KORENGAL VALLEY, Afghanistan - The paratroopers were keen for the mission despite their rough conditions. The difference between a tan line and dirty skin has long since passed. Bites from sand fleas and mosquitoes just add to the problem. Electricity, toilets and running water (a 45 minute patrol away) are long forgotten conveniences.

The paratroopers are Sky Soldiers from Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

For the last month, 2nd Platoon and a platoon from the Afghan National Army have been operating out of Fire Base Phoenix- the southern most fire base in the Korengal Valley, which is located in Afghanistan's Kunar province.

The living conditions for the Soldiers are the least of their problems. The Korengal Valley is a support area for Taliban extremists.

"The towns here are neutral at best," said Army 1st Lt. Mathew Piosa, 2nd Platoon leader, "In the last eight days we've had five (enemy) contacts."

Within days of interviewing Piosa his platoon had two more enemy engagements- one being a coordinated ambush.

"We take steps to prevent the enemy from having the upper hand," explained Piosa.

Even with precautions Soldiers still get hurt. During a night patrol June 5 Army Pfc. Timothy Vimoto was killed during an ambush by insurgents.

The platoon has not allowed the loss to deter them and they continue to conduct reconnaissance, counter improvised explosive devices and security patrols daily.

When the platoon isn't out on patrols they pass their time by improving individual Soldier skills to improve their combat capability.

"We've had classes on all the weapons out here (on site) and today were training on the LLDR (Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder)," said Army Pfc. Sterling Dunn, 2nd Platoon.

Even though the LLDR is used for indirect fire support it is also being used to scan for enemy personal, said Piosa.

Battle Company is working to improve the situation for 2nd Platoon by getting a generator to Fire Base Phoenix.

For now, 2nd Platoon is going to have to make due with what they have, said Army Pfc. Matthew Moreno, a paratrooper in 2nd Platoon.

2nd Platoon plans to stay in the area to help the Afghan people for the next 15 months until they are relieved by Coalition forces or the ANA.