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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Fierce lightning shattered the night sky as a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter’s 350-pound blades sliced through the air producing a continuous rain of thunder over the otherwise quiet Galuch Valley March 25.
Crews and helicopters from Task Force Phoenix, TF Falcon, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, provided air transport for a major air assault mission in Regional Command – East in support of Afghan National Security Forces and TF Red Bull operations.
TF Phoenix collaborated with Chinook crews from TF Shooter to complete their essential mission: to provide static load training to ANSF and conduct an air assault into the Galuch Valley allowing ANSF and TF Red Bull to remove enemy forces and speak with village elders.
“Static load training with (the ANSF) is absolutely critical to the success of our operations,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dennis McKernan, TF Phoenix, TF Falcon commander, and a native of Haddon Township, N.J., “Operating around helicopters is extremely dangerous and any soldier from any country must be trained how to operate on an aircraft to include loading and unloading. The terrain is extremely rugged in Afghanistan. Off-loading soldiers into tight landing zones can be specifically challenging if the soldiers don't know what to do.”
To ensure everyone was prepared to off-load an aircraft even in unsatisfactory conditions, TF Phoenix and Shooter Chinook crews flew despite lightning.
The huge engines quieted their loud roar and the blades slowed to a halt as the crews landed in Combat Outpost Xio and stepped out into the thick darkness.
“Most of the (ANSF) have never been on a CH-47 before. Cold load training allows them to get used to the aircraft and efficient at exiting the ramp when we arrive at the landing zone,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Daniel Snyder, Company D, TF Phoenix, first sergeant.
The training, conducted in complete darkness, is a simple, but crucial part of a successful air assault. It provides soldiers with familiarity of the aircraft and procedures used during a mission.
Time is of the essence during air assaults with the challenges of rugged terrain, unpredictable weather, and the threat of enemy forces hidden in the shadows, said Snyder.
“You never know what kind of landing zone you will be flying into on a mission,” said Snyder, a native of Millington, Mich., “It could have hostiles present, or it could just be a difficult landing where we can only put the back two wheels on the ground. When that happens, there is a lot of stress on the pilots and crew.”
“The faster (passengers) exit, the less that can go wrong,” added Snyder.
The Chinook crews cycled through the groups just as efficiently as the ANSF absorbed the training.
When the training was complete, the ANSF and TF Red Bull Soldiers loaded into the aircraft and prepared to put all of their training into action during the air assault.
The ANSF and TF Red Bull Soldiers were all business when it came time to dismount the aircraft into the shadowy mountains surrounding the valley.
“I think it’s great that the ANSF are augmented with our forces,” said Snyder, “It lets them see what right looks like.”
The aviation crews worked diligently to ensure each landing into the mountains was done to standard and done safely regardless of the unique challenges presented by the terrain.
“The greatest hazards were unimproved landing zones that can have large rocks that could damage the aircraft, or steep slopes that are near impossible to land on, unpredictable wind gusts, and enemy personnel (concealed) in the mountain sides and ditches,” said Snyder.
With experienced crews manning each helicopter, the Soldiers were confident in the success of the operation.
“Our crews are the best. We purposely stack the crews to best complement each other,” said Snyder, “All of us on this mission had done (air assaults) before. It’s awesome when you use almost all of your training on one landing and the mission was successful. It’s an amazing feeling,”
In a matter of hours, the Chinook crews safely inserted all of the groups into the Galuch Valley with no issues.
As the crews returned to Bagram Airfield, they reflected on a successful joint mission. U.S. Army Sgt. John Colwell, a flight engineer with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, TF Shooter, TF Falcon, 10th CAB, 10th Mountain Division, and a native of Phoenix, said he felt the ANSF were very motivated and ready for the mission.
“I feel that (Afghans) will soon be able to obtain their role as defenders in their fight against the forces threatening their country,” said Colwell.
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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.
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