By U.S. Army Spc. Luther L. Boothe Jr., Task Force Currahee Public Affairs Office, 4th Brigade Combat TeamNovember 10, 2010
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ORGUN-E, Afghanistan - The autumn air was cold during the early morning hours as more than 250 U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers, each with more than 120 pounds of equipment on their backs, awaited the helicopters for their air assault into an area known for harbouring anti-coalition militants.
Soldiers from Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, successfully conducted a combined air assault into the Charbaran Valley Oct. 27-28.
The mission was to enter an area known to be occupied by the Taliban and to clear the enemy from the area, ultimately disrupting their freedom of movement.
"It is not a suspicion that (Charbaran Valley) is a Taliban-controlled area - it is known," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Aaron A. Taylor, 3rd Platoon leader, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team and a native of Tecumseh, Mo. "Every time other companies have patrolled through the area they have made contact with the enemy. The area is a known staging area for them.
"We were essentially doing a clearing operation," said Taylor. "We push through the objective, get security, and then conduct a deliberate search to look for things like (improvised explosive devices), weapons caches or any other (intelligence)."
The Currahees faced many challenges on the air assault. Working with any group for the first time can be challenging, said Taylor.
"It is that much more difficult when working with the ANA because of the language barrier," said Taylor. The mission also had many moving parts and was the most complex the TF has done since arriving in Afghanistan.
"We had an air assault, a combined force, multiple (landing zones), several different movements; and it all had to come together in the end," said Taylor.
The Afghan terrain was another obstacle the units found themselves up against.
"In this terrain, route selection is essential in the planning phase," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Bartley C. Cardwell, 3rd Plt. platoon sergeant, E Co., 2-506th Inf. Reg., 4th BCT, and a native of Pineville, La. "A lot of times when you get out there, the terrain is different than what you see on the map."
Cardwell also explained how traveling through mountains made the trip seem longer than it was.
The air assault allowed the Soldiers from Company E to spend valuable time with their ANA counterparts and to use that time as a training opportunity.
"A big part of the counterinsurgency process is to give the ANA ownership of the fight," said Taylor. "We want to show the people that the government of Afghanistan and their military is legitimate, and they are out there working for their own people."
ANA soldiers were paired up with U.S. Soldiers equivalent to their rank, which allowed ANA soldiers to shadow and learn from their U.S. counterparts.
"The majority of (the ANA) that we work with are eager to learn from us," said Cardwell.
"We make them the primary when searching and clearing houses because it gives them the training and it lets the local populace know they are here to help," said U.S. Army Spc. Anthony C. Stegmeier, an infantryman and Alpha Team leader with 3rd Squad, 3rd Plt., Co E., 2-506th Inf. Reg., 4th BCT.
After 24 hours and covering more than 7 kilometers of terrain, the air assault was complete, and the soldiers had successfully met the mission's goals.
"As long as you accomplish your objectives and we get everyone back home safely without getting hurt, then I would say that it was definitely a successful mission," said Taylor.
"I have been extremely proud of the platoon since day one of the deployment," said Cardwell. "Since we got here, (everyone) has done an overwhelmingly good job."