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LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter drops off Soldiers during a massive air assault into the Galuch Valley outside the town of Hind Dor, Afghanistan, March 26. Soldiers from the Iowa Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, participated in the largest air assault mission conducted by the 101st Airborne Division, Combined Joint Task Force-101, during their year-long deployment to Afghanistan.. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)

 

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Iowa Army National Guard unit recently wrapped up the largest air assault operation conducted by the 101st Airborne Division during their year-long deployment to Afghanistan.



Operation Bullwhip began March 25, when the first Soldiers were inserted by air into the southern portion of the Galuch Valley by Task Force Phoenix. The main body of troops entered the northern end of the valley early the next morning. These Soldiers, from 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, and from the French Army, Task Force Lafayette, cleared the valley.

TF Lafayette also provided artillery support from Kapisa Province. The 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regt., TF Redhorse, also a part of the 2nd BCT, 34th Inf. Div., provided over watch support from the ridge lines surrounding the valley.
 
Two platoons from Company A and D of the 133rd Inf., teamed with an Afghan National Army company from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 201st ANA Infantry Corps, cleared the valley on both sides from north to south while the scout platoon and another ANA company provided a blocking position on the southern end.

“The purpose of Bullwhip, was to get a foothold in the Galuch area, to get the government in there, to establish a new district center and really get the government and people connected there,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Kremer, Puma’s ground forces commander, and the 133rd Inf. commander. “Our main mission with Promethium Puma was to get in there and establish the security – defeating the enemy and clearing them from the valley so the government could be established to make that connection with the people.”

Laghman Province Gov. Mohammed Iqbal Azizi explained why it was important to bring government to the Galuch Valley.

“The people there had been deprived of the rights of education, health and all services of life by the insurgency,” said Azizi. “The people were asking the government of Afghanistan for the physical presence of government there. They were asking for services and the enemy was brutally trying to deprive the people of these kinds of rights, so eventually the president of Afghanistan, President Karzai, approved the district there.”

Kremer, a native of Cherokee, Iowa, said the mission was also the first step in providing infrastructure there.

“If you peel the onion back, the underlying issue was also running a set of power lines through the Galuch Valley,” said Kremer. “These lines will provide electricity and power to more than 70,000 households throughout the area. The enemy was causing problems and eventually brought this to a halt.”

The enemy offered no physical resistance during the operation. Azizi had told the people the government would be coming and leaflets were dropped before the operation began, warning the people troops would be coming.

“They did not come out of the woodwork and fight us, which allowed us to engage the population and conduct shuras to prep them for the government and a big shura at the end of the operation,” said Kremer. “We didn’t see stiff resistance because we didn’t surprise them. They knew the government was coming and the message was sent to the people that we were going to push a security element out there once the district center was approved. They had to make a decision – were they going to stay and fight, or did they believe that we were going to come out there with overwhelming combat power? With the large mass of folks we brought out there and the fact that we air assaulted in, I think the enemy probably made the decision that it was probably best not to fight.”

Kremer said the coalition is obviously concerned about enemy supporters still in the valley who may have blended in with the general population. However, he said some of these people who are truly part of the village will see what the future will be like with security and a functioning government. These people will then have a chance to reintegrate as part of the village working with the government rather than trying to disrupt it.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m being overly optimistic, but if you can bring enough security and stability for a brief period and the government comes in and starts providing services, the hopes are they will take a leap with the government and see how it works out,” said Kremer.

Kremer acknowledged bringing peace and stability to the region will be a long, ongoing process, especially to the northern region of the valley that is more difficult to reach due to the absence of roads and other infrastructure. However, Kremer said now the coalition has the initial foothold in the area it had been seeking.

While the Soldiers were not resisted by the enemy, they did, however, find massive amounts of weapons caches the enemy had been storing in the valley. More than 30 caches were found during the operation, including a slew of weapons, opium stashes, expended munitions for improvised explosive devices, more than a dozen anti-personnel land mines and various pieces of military clothing and communications equipment.

“We told the people to give us the weapons the enemy had been hiding in their villages, because this stuff does not belong to you, it belongs to the army,” ANA 1st Lt. Mohammad Sabir-Amiri, an intelligence officer, said. “The people told us where some of the caches were in the villages. We were enthusiastic when we found things because when we found rockets, some of (the U.S.) Soldiers told us the enemy in Iraq had used those same rockets against (coalition) helicopters, and we knew we were finding things that could help prevent that. We were very happy; it was a great achievement.”

Sabir-Amiri said the mission was a team effort between Afghan and American Soldiers.

“We worked together – we don’t say one group found anything, we say we found it together,” Sabir-Amiri said. “One hand alone cannot make a sound, but two hands together can make a great sound. This place is such a dangerous place; we wanted to help one another to make it better. The best thing is that we are all going home safely.”

The Soldiers finished clearing objectives in the valley April 2.

Kremer said the ANA and Afghan National Civil Order Police are entering the area to provide long-term security at the joint security center, which will eventually evolve into the government’s district center in Galuch Valley.

“The mission has now transitioned into holding the ground that was cleared during the operation in order to allow the government to be established in that area,” said U.S. Army Maj. Aaron Baugher, battalion operations officer of the 1st Bn., 133rd Inf., TF Ironman, 2nd BCT, 34th Inf. Div., TF Red Bulls, from Ankeny, Iowa.

Kremer said the elders have visited the temporary district center every day since the main shura March 31, and have taken the first steps in working with the government. He said the way the ANA and Red Bulls Soldiers behaved in the villages may have gained the faith of some of the villagers.

“Our Soldiers did a phenomenal job,” said Kremer. “They were good to the locals as they went in to their villages. The Afghans, having suffered casualties in the valley in a fight there in the fall, could have gotten emotional as they found caches that included pieces of their equipment from that fight. It could have led to a revengeful situation, but the reality was that the Soldiers did not go that route; they were professional and went into the mind frame that they were there to clear out the bad guys and bring the government to the people.”

Azizi agreed. He said he was pleased with the way the Red Bulls and ANA soldiers conducted themselves in clearing the valley.

“I, and the people in general, were highly impressed with the soldiers,” said Azizi. “The operation was conducted very professionally. It exceeded my expectations. I am highly impressed with the soldiers in the field in the way that they conducted this operation.”

Aziz said the professionalism the soldiers demonstrated helped influence the positive response from the village.

“When I was participating in the shura at the end of the operation with the elders, I did not expect how cordially and very warmly the people would welcome the operation,” said Aziz.  “Specifically, I was highly impressed with the soldiers in the field. Lt. Col. Kremer and his Soldiers were already having several meetings with the people in the field before the shura. They did so in a friendly manner, and this exceeded the expectations of the people of Afghanistan and the people in that area. It was a very constructive operation.”

 

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Kremer, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Ironman commander from Cherokee, Iowa, talks to villagers during a meeting in Hind Dor, Afghanistan, March 26 during Operation Promethium Puma. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Afghan National Army soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 201st ANA Infantry Corps, scour mountain ridges outside the village of Hind Dor, Afghanistan, March 26 during Operation Promethium Puma. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 April 2011 01:39
 

    

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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.

 
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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.

 
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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.

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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.

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