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WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan – As construction began at Combat Outpost Jaghato in the Jaghato district of Afghanistan’s Wardak province, April 28, filling hesco barriers was one of the first things to be done. COP Jaghato, previously an Afghan National Army and police compound will eventually house U.S. personnel and will be a joint COP. (Photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Sword, Task Force Bayonet Public Affairs)LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – In a fairly remote area of the Jaghato district in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, the buildings that currently make up Combat Outpost Jaghato are riddled with bullet holes and burn marks around impact sites of rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.  Windows have been replaced by plastic in some places, by nothing in others. The abandoned appearance of the buildings provides evidence that the long-running fight between the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police that inhabit the compound and the insurgents in the nearby village is far from over.  

The continuing violence and efforts of the insurgent population in the area to intimidate the local populace led the leaders of 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and the rest of Task Force Bayonet to decide to move in.  After

months of planning and preparation by leaders across the 173rd, the plan for turning the compound into a combined American and Afghan COP became a reality and the first step was taken toward building COP Jaghato, April 28.

The first step included a convoy of more than 70 vehicles that included counter improvised explosive device and route clearance  teams to clear the road, and supply trucks carrying all the essentials for the build ups.

“We spent hours and days planning and fine-tuning it,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class, Kenya Spratt, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd ABCT, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Task Force Black, the team building COP Jaghato, and a native of Merced, Calif.  

“It’s almost two missions in one,” he said.  “Doing the movement out here was a whole task unto itself and then you’ve got security and the build-up of COP Jaghato.”

Before anyone could leave for COP Jaghato, security had to be in place.  A task left to U.S. Army 1st Lt. Brad Benjamin, 3rd Platoon, D Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd ABCT, and his platoon.  Leaving long before the sun came up, his platoon was in place on a hilltop overlooking the route to be followed by the convoy, watching and ensuring a safe arrival to the COP.  

“Overall, security has been our number one concern,” said Spratt.  “The build-up will come second.”

“It’s a matter of coordinating with different units to ensure you have a safe movement,” he continued.  “With over 70 U.S. vehicles, you want to ensure you line up all your assets and you have OPs out there that can watch the main avenues of approach where big bends in the road are.”  

Once the convoy reached COP Jaghato, offloading equipment and personnel began and construction soon followed.  However, security quick took a front seat as the Soldiers began taking indirect and small-arms fire almost daily.

“The biggest challenge so far is every time we react to contact we shut down work,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Zachary Thelen, TF Black executive officer, HHC, 1st Betallion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd ABCT, a native of Ennis, Mont.  “That’s two or three hours a day losing manpower.”  

In the meantime, the Soldiers continue to press on.  They sleep on cots in bullet hole-ridden buildings, eat MREs (meals ready to eat) and with no real amenities to speak of, they use every second of daylight to build a COP that will ensure their replacements will have it better than they do.  

CH-47 Chinooks fly in daily, landing on the makeshift helicopter landing zone, stirring up brown clouds of dust.  In the clouds, Soldiers pick up supplies and equipment to keep the progress moving.  Improvements are being made, and even with constant attacks, the COP quickly continues to grow according to their ambitious plans.  

“We’re going to dig in a gun line, we’re going to set up housing, we have a DFAC (dining facility) coming and we have gates coming,” said Thelen.  “It’s all been funded, it’s all been approved and it’s just waiting on delivery.”

It’s been a long process to get to this point in the construction, but this is just the beginning for COP Jaghato.  

“It’s going to be cool to see the hesco walls go up, the helicopter landing zone go out, the living areas go out, to get a gym and get good food, the stuff they have at other COPs.”

The entire unit is excited to see how their efforts will affect future Soldiers that will live and work on the COP.

“Everybody here is tired but we’re motivated and we’re anxious to get the job done,” he continued.  “Nobody has inhabited this place before and we’re anxious to see our work that we’re doing progress.  We’ll have an impact here that other units haven’t had.  It’s just a matter of how we set the conditions here for ourselves.”

Ultimately, once the COP is closer to completion, it will be handed over to another company and the mission will switch from construction to training the ANA and ANP that live with them, and in turn, improve security in the area and the lives of the local residents.  In the meantime, Thelen and the rest of TF Black will continue work on the COP and when the time comes, they’ll have something to hand over that they can all be proud of.

“I feel proud that the unit entrusted me with the responsibility of leading this mission as an acting first sergeant,” said Spratt.  “I couldn’t ask for a better job right now, this is where I want to be.”

“It’s a lot of responsibility but I think we’re doing well so far,” said Thelen.  “In the next month hopefully we have something we can actually hand off to an entire company, that they can live in and defend.”
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers from 3rd Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, provide security for a convoy headed to Combat Outpost Jaghato, in the Jaghato district of Afghanistan’s Wardak province, April 28. The convoy, made up of more than 70 U.S. vehicles brought supplies and equipment to build the new COP. (Photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Sword, Task Force Bayonet Public Affairs)WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan – A CH-47 Chinook flies away from Combat Outpost Jaghato in the Jaghato district of Afghanistan’s Wardak province, after dropping supplies and equipment to aid in the COP’s construction, April 28. “Everybody here is tired but we’re motivated and we’re anxious to get the job done,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class, Kenya Spratt, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Task Force Black, the team building COP Jaghato, and a native of Merced, Calif. “We’re anxious to see our work that we’re doing progress. “We’ll have an impact here that other units haven’t had. It’s just a matter of how we set the conditions here for ourselves.” (Photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Sword, Task Force Bayonet Public Affairs)
 

 

تاريخ آخر تحديث: الأربعاء, 12 أيار/مايو 2010 03:44
 

    

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