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)
* Editor’s note – This is a three-part series that follows the activities of one platoon. About 30 Soldiers deployed to the remote Combat Outpost Najil, during Operation Promethium Puma, March 26 to April 2. Puma was the ground portion of Operation Bull Whip. This is their story.
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Capt. Jason Merchant, the Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, commander, had said it many times before.
“Afghanistan is a hiding place,” Merchant, a native of Dysart, Iowa, repeated as he trekked up a steep path in the village of Hind Dor, Afghanistan, March 31. He was referring to the unlimited availability of hiding places for weapons and contraband in the rugged terrain features that make up Afghanistan.
The Soldiers who followed him, members of the company’s 2nd Platoon, were on day six of Operation Promethium Puma, the ground portion of Operation Bull Whip, the largest air assault mission conducted by the 101st Airborne Division, Combined Joint Task Force-101, during their year-long deployment to Afghanistan. The mission was conducted with air assets from TF Phoenix, a part of the 101st and Soldiers from the Iowa National Guard’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Div., TF Red Bulls, of which Merchant’s Soldiers are a part.
The mission objective was to clear the Galuch Valley from north to south and establish a coalition footprint in the area which is a known insurgent stronghold and training area. Second platoon’s mission was to eliminate insurgent forces, weapons and bomb-making materials from the valley. On day six, the platoon’s Soldiers, weary, dirty, tired and grisly-faced, were still climbing the mountains in search of their targets.
Two other units, one American and one Afghan, attempted to secure the valley in the past year, but, due to heavy enemy resistance, had to withdraw on both occasions.
“The last time the Afghan National Army came in here, they were involved in a big fight and ended up needing to be recovered out of here after taking pretty heavy casualties and losses,” said Merchant. “I was anticipating us coming into a pretty heavy fight here in Hind Dor.”
But this time, there would be no resistance. Second Platoon, along with several hundred Red Bull and ANA soldiers air assaulted into the valley in the early morning hours of March 26 without a shot fired. Though they did not face immediate contact, the platoon stayed alert and vigilant, ready for an attack at any time.
Loaded with an average of about 100 pounds of gear, including: food and water, clothing and survival gear in addition to ammunition and weapons systems, the Soldiers climbed dozens of rock walls leading up to the village of Hind Dor.
Once in the village, the platoon split three ways. One squad pulled security while another, teamed with their ANA counterparts, searched the village. The final squad gathered biometrics information on Afghan occupants.
It did not take long for the first discovery to be made. At 8:30 a.m., U.S. Army Pfc. Brett Turner, a Co. A, 1st Bn., 133rd Inf., TF Ironman, 2nd BCT, 34th Inf. Div., TF Red Bulls forward observer from Johnston, Iowa, was walking along the terraces at the edge of the village when he noticed some overhanging rocks that appeared to have been dug under. He asked another Soldier to check it out.
Turner’s suspicions paid off. Under the overhang were two armed rocket-propelled grenades. This was the first cache located in the operation.
“It’s been a long time coming, after all the walkabouts with the commander,” said Turner. “We’ve walked some pretty high mountains looking for stuff.”
The discovery, the first of his career, was an early birthday present for the young Soldier, who turned 24 the next day. The platoon and the ANA uncovered nearly 20 caches in the valley which was the most out of all the elements involved in the operation.
The platoon provided perimeter security while the ANA searched homes in the village. Second Plt. did not physically enter the villagers’ homes, but helped by searching the outside of houses, rock ledges, caves, mountain fighting positions, bushes and exposed structures. The exception to this rule was the female engagement team, military women who search and interview Afghan women in accordance with Islamic culture.
Turner’s cache find was relatively small due to the notable absence of men in Hind Dor. Locals said the insurgency had known for a couple weeks of the pending operation and left the valley.
“We pretty much thought they had grabbed everything they were going to use and got the heck out,” said U.S. Army Spc. Skyler Moser, a 2nd Plt. squad automatic weapon gunner from Osterdock, Iowa. “We weren’t meeting any resistance and we weren’t finding anything, so we thought it was all gone.”
But it wasn’t. A few Soldiers from the platoon, including U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Doug Walwer, a squad leader from Clinton, Iowa, and his weapon’s squad, pushed to a small set of buildings outside the main village. One building was on a hilltop and was built up almost like a fort. It was under the building that the alert eyes of the ANA caught the outline of a rocket. After digging under the building, the Soldiers uncovered eight 57 mm Russian rockets.
Five minutes later, the villagers led them into a nearby structure where they found numerous types of explosives, a large chest of foreign army manuals and literature, a spool of copper wire commonly used in the production of improvised explosive devices, artillery shells, magazines, rocket shells, AK-47 and squad automatic machine gun rounds, RPG heads and other communication and military materials. The Soldiers pulled one item after another from the building. It was “Day One,” and the Soldiers netted their first big cache of the operation.
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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.
|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.
|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.