ANA BG Emam Nazar, 3rd Infantry Brigade commander, 201st Corps, and French BG Jean-Francois Hogard, TF Lafayette commander, talk about the success of Bison Playoff II Nov. 21-24. (click for more)
U.S. Army Spc. Mandy Kennedy from Ellsworth, Wis., 2-45th ADT education specialist, hands out items to Afghan girls during a stop at a farm in Gardez Dec. 4. (click for more)
U.S. Army Pfc. Cheryl Baldridge from Prague, Okla., 2-45 Oklahoma Agribusiness Development Team, examines an Afghan child's donkey at Tandan village Dec. 4. (click for more)
An Afghan girl looks up from cutting parsley from a small plot during a foot patrol near FOB Wright by the Iowa National Guard’s 734th ADT Nov. 30. (click for more)
Pfc. Deana Hilburn talks with Abas at the Aid Station on FOB Fenty. Hilburn and the other medics assigned to the 426th BSB have been treating Abas for severe burns (click for more)
Some 80 Afghan women gather for the Women’s Justice Shura at the Kunar Ministry of Culture and Information Nov. 30. (click for more)
U.S. Army Sgt. Katherine Williams, Ghazni Texas ADT-IV’s FET, shares a smile with girls living at a local orphanage in the Jaghori District Center while delivering winter supplies. (click for more)
U.S. Army Capt. Adam Bushey and U.S. Army Sgt. Erin Pickett, both with TF Wolverine, stock the selves of the newly dedicated law library in the Salang District Center here (click for more)
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Sherry Graham, a 62nd Medical Brigade veterinarian, assisted by Dr. Mohammad Nahim Sharif, a veterinary professor and students from Alberoni University, dissect a sheep Nov. 26. (click for more)
U.S. Army Maj. Bobbie Mayes, Women’s Empowerment coordinator with the Kentucky ADT, greets a teacher from the Agency for Building a New Afghanistan during a visit to the Kapisa Directors (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – In a fairly remote area of the Jaghato district in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, the buildings that currently make up Combat Outpost Jaghato are riddled with bullet holes and burn marks around impact sites of rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Windows have been replaced by plastic in some places, by nothing in others. The abandoned appearance of the buildings provides evidence that the long-running fight between the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police that inhabit the compound and the insurgents in the nearby village is far from over.
The continuing violence and efforts of the insurgent population in the area to intimidate the local populace led the leaders of 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and the rest of Task Force Bayonet to decide to move in. After
months of planning and preparation by leaders across the 173rd, the plan for turning the compound into a combined American and Afghan COP became a reality and the first step was taken toward building COP Jaghato, April 28.
The first step included a convoy of more than 70 vehicles that included counter improvised explosive device and route clearance teams to clear the road, and supply trucks carrying all the essentials for the build ups.
“We spent hours and days planning and fine-tuning it,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class, Kenya Spratt, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd ABCT, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Task Force Black, the team building COP Jaghato, and a native of Merced, Calif.
“It’s almost two missions in one,” he said. “Doing the movement out here was a whole task unto itself and then you’ve got security and the build-up of COP Jaghato.”
Before anyone could leave for COP Jaghato, security had to be in place. A task left to U.S. Army 1st Lt. Brad Benjamin, 3rd Platoon, D Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd ABCT, and his platoon. Leaving long before the sun came up, his platoon was in place on a hilltop overlooking the route to be followed by the convoy, watching and ensuring a safe arrival to the COP.
“Overall, security has been our number one concern,” said Spratt. “The build-up will come second.”
“It’s a matter of coordinating with different units to ensure you have a safe movement,” he continued. “With over 70 U.S. vehicles, you want to ensure you line up all your assets and you have OPs out there that can watch the main avenues of approach where big bends in the road are.”
Once the convoy reached COP Jaghato, offloading equipment and personnel began and construction soon followed. However, security quick took a front seat as the Soldiers began taking indirect and small-arms fire almost daily.
“The biggest challenge so far is every time we react to contact we shut down work,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Zachary Thelen, TF Black executive officer, HHC, 1st Betallion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd ABCT, a native of Ennis, Mont. “That’s two or three hours a day losing manpower.”
In the meantime, the Soldiers continue to press on. They sleep on cots in bullet hole-ridden buildings, eat MREs (meals ready to eat) and with no real amenities to speak of, they use every second of daylight to build a COP that will ensure their replacements will have it better than they do.
CH-47 Chinooks fly in daily, landing on the makeshift helicopter landing zone, stirring up brown clouds of dust. In the clouds, Soldiers pick up supplies and equipment to keep the progress moving. Improvements are being made, and even with constant attacks, the COP quickly continues to grow according to their ambitious plans.
“We’re going to dig in a gun line, we’re going to set up housing, we have a DFAC (dining facility) coming and we have gates coming,” said Thelen. “It’s all been funded, it’s all been approved and it’s just waiting on delivery.”
It’s been a long process to get to this point in the construction, but this is just the beginning for COP Jaghato.
“It’s going to be cool to see the hesco walls go up, the helicopter landing zone go out, the living areas go out, to get a gym and get good food, the stuff they have at other COPs.”
The entire unit is excited to see how their efforts will affect future Soldiers that will live and work on the COP.
“Everybody here is tired but we’re motivated and we’re anxious to get the job done,” he continued. “Nobody has inhabited this place before and we’re anxious to see our work that we’re doing progress. We’ll have an impact here that other units haven’t had. It’s just a matter of how we set the conditions here for ourselves.”
Ultimately, once the COP is closer to completion, it will be handed over to another company and the mission will switch from construction to training the ANA and ANP that live with them, and in turn, improve security in the area and the lives of the local residents. In the meantime, Thelen and the rest of TF Black will continue work on the COP and when the time comes, they’ll have something to hand over that they can all be proud of.
“I feel proud that the unit entrusted me with the responsibility of leading this mission as an acting first sergeant,” said Spratt. “I couldn’t ask for a better job right now, this is where I want to be.”
“It’s a lot of responsibility but I think we’re doing well so far,” said Thelen. “In the next month hopefully we have something we can actually hand off to an entire company, that they can live in and defend.”
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GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Task Force Iron Rakkasan conducted Operation Blade III in eastern Ghazni Province Dec. 5.
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GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – On a patrol that started off as a meeting with the elders of a local village, 2nd Platoon, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment identified and killed two insurgents Dec. 3.
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GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – One of Task Force Iron Rakkasan’s missions is to find and destroy insurgent improvised explosive device materials before the enemy is able to use them to damage vehicles or injure coalition or Afghan forces or civilians. TF Iron Rakkasan Soldiers found two caches during the last month, keeping IEDs out of the hands of enemies.