Story and photo by Sgt. Earnest Barnes
MARJAH DISTRICT, Helmand province — In the late 1990s when the Taliban seized Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul, the country was plagued with territorial and religious micro wars. The nationalists of Afghanistan, led by Gen. Ahmad Massoud, stood up against their extremist opposition to take back their country. One native of Baghlan prov., fought along-side his countrymen and was captured, but unlike most who fell into the hands of the Taliban, he lived to tell the story.Second Lt. Gul Alam was one of the Mujahidin, or freedom fighters, under Massoud, who was famed for his leadership during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s. Alam took up arms at 25, when floods of insurgent forces poured into his homeland. Alam moved with other Mujahidin fighters from Baghlan over the range of snow-peaked mountains to the southeast, to Panjshir prov., which was the HQ and stronghold of the Mujahidin. He and the men with him were holding a forward position to combat the Taliban forces, that were quickly spreading throughout the country. “Twelve thousand Taliban fighters attacked Panjshir,” said Alam. “In the Koran it says that if a man has one gray hair he should be respected because he is wise,” said Alam. “They were beating the elders with rifles and hitting them with cords. The Taliban only have an idea of Islam, but they're not Muslim people.”Alam said he was one of 100 men from his village taken captive. All the prisoners were tortured and beaten for info.
“They would hit me on the bottom of my feet. I counted they hit me 70, maybe 80 times, and I closed my eyes,” Alam explained. “I thought they stopped and they were trying to scare me with bigger cables. I opened my eyes, and they were still hitting me, but I could not feel my feet anymore.”“They hit me a lot compared to other people, because when they asked me why I was working for Mujahidin or Massoud, I tell them, ‘I'm not working with Massoud; I'm just a shop keeper,” said Alam. “Then I told them, ‘You guys are coming from Pakistan to Afghanistan, I have to defend my province and my country.’
“They beat me even more. The Taliban were like animals; they were not like humans,” said Alam as he recalled his treatment. The prisoners were moved several times throughout their captivity, but they were finally placed in Kandahar prov. The insurgents eventually began to negotiate with the families for release in exchange for ransom.
“My family would come every 3 to 6 months and give the Taliban money. They gave the Taliban 12 million Afghani,” said Alam, noting that he wasn't released after several payments. “They again paid 11 million Afghani; then I was released.”All of the families from Alam’s village followed suit, and also paid the 23 million Afghani in ransom, which equates to just over $4,000 in 1997, while the average Afghan family earns only $450 a year. The family members sold their land and livestock to pay off the captors. Alam returned home after 21 months in captivity, only after his family sold off nearly everything they owned. Alam continued to fight against the Taliban after his release. When the Taliban govt was ousted by CF forces in 2001, Alam secured a job under the GoA with the MoD, but the new Afghan govt wanted someone with more education in his position than what he had. Alam still wanted to serve his country and fight against what was left of the insurgency. It was at this point that he made the decision to join the ANCOP. He said he's "very proud to work as a cmdr., because ANCOP is a special unit of the Afghan police. He worked his way up through the ranks, and was selected for his current assignment as an ANCOP cmdr. Alam commands a Tolai, or company, of patrolmen in the Marjah area. His patrolmen stand post in the greater Marjah area to ensure the security of the city’s residents. “I’m trying to do a good work for my country, and I believe we should help the poor people, and those who've been in war,” said Alam. “We're here to help them.” Alam meets with local govt officials in the area, and addresses any concerns they may have, while creating ways to improve security. He also regularly visits his patrolmen at their various posts around the city.“He always goes out to the positions checking on his men, making sure they have what they need,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Morris, a Colo. native, and a plt. sgt. with Kilo Co, 3rd Bn, 6th Marine Regt. Morris often works with Alam as a liaison, and teaches Alam’s men how to properly coordinate with their bn., track logistics, and disperse gear according to their personnel rosters. Morris said that he sees the impact Alam makes in the community, and the people of Marjah respect him.‘The fact that he had to go through 21 months of capture and whatever type of abuse and torture, come out, and still be willing to go up against insurgents again, when it's possible to be held captive again, is pretty impressive,” said Morris, 28. “A guy that’s got that kind of dedication to his country and the people, to me, is held in the highest regard.”Alam said he likes working in ANCOP because he has the opportunity to travel throughout Afghanistan. “I heard the Taliban wanted to come back to Afghanistan, and they want to make peace, but I don't believe them,” said Alam. “It's unacceptable for them to come back to our country. If I have moment left in my life, I will fight them.”
Story by 2nd Lt. James Stenger
CAMP LEATHERNECK – Marines are pushing north on Route 611, building patrol bases, COPs, and village stability platforms in support of TF Leatherneck and Op Tofan Sharq (Eastern Storm). “We will run combat logistics patrols on this route, in order to resupply the forces of TF Leatherneck,” said Lt. Col. Ralph Rizzo, comm. officer of CLB-6.An increased coalition and ANSF presence on the road has already helped to deter the Taliban from inhabiting these key areas of Helmand. The structures being built along Route 611 benefit CF and ANSF alike. According to Lt. Col. Daniel Dubbs, 7th ESB comm. officer, these structures will be a place where Marines and their Afghan counterparts can conduct operational planning, and take some needed rest. “With a constant presence in the Upper Sangin Valley, Kajaki, and along Route 611, CF have the ability to maintain overwatch of critical infrastructure, interact with local Afghans and elders, and provide the civilian population with security,” said Dubbs.Village stability platforms are specifically designed to protect local populations from dangerous insurgent activity, and host key leader engagements (KLEs), where village elders and senior coalition leaders meet to ensure that village needs are being met.“Freedom of movement for the Afghan people will mean greater access to commerce and trade, which are critical to development and stability,” said Rizzo. Combat logistics patrols have already experienced a great change in the way local residents react to us, like people waving and children giving thumbs-up,” he concluded.
FET Visits Raj Girls' School in Farah
FARAH – The visit started with a meeting between the school principal, Raj shura leader, TF Lonestar FET, and the Jester Plt. leadership, in regards to the needs of the school. “As the female population continues to be afforded the opportunity to attend school, it's vital that we reach out and help a historically sidelined population,” said Capt. Christina Stieber, FET member and bn. physician asst. “These young girls have so much potential to improve not only their lives, but the lives of every citizen of Afghanistan, and we should encourage the entire population of Afghanistan to support them.”After the meeting, the FET handed out school supplies and interacted with the students. “As we continue to visit the Raj Girls' School, it's our goal to get to know the female students on a more individual level,” said Spc. Vijayta Waskul, FET member and combat medic. “The better we get to know them and their respective backgrounds, the better we'll be able to assist them.” “Handing out school supplies is only the beginning of our working relationship with the Raj Girls' School,” said Capt. Orande Roy, HHC cmdr. “Jester Plt., in partnership with the school principal and Raj shura leader, plan to look at long-term fixes that are sustainable for the future, as Afghanistan transitions to a more independent, sovereign and proud nation. I'm very humbled and proud to be a part of this effort,” Roy said.
Spc. Vijayta Waskul shakes hands with a student.
BAGRAM AIR FIELD – Hundreds of soldiers gathered to witness a moment in history as one great org. transferred authority to another. Soldiers, ready to return home to their families, joined their replacements for a final ceremony prior to departing. The 101st Sust Bde “Lifeliners” - from Fort Campbell, Ky. - relinquished their authority over sustainment ops in Regional Command North, East and Capitol, to the 10th Sust Bde “Muleskinners” - from Fort Drum, N.Y.“101st Sust Bde, your mission is complete,” said Brig.Gen. Les Carroll, the cmdr. of Joint Sust Command – Afghanistan. “Well done.” Carroll welcomed the Muleskinner; then let them know it was their turn to step up to the plate. “The mission is now yours,” said Carroll.In preparation for the deployment, soldiers assigned to the 10th SBDE completed mission essential task training, and field exercises designed to simulate the operational environment they would face in Afghanistan. After arriving in theater, the Muleskinners took a few days to focus on learning, from the challenges the Lifeliners encountered during their tour. Muleskinners watched and conducted tasks alongside their counterparts, and soon were performing every task themselves, with Lifeliners observing to ensure a smooth transition. Col. Michael Peterman, the cmdr. of the 101st SBDE, made it apparent that his logisticians cared about the soldiers, civilians, and coalition partners in Afghanistan. “We took care of teammates, not customers,” said Peterman.Sustainment brigades have a unique and challenging mission in Afghanistan. The terrain is harsh and mountainous, and the weather plays a role in how supplies are moved. Ground and air assets are on the move daily to ensure that every warrior on the battlefield has the necessary equipment to accomplish their mission.10th SBDE is now responsible for managing everything from finance to the mortuary affairs team; transporting and tracking mail, equipment parts, food, fuel, personnel and ammo, in over half of Afghanistan’s area of ops (AO).Muleskinners can trace their heritage back to the Alpine Infantrymen, and their pack mules that formed the mountain medical, quartermaster and ordnance maintenance bns, which supported the 10th ID during World War II. Since then, the brigade has also conducted ops in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and numerous other places all around the world.The 10th SBDE faces the challenge of supporting more than 10 bdes. spread throughout the various regional commands. The job is nothing new, as the brigade has served in Afghanistan twice before. Col. Kurt Ryan, the cmdr. of the 10th Sust Bde., spoke to the troops and left no doubt on anybody’s mind that the Muleskinner team is ready. “Now is our time and we're prepared; we're the team,” said Ryan.
ISAF Joint Command - AfghanistanSouth
HELMAND PROVINCE -- In Nawah-ye Barakzai district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Taliban leader, yesterday. The leader operates a roadside bomb and insurgent fighter cell, distributes equipment and weapons for attacks throughout the region.
----- During a routine security op in Kajaki district, a coalition SecFor observed 2 insurgents emplacing an IED, yesterday. Assessing an imminent threat, the force requested close air support to engage the insurgent position.
URUZGAN PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and CF discovered a weapons cache, during an op in Tarin Kot district, yesterday. The cache consisted of 6 82 mm mortars.
PAKTIKA PROVINCE — A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor captured a Haqqani network leader and detained a suspected insurgent, during an op in Zarghun Shahr district, yesterday. The leader operated an insurgent fighter cell in Zarghun Shahr district, and was responsible for numerous attacks against Afghan forces in western Paktika.
LAGHMAN PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor captured a senior Haqqani official and detained 2 additional suspected insurgents, during an op in Qarghah'i district, yesterday. The official has ties to both the Haqqani network and al Qaida, and directly supports insurgent activity in Kabul prov.
NANGARHAR PROVINCE -- In Mohmand Darah district, a coalition SecFor discovered 300 gallons (1,136 liters) of ammonium nitrate in an abandoned semi-trailer near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, yesterday. Upon further inspection of the vehicle, and review of the shipping documents found inside, the SecFor confirmed the truck's
contents did not match the documentation. As a result, the SecFor coordinated with ANSF, who confiscated the vehicle and its contents.
FARAH PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and CF discovered a weapons cache, during a routine op in Bala Boluk district, yesterday. The cache consisted of 11 82 mm mortars, 2 40 mm grenades, a 30 mm grenade, and 60 rocket engines for RPGs.
Partners in Security: In the Air and on the Ground
By Capt. Justin Kelly
CAMP TAJI – Soldiers from the 6th Sqdn recently had the opportunity to greatly affect the future of Iraqi armed recon, and the greater aviation community. The 6-17th Cav. is a scout recon helicopter sqdn. The unit’s fast-flying OH-58 Kiowa helicopters have been patrolling the skies of Iraq for much of 2011, in support of Op New Dawn.During the week of Oct. 17, the sqdn. conducted training with pilots and ground support personnel from the IA’s 21st Helicopter Sqdn. The training included topics ranging from air-ground integration to rocket loading and safe armament procedures. This training is expected to better prepare the 21st Sqdn. for the future, as the unit nears full readiness to assume the 6-17’s mission in Iraq. Currently, the mission of the 21st Sqdn is training. However, as the drawdown of American forces continues, the Iraqi unit will soon be responsible for armed recon flown today by U.S. Air Cavalry assets. The Iraqi unit is currently using the Bell T-407 training helicopter to train more than 30 pilots. The Iraqi govt has purchased 27 AR-407 helicopters, armed with 2.75-inch rockets and M3P .50 caliber machine guns. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jason Ganitano and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Hill serve as liaisons, and interact daily with Iraqi personnel from the 21st Sqdn. They asked the 6-17 Cav. Sqdn. Cmdr., Lt. Col. Michael McCurry, for assistance, in the belief that the American Air Cavalry Sqdn. would make a lasting impression on the newly formed Iraqi unit. “The Iraqis look at Kiowas flying by and wish they could fly them,” Hill said. "The Kiowa’s accomplishments and impact on local security over the years, in the region have been enormous, and the IA holds the community in high regard," he added.Chief Warrant Officer 4 Todd Mitchell, sqdn. standardization pilot for the 6-17 Cav., presented some of the training classes to the Iraqis. “I'm excited to be able to assist the IA in taking the next step in their future,” Mitchell said. Armament personnel led by Staff Sgt. Jamey Hermanns instructed ground personnel in handling and loading procedures for the M3P machine gun and aerial rockets. Hermanns stated, “I hope some of the techniques and procedures we taught, will assist them as they develop their own standard operating procedures.”“The training and partnership that we fostered here will have a lasting impact on the Iraqi military, and the country of Iraq. Even more than teaching these brave Iraqis techniques and procedures, we've established lasting relationships, and a mutual respect that will have a more permanent and strategic impact,” McCurry said.
Sgt. Thomas Dunham trains Iraqi soldiers on loading 2.75-inch rockets into a Kiowa helicopter rocket pod, as Pfc. James Ball (rear), looks on.
Iraqi soldiers receive training on loading armament onto OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopters, Oct. 23.