BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Oct. 17, 2008) – Some Soldiers were looking at the ground, staring off into space. Others closed their eyes, heads back, leaning forward only for a moment to look around.
The Afghan National Policemen took turns looking out the windows of the Chinook, occasionally pointing out places to one another.
They weren’t concerned about where they were going, but it was how they were getting there.
Capt. Dan Marques, commander of A Co, 101st Division Special Troop Battalion, and his troops, Along with ANP, conducted their first air assault mission into Jowlzak valley, Parwan province.
“There are a few reasons why we started focusing the valley,” said Army Capt. Dan Marques, the executive officer for A Company, 101st DSTB and a native of Corona, Ca. “It’s inaccessible to any vehicles which makes it a perfect hiding place for Taliban and because of its isolation, the people don’t get as much humanitarian assistance as they should.”
Jowlzak valley is an isolated area in the mountains of Afghanistan containing six villages with almost no interaction with rest of Afghanistan.
The ANP searched some of the homes while the Soldiers provided security around and inside the village, and conducted key-leader engagements with the village elders.
“I think it went really well,” said Army 1st Lt. John button, 2nd Platoon leader, A Company, 101st DSTB. “We were able to talk to the village leader and gain information about suspicious activity around his village.”
The combined forces found very little evidence of Taliban activity and were able to hand out humanitarian assistance including food, water and radios before they departed.
With the Company’s success, the DSTB decided to visit every village inside the valley. The next mission targeted an even smaller village.
“We were able to get an idea on what these people really need while giving them some basic supplies for now,” said Marques. “We want to let these people know that we haven’t forgotten about them and we want to help them in any way we can.”
The village elder’s only request was a road to be built that ran in and out of the village. Right now, the villagers have a two-day hike over mountains in any direction just to leave the valley.
“The Coalition has had it in the plans to construct a road to the valley for a long time,” said Army Capt. William Coulter, a native of Ft. Payne, Ala. and commander of A Co.
The combined forces are planning to continue their efforts in the Jowlzak valley.
“This road project is one of the main CERP [Commander’s Emergency Relief Program] funded projects that we have,” Coulter said. “Right now these people aren’t able to participate in their government, get medical care, or conduct trades, but when the road project is completed these people will be able to get medical care, grow economically and be connected to their government. That’s why we’re here.”