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KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan- On a rugged mountaintop bordering Pakistan, three kilometers from Northern Waziristan, sits Afghan Combat Outpost Chergotah in Khost province, Afghanistan.
Here, U.S. Army Soldiers work together with Afghan Border Policemen to sustain border security and maintain peace amongst the local population.
The Soldiers and policemen secure the area with a fierce drive and a wealth of firepower.
“At Chergotah we help provide security for Afghan contractors building the AFCOP, and my duty as a gunner is to make sure that if we are attacked, I gain fire superiority as quick as possible to eliminate the threat, using heavy weaponry,” said U.S. Army Spc. Ryan Harris.
Harris serves as a heavy weapons gunner with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station’s are a vital piece of weaponry to keep security within the area. Heavy weapons platforms such as .50-caliber machine guns and Mark 19 grenade launchers are combined with precision computer video targeting systems controlled from behind a 10-inch screen that the gunner observes while tucked inside the vehicle.
While the advanced weaponry gives the Soldiers the advantage against insurgents in their efforts to ensure security, in order to connect with the local people, the Soldiers routinely leave the protection of their MRAP vehicles. The unit conducts daily, dismounted security patrols led by the platoon sergeant and platoon leader.
“My duty as a platoon sergeant is to take care of my men. I do this by resupplying them with food, water, ammo, and by ensuring they have a good security plan in place to protect themselves and their Afghan counterparts,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph De Lage, a platoon sergeant serving with Co. D.
While the platoon sergeant works to ensure the safety of his Soldiers and the ABP, the impact the service members have on the area’s civilian population is not lost.
“I believe our presence makes a difference locally,” De Lage added.
According to U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jason Cumiford, a platoon leader serving with Co. D, the Soldiers and policemen must find the best way to secure the trust of the local population in the district. They find the enemy, separate them from the local population, and defeat them.
However, Cumiford added that the most important task is to ensure the ABP are competent, well trained and able to defeat the enemy by themselves, and that they are trusted by the Afghan people.
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