By Sgt. Brandon Aird, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public AffairsSeptember 12, 2007
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Combined Joint Task Force 82, Sept. 13, 2007) - The farmers of Pachir Wa Agam District in southeast Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, have endured brutal conflict for the last 30 years. The district was a stronghold for the mujahedeen during their war with the Soviets and was heavily bombed during the initial phases of Operation Enduring Freedom. The area was also one of the last strongholds in Afghanistan for al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Now, paratroopers from 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, are trying to tame this area and bring prosperity to its people.
The district is a flourishing oasis created by farmers using a small river to irrigate the surrounding land. Fields of corn, cotton, wheat and other crops extend as far as the water can flow.
First platoon patrols the district three to seven days at a time, said Spc. Chad Andrews, 19, a mortar-man from Colombia, S.C. We work closely with Afghan National Police and village elders, he explained.
The platoon also provides security while the Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team and local leaders like Milik Khangul work with the government of Afghanistan to improve economic development in the area.
Mr. Khangul visited the platoon while they were camped for the night Sept. 7. They had just finished patrolling the roads for improvised explosive devices. He, along with a few village elders, walked up to the paratrooper's perimeter to talk about construction, mines and Taliban extremists. Mr. Khangul is working to build four bridges in the district to help locals traverse a small river.
Capt. Don Canterna, Company B's commander, talked with Mr. Khangul and village elders until dusk. The village elders' main concern is landmines, dating from the Soviet occupation, that continue to plague the area. Rival farmers, Mr. Khangul explained, are digging up old landmines to replant in rival fields in an attempt to kill off the competition. "Except, they're hurting more kids than farmers," explained a village elder.
Capt. Canterna told the group that his Soldiers would remove and destroy any landmines in the area. "All you have to do is tell us where they are," he said. After agreeing to pass the word around the village, the local elders and Mr. Khangul retired to their huts for the evening.
The next few days while 1st Platoon patrolled the roads, loud explosions could be heard, the result of an explosive ordnance disposal team using controlled detonations to destroy turned in explosives.