PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (July 14, 2010) - A National Guard cavalry unit from Vermont conducted an air assault and captured an important insurgent leader in a mountain cave in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, June 30.

"Two platoons of Troop A Soldiers used vehicles to cordon the area where the insurgent leader was suspected, and another platoon inserted into the area by helicopter to conduct the assault," said Capt. James J. Armstrong, commander of Troop A, 1-172nd Cavalry Squadron.

The Soldiers tracked the target north as he fled from the village and into the mountainous area.

The assault platoon pursued the target for about two and half kilometers into the mountains. At about 7,400 feet, two Soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class Todd E. Gagnon of New Hampshire and Spc. Chaz S. Shepard of Vermont spotted the target in a small cave where he was apprehended.

"We trained to deal with the mountainous terrain and rehearsed pursuit and capture scenarios, so we were prepared to track him," said Armstrong, a resident of North Ferrisburg, Vt.

His cavalry unit is part of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain). This Vermont National Guard brigade, upon returning from Iraq, began a transformation in 2006 from a "heavy" armor brigade to light infantry. Joined by a battalion from the Massachusetts National Guard and another from Connecticut, the 86th IBCT trained at the Army's Mountain Warfare School in Vermont to transform into specialized mountain troops.

Gagnon, who was an instructor at the Army Mountain Warfare School at the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho, Vt., led the pursuit of the insurgent into the mountains.

"It was physically difficult tracking him up the mountains because of the incline and loose soil, but my adrenaline was pumping, so we just kept going," said Shepard, who is a gunner for Troop A. "I followed Sergeant Gagnon, who made it look easy to get up the mountain."

Once they found the insurgent in the cave, he was cooperative with Afghan and Coalition Forces as they took him into custody.

The insurgent was captured in Parwan Province in northern Afghanistan. This province is dominated by the Hindu Kush mountains and is located directly north of Kabul Province.

(Sgt. Charles P. Espie serves with Task Force Wolverine Public Affairs, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain). )