50 graduate Fatima Girls High School

Tabasum Sharqi (left) opens a book she received for graduating at the top of her Fatima Girls High School class at a ceremony held at the Kunar Department of Women’s (click for more)

Polish and US Forces bond through weapons

Soldiers from the Polish Army and the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team-IV check their shot grouping during qualification on the Polish AK-74 5.56 mm Mini-Beryl short assault rifle Feb. (click for more)

TF Duke Soldiers volley for peace

U.S. Army Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, play an impromptu game of volleyball against a team (click for more)

Nurgaram District leaders electrify Nangaresh schools

Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, the Nurgaram District subgovernor, addresses an audience of teachers, government officials and citizens during a ceremony to celebrate a completed solar panel electricity project Feb. 21 in (click for more)

10th CAB Soldiers bring communications to Bagram’s east side

U.S. Army Spc. Raheem Stewart, an automations specialist with TF Phoenix, steps along the rafters of the building his team helped wire for communications. Stewart, from Dallas, was one of (click for more)

ANA, Red Bulls search Parwai during Operation Brass Monkey

An Afghan National Army soldier from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 201st Infantry Regiment, searches a pile of rocks in the courtyard of a high-value target home outside the village of (click for more)

Female engagement teams trained to aid communication with Afghan women

U.S. Army Capt. Nicole Zupka of Fair Lawn, N.J., a battlewatch captain with Combined Joint Task Force-Paladin, helps an Afghan child with her writing skills during female engagement team training (click for more)

ANA, TF Storm break trail, make difference in Kharwar

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers move through Kharwar District to prevent the Taliban’s freedom of movement Feb. 12. U.S. and Afghan soldiers braved more than 3 feet (click for more)

Ky. ADT II begins Panjshir sheep parasite project

Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II members, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Allen (left), a London, Ky., native, and U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Combs, a Corbin, Ky., native, get to know a (click for more)

Engineer Soldiers deliver aid to Afghans

An Afghan carrying a child approaches U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Peter Moeller of Atkins, Iowa, a medic with Task Force Red Bulls, for humanitarian aid at Qale-Mussa Pain Middle School (click for more)

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NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Pfc. Corey Vanotegham, an infantry radio telephone operator from Victor, Iowa, with Company C, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, smiles as he stands beside a Holstein cow at the farmer's market in Alingar Jan. 20. Vanotegham, who grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa, talked about the day-to-day life of an infantryman in Afghanistan. TF Ironman is a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, TF Red Bulls, and the Iowa National Guard. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - For two U.S. Army Soldiers from Iowa, their mission to Alingar District Center with Task Force Red Bulls Jan. 20 felt like just another day in the books. It was just one of the more than 300 they will spend in this mountainous country far from home. However, it was another key ingredient in helping improve Afghanistan’s security and economy.

U.S. Army Spc. Jarod Huser and Pfc. Corey Vanotegham, along with the other Soldiers of 1st Platoon, Company C, 133rd Infantry Regiment, visit the Alingar District Center, two or three times a week. Each trip includes several smaller chores or duties depending on the circumstances.

During this mission, the Iowa National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, provided both transportation and security for a civil affairs officer who is working feverishly to complete a budget that will affect the thousands of Afghan citizens in the area.

“We go to Alingar quite a bit,” said U.S. Army Spc. Jarod Huser, an infantry gunner from Ames, Iowa. “For that mission, we did a mounted patrol down to Alingar, checking for roadside bombs along the way, pulling security at all times, watching out for enemy activity, just getting a feel for what’s going on in the villages.”

Mounted in mine resistant ambush-protected vehicles, the Soldiers convoyed from Forward Operating Base Kalagush south through hills and valleys to Alingar. Once there, they positioned themselves tactically throughout the town watching for anything out of the ordinary while U.S. Army Maj. Andrew Dejesse, a civil affairs officer with Company A, 413th Civil Affairs Battalion, from Amarillo, Texas, went to work.

DeJesse spoke with Fetah Mohammad, the Alingar District Manager of Village Affairs, trying to finalize points in a budget plan for the district for the upcoming year, one that was due in three weeks. He also talked at length with the district education director for his recommendations on the budget. There are 72 schools attended by more than 38,000 students, so finalizing the budget was big business, and was the main reason 1st Plt. conducted the mission to Alingar.

While DeJesse was inside talking to the education director, Huser was inside his MRAP manning the gun constantly monitoring for threats around the perimeter of the village using the truck’s Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station. Operating the CROWS, the gunner is not in an external turret potentially exposed to enemy gunfire and IED blasts, but sits inside the vehicle and maneuvers the gun with a joystick while carefully monitoring his surroundings through a camera.

“I love being a gunner,” Huser said. “I do the CROWS, but also do open turret sometimes. I like being able to be up in the truck looking around. I watch for everything, but ridgelines (are) a big thing. I can look through the CROWS and find people up there moving around I wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye.”

After DeJesse conducted his business, the Soldiers walked the streets of Alingar with their ANA counterparts.

“Just about every time we go out, we try to get our faces out on the streets,” said U.S. Army Pfc. Corey Vanotegham, an infantry radio telephone operator from Victor, Iowa. “People see we’re there, that we have a presence and have good intentions. Going out and seeing the people, trying to speak a little Pashtu with them and seeing what they have to sell is interesting.”

After the patrol through the city, the day was not done for the Soldiers from 1st Plt. The Soldiers received word of a possible IED near the town of Tupac. The Soldiers spent almost an hour scouring a steep ridge outside the village and combing the fields along the valley for signs of the device.

The IED was located the following day by another platoon after a tip from another villager. A Soldier walking on a bank of the valley uncovered the IED’s command wire. The wire to detonate the device was a copper wire not much thicker than a fishing line completely buried in the dirt in a valley.

“It’s really hard to find an IED, without hitting it,” Vanotegham said.

Vanotegham said he likes that there is no “average” mission.

“I like just running missions in general,” he said. “The mission to Alingar is somewhat predictable, but then again, it could be unpredictable. At any moment there or on your way back, you could come into enemy contact.”

Vanotegham said missions will often change. On this day’s mission, in addition to the IED, the Soldiers heard gunshots in the distance and investigated the shots with the local townspeople as they patrolled through the village. The shots were far enough away not to be of any great concern to the Soldiers, but they are typical during operations in the field.

Soldiers must be prepared for anything while out on a mission, he said. At any moment, the Soldiers may receive a mission to climb a 7,000-foot mountain to try and locate an enemy fighting position or indication of enemy presence in the area. They will walk and search for hours and often uncover very little, if anything at all.

“You might not find a goldmine, but if you find any indicator of someone being present who’s not supposed to be there, it’s worth it,” Vanotegham said. “You can’t just skip that step, because the one time you do find something, it might save somebody’s life.”

Besides being together in Afghanistan, both Huser, 22 and Vanotegham, 21, share another common bond. The two Soldiers are both Iowa State University “Cyclone” students.

Huser is a business management major and Vanotegham is an agricultural education major. In fact, Vanotegham said the highlight of this mission for him was seeing a reminder of home, a Holstein cow at the Alingar farmer’s market. It was the first Holstein he had seen since arriving in country four months ago.

“I had to snap a picture, which I know everybody back home will be commenting about on Facebook,” Vanotegham laughed. “It’s just something that’s kind of neat.”

Though the farms here are much smaller and more primitive than those in Iowa, Vanotegham smiled when he thought about the comparisons.

“You see a lot of kids out doing work in the fields or playing in them, just like back home,” he said. “There’s a lot of crops here I’ve never seen before, but a lot of the same principles. It’s just amazing how they make do with what little they have compared to back home where everything’s just so plentiful.”

In another seven months or so, Vanotegham and Huser will return to the cornfields of Iowa, but until then it will be many more days and missions like this one, one after another. But one thing is guaranteed, no two will be the same, and these Soldiers will be ready for whatever comes their way.NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Huston, an infantry crew gunner with Company C, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, from Iowa Falls, Iowa, talks with an Afghan boy during a dismounted patrol through the village of Alingar Jan. 20. In addition to the patrol, the Soldiers also provided security for a meeting between military and local government officials, as well as searched a nearby village for improvised explosive devices. TF Ironman is a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, TF Red Bulls, and the Iowa National Guard. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Pfc. Corey Vanotegham, an infantry radio telephone operator from Victor, Iowa, with Company C, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, looks over the side of the road outside the town of Tupac Jan. 20. Vanotegham talked about his experiences as an infantryman in Afghanistan. TF Ironman is a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, TF Red Bulls, and the Iowa National Guard. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)


Last Updated on Friday, 28 January 2011 03:15


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Coalition forces engage insurgents in Kapisa

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed seven insurgents in defensive operations in the Alah Say District, Kapisa Province, eastern Afghanistan, March 29.

Coalition forces and aircraft responded to an insurgent attack. Four insurgents were killed by air strike and three were killed by direct fire from coalition forces.

All rounds were reported safe and on target. There were no reports of injuries or damages to civilians in the area.

ANSF, ISAF begin major operation in Laghman valley

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Afghan National Security Forces, partnered with U.S. Task Forces Red Bulls and Phoenix and French Task Force La Fayette, began operations in Galuch Valley, Laghman Province, March 25.

Soldiers of the Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps, Afghan National Police’s 202nd Shamshod and the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, TF Red Bulls, supported by the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Phoenix, conducted an air assault into the valley to remove enemy forces. Battle Group Richelieu, TF La Fayette, provided artillery support from Kapisa Province.

While conducting operations, the forces found multiple weapons caches including assorted rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, Russian rockets, materials to make homemade explosives, various other ordnances and communication equipment.  

While moving through the valley, unit leadership met with village elders to discuss the security situation and to allow them to give up insurgents still in the area.

The operation will assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in establishing the valley as a new district giving the Afghan people in the area freedom from the insurgency.   

President Hamid Karzai approved the creation of the additional district and hopes the new district will help improve the security of the area and support the reconstruction effort.

Mohammad Iqbal Azizi, Laghman Province governor, held a press conference March 7 announcing the establishment of a new district located in the valley.

ANSF, TF Bastogne continue operations in Kunar


KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and coalition troops from Task Force Bastogne continued operations in the Shigal District March 18 after clearing the village of Lawsin and the surrounding area.

Afghan leaders, coalition forces look forward

PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Leaders from across eastern Afghanistan attended a security conference March 9 at Forward Operating Base Thunder, the home of the Afghan Army’s 203rd Thunder Corps.