunity. They currently hold the momentum, and, at the moment, are blessed by a break in the violence. This valuable time is allowing the Afghans to focus on bolstering ties that, with care, can grow into lasting bonds between the local leadership and their reps in the GoA. “What we have and the insurgents don’t is presence,” explained Mass. native Capt. Paul Tremblay, company cmdr., Bravo Co, 1/6. “It’ll only be a matter of time before the local residents will gain more confidence. Right now they’re extremely ecstatic that we’re here, but like with anything else, it’ll take a few weeks before we start to see active participation on their part.”"The ultimate goal," explained Tremblay, "is to have members of the local populace take charge, to take ownership over their community, and no longer live in fear of reprisal from insurgent forces operating in the area. We’re trying to identify who those people are who, for whatever reason, want to be active participants, those people who want to be good Samaritans,” explained Tremblay, who originally enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1996, and later graduated from Virginia Tech in 2003. “Once we identify them, we can bring them into the fold, make them the ad hoc leaders and voices.” Another goal for CF in the area is to bring the region’s youth into the fold, an oft ignored group within the more traditional Muslim culture. Due to a rising feeling of disempowerment within this group, some young men between 14 and 30 have rallied to the Taliban’s cause. Unlike traditional Muslim society, in which community elders have the voice, the insurgency offers these young men instant gratification through promises of both power and money. "The key," explained Sgt. Chris Gonzalez, the civil affairs team chief in support of Bravo Co, "is to find constructive roles for these boys and men within the community, in order to foster ties between the younger generation and the Afghan govt. In so doing, take away from the insurgency’s main recruiting base," continued Gonzalez. “You have 3 types of Taliban fighters: the foreigners who come over here solely to fight us, the diehard believers who are from the area, and finally the majority of their fighters who join mainly due to economic opportunities,” said Gonzalez, a resident Md. The Marines are working to support the GoA's efforts in the region to provide jobs and establish long-term institutions, to train and educate individuals who can then better their communities. "However, the district must be at the right stage before trade and vocational schools can be established," according to Gonzalez. “We have to set the building blocks, so they can continue when we’re gone,” Gonzalez explained. “To do that we need Afghan counterparts.”
A Marine with Bravo Co, provides security, during a recent patrol through the Kajaki Sofla Bazaar.
A young boy smiles for the camera.
Local Police Certification Marks Progress in Nawa
COP JAKER, Helmand province – An increased security presence by the Nawa ALP should translate into less freedom of movement for insurgents, and more peace of mind for residents of the district.Nawa has a population of almost 185,000, and is bordered by Lashkar Gah to the north, Garmsir to the south, Marjah to the west, and Registan to the east. It has flat, agricultural lands, and the tribes here typically live in peace. Due to its size and location, Nawa has been pivotal in the fight against the insurgency, and is often seen as the model district in southern Helmand. ANSF and district govt officials are consistently taking the lead in security and development ops ahead of the anticipated transition with CF. “The Nawa people have given up farming poppy in the past 2 years voluntarily. Education and security are established and moving forward, and our schools are in session,” Manaf said. “Now our people have decided to take part in securing our local areas, and have registered for the ALP in order to serve our communities and our country.” With the addition of the ALP to this area, the security gains of the past few years can be maintained and improved. “Our ALP is ready to serve and protect our local communities, schools, clinics and roads,” said the gov. General Angar, Helmand Provincial Chief of Police, said that at this point, the security improvements in Nawa have left the enemy unwilling to fight Afghan forces face-to-face. He emphasized that an increased security presence in the district, will lead to further developments in education and other essential infrastructure. Simon Gass, NATO Senior Civilian Rep, said, "CF will continue their work the Afghan govt and SecFor to train and equip local police forces, like the ones certified in southern Helmand. The partnered effort will not end after these units are established, as coalitions will continue to advise and mentor local police forces. The ALP is a very important piece, because this means that local people are providing security within their own communities,” Gass said. Haji Akhundzadah, the Deputy Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs, echoed the importance of local residents taking responsibility for the security of their own communities. “As you know, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and their friends don’t want us to have peace and stability in our country. They have no mercy or love peace. Let’s pick these young men from your villages who are not drug addicts, and who are willing to serve in the ALP and protect your homes,” he said. “This is a great chance for us. We can finally have our own identity, our own national flag.” The Nawa ALP, and other SecFor like it throughout Helmand prov., is a direct result of the joint effort by the Afghan govt and CF to build the capability and capacity of ANSF. Nawa’s future has only become brighter with the validation of its own local police force. Combined with other developments in security and governance, the district is becoming a model for the rest of Helmand prov.
For One Kenyan, Military Service a Testimony of Faith
FOB SPIN BOLDAK – “I was born and raised in Kenya, in a small village about 20 miles west of the capital city of Nairobi,” said Waweru. “I went to primary school in the village, and later went to high school in Nairobi.” Waweru, now a resident of Texas, said that after graduating high school, he began working for local church orgs.“The job that really stands out to me, is when I worked for Campus Crusade for Christ,” Waweru said. “This job stands out to me, because that's when I had a lot of time with American missionaries, and I believe that's where my interest in coming to the U.S. began.” Waweru said he worked there for 2.5 years, working with local church workers teaching them how to plan church services and build churches. It was during his time with Campus Crusade, where Waweru said he felt the call to become an ordained minister for his church, the Anglican Church in Kenya. He then left to begin school at the Bishop Kariuki Bible College in Kabete, Kenya, to train for ordained ministry. While he was attending the college, Waweru said he met his wife, Christine, who was born in the U.S., but raised in both the U.S. and Kenya. David and Christine had been attending the college for the same reason, to become ordained ministers. He said they began getting to know each other, and eventually started dating. However, their time together didn’t last as long as they would have liked. “One year later, Christine was offered a scholarship for a school in the U.S.,” he said, “so, she took it and returned home to the U.S., to continue her education toward her bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry.” Waweru, still in Kenya attending the Bishop Kariuki Bible College, continued his education, and kept in touch with Christine through letters and phone calls every once in a while. Waweru completed his degree at the Bible college, and transferred to St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya, to obtain a bachelor’s in divinity. All through this time, David and Christine kept their relationship strong, even though they were on opposite sides of the world. “I think this time apart helped us build trust,” Waweru said, “and I feel this was good training that helped me in becoming a chaplain in the years to come.” He also said he believes, even though he had no way of knowing at the time, that this time apart was preparing him for his 3 combat deployments with the U.S. Army. Christine returned to Kenya during David’s second year at St. Paul’s, and they decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. On Dec. 3, 1988, David and Christine made their vows to each other, and became husband and wife. “We got ordained at the same time,” he said, “and began ministry together at the Anglican Church of Kenya.” After a few years, the Waweru family picked up and came to the U.S. together, and David continued to further his education at Princeton University, N.J., to obtain a master’s degree in theology. “While I was at Princeton, I met a U.S. Army chaplain who was studying the same program. He and I became good friends during our time together, and throughout that friendship,” Waweru said, “I guess he was recruiting me into the chaplain’s corps.” Upon graduation, Waweru said he faced 2 choices, to continue his ministries in the church, or to become a chaplain in the U.S. Army. “I decided to try a new venture,” he said, “so I decided to become a U.S. Army chaplain.” Waweru received his commission as a 1st Lt., on July 4, 1994, and is is now a major on his 3rd combat deployment, and his 1st to Afghanistan.His mission is to keep the soldiers of the brigade strong, and help them through their times of trouble. “It's never easy,” he said. “It's always hard to be away from family. With this being my 3rd deployment, I have been better able to prepare myself, and help others through my experiences.”“I offer encouragement and insight based on my experiences,” he said. “I encourage soldiers to work on their relationships, while they're away from their families, and I encourage them to be spiritually fit. I enjoy my ministry in the Army,” he said, “I love soldiers; I love talking to soldiers, interacting with soldiers. I love being part of a bigger family than myself. We'll suffer being away from our Families together, and we'll pull through it together.”
ISAF Joint Command Operational Update, Nov. 1, 2011
KANDAHAR PROVINCE — A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor captured a Taliban leader, during an op in Panjwa’i district, yesterday. The leader distributed weapons and supplies throughout the Panjwa’i district, as well as, planned ambush and roadside bomb attacks against CF. One additional suspected insurgent was detained.----- In Zharay district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained 2 suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Taliban leader, yesterday. The leader is responsible for roadside bomb attacks throughout region. HELMAND PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition security patrol discovered nearly 2,200-lbs (1,000 kgs) of marijuana, during routine ops in Reg-e Khan Neshin district, yesterday.
EastPAKTIKA PROVINCE --In Dilah wa Khoshamand district, a combined Afghan and coalition security patrol detained a suspected insurgent, and discovered a weapons cache, yesterday. The cache consisted of 3 AK-47 rifles, 3 ammo pouches, 14 ammo mags, IED wiring, various components used to construct IEDs, 7 grenades, a machine gun, and a quantity of small arms ammo.
----- In Kushamond district, a suspected insurgent was detained by CF for acting suspicious, Oct. 31.
KHOST PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor captured a Haqqani network leader, and detained an additional suspected insurgent, during an op in Terayzai district, yesterday. The leader planned roadside bomb and direct fire attacks against Afghan forces.
----- A weapons cache consisting of an RPG, an AT4 round, and various MK19 rounds was seized by the ANA in Mandozai district, Oct. 31.
----- In Shemal district, CF discovered a cache consisting of a 7.62 rounds belt, a shotgun, and a small bag of hash.
WARDAK PROVINCE -- In Chak-e Wardak district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Taliban leader, yesterday. The leader conducts attacks against Afghan forces.
----- A suspected insurgent was detained after engaging CF with small-arms fire in Chak district, Oct. 31.
KUNAR PROVINCE -- Two insurgents were killed after engaging CF with indirect fire in Bar Kunar district, Oct. 31.
----- An insurgent was killed by CF, after engaging a convoy in Watahpur district Oct. 31.
LOGAR PROVINCE -- Five people, wanted for questioning, were detained by ANP in Pul-e-Alam district, Oct. 31.
GHAZNI PROVINCE -- A suspected insurgent was detained after engaging Afghan and CF with small-arms fire in Gellan district, Oct. 31. The individual is under the custody of ANA.
LAGHMAN PROVINCE -- Three AP mines and a large quantity on PKM rounds were seized by ANA in Qarghaee district, Oct. 31.
Operations in RC-East are still ongoing.
Fort Hood Soldiers Packing Up at COB Adder and Going Home
COB ADDER – "Today, we’re laying out all of our bags that are all packed and ready to send home," said Pfc. Devin Alderman, signal intel analyst, 3rd BSTB, from Fla. Alderman arrived on COB Adder after he finished his advanced individual training.After a required customs inspection of their belongings, soldiers from the 3BSTB lined up side-by-side passing each bag along the line to pack the cargo container more efficiently. As the packing continued, one soldier made last minute adjustments to his guitar before packing it away. "Loosening the strings on the guitar helps protect it from damage while it's stored away," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Adrian Cabrera, intel fusion chief, from Calif.Although packing up equipment and personal gear is a lot of work, it's a welcoming chore for these soldiers, because it means that they'll soon be home. “It’s been a long deployment,” said Cabrera. “This is my 4th deployment, so it feels really good to be going home.”
Soldiers pass duffel bags full of personal belongings to each other, to pack them into a cargo container.
Duffel bags and assault packs are stacked in a pile as soldiers load equipment into a cargo container.
A group of soldiers work to close a very full duffel bag.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Adrian Cabrera loosens the strings on his guitar before packing it up to ship home.