Jace Walden, a good friend of mine currently serving in Afghanistan, sent this along for me to post here in it’s entirety. Some of you may remember Jace, he contributed at Peach Pundit awhile back. He tells me he has less than a month left on his deployment.
A platoon of Soldiers from Milledgeville, Ga., partnered with a section of Afghan national police, to conduct a dismounted patrol through the remote village of Lagawat, in southern Deh-Yak District. It is late in the afternoon, and the platoon is reconsolidating after a two-hour firefight in which three insurgent fighters were killed and a member of the ANP section severely wounded. Welcome to Ghazni province.
Company D, Task Force 1-121, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team has been responsible for all ANP combined action operations throughout Ghazni. Headquartered at Forward Operating Base Vulcan, the Soldiers of Delta Company push out across the province to coach, train and mentor police at four district centers and more than 50 outposts plus an Afghan national army Kandak at Band-e-Sardeh. “We’re completely overextended”, said Capt. William Broach, commander, Company D. Each platoon at FOB Vulcan is partnered with two large ANP districts, both of which have myriad issues, needs and problems. The platoon at Combat Outpost Band-e-Sardeh is responsible for mentoring and conducting operations with an entire ANA combat support Kandak. Previous units in Ghazni had the luxury of assigning one team per district.
The sun is setting over Lagawat, and Company D, 2nd Platoon has completed its reconsolidation. They have an hour to get back to base before the dining facility closes. It is likely the Soldiers will miss dinner. Because of the firefight, weapons maintenance will take up the largest part of the Soldiers’ evening, and the platoon leader still has to deliver his operations order for the next day’s mission. “These Soldiers have been conducting non-stop operations for eight months”, said 1st. Lt. Dermot Gavin, the platoon leader and New York native. “Every time we push the ANP into these remote villages, we get hit.”
Since arriving in late May, the company has attempted to transform the Ghazni ANP. Typically, the ANP patrolmen are a reactionary force. They pull security at their outposts and district centers, react only after an incident has occurred, and rarely interact with the local populace. The Soldiers of Company D have pushed hard to change that mentality. Over the course of the deployment, Company D platoons have escorted the ANP into some of the most remote villages in Afghanistan. Each time, they have been met with fierce resistance from enemy fighters, resulting in over fifty direct fire engagements.
Ghazni is one of the most volatile provinces in Afghanistan. For a province its size, its Afghan national security forces footprint is small. The Afghan national army brigade is undermanned, as one entire infantry kandak was tasked as the 203rd Corps Reserve in Gardez. The Provincial Police chief only oversees six districts that are undergoing the Focused District Development program. The remaining eleven districts are undermanned, under-equipped and void of any mentor presence. And Company D is the only traditional U.S. maneuver element in Ghazni province.
“We are the only maneuver element completely partnered with ANSF conducting combined action operations in Ghazni province,” said Broach.
It is closing in on midnight back at FOB Vulcan. Army 1st. Lt. Gavin just finished briefing his fragmentary order for the next day’s operations. Tomorrow, the platoon will conduct combined action patrols in Andar District, a district just as hostile as Deh-Yak, with a completely different set of problems. The Soldiers are tired, both physically and mentally. And for the next couple of days, their exhaustion will see no relief. It’s more of the same for second platoon, back to back missions, and back to back days engaging the enemy.
Even when the platoons rotate to security forces duties, the operational tempo barely slows down. “These guys come off a week of daily missions, getting maybe four hours of sleep each night and move directly into FOB security. They rotate through four-hour gate guard shifts, kitchen patrol, SPAWAR room attendant, and vehicle maintenance. They receive very little actual down time,” said 1st Sgt. Thomas Grisham, first sergeant, Company D. In addition to the extensive combined action role, Company D is also responsible for the life-support functions of FOB Vulcan and COP Band-e-Sardeh. The FOB is home to over 100 American Soldiers, 75 Polish soldiers, and more than 20 interpreters.
“We have to cook three meals a day for over 200 people. We have to conduct thorough maintenance on 22 MRAP Cougars out of a single maintenance tent and two general mechanics tool boxes. We do the contracting for FOB Vulcan and COP Band-e-Sardeh. The logistics of this FOB place a significant burden on the company staff members who also have mentoring roles with the Provincial ANP,” Grisham stated.
The sun has not yet risen, but the Soldiers of second platoon are at their trucks ready to roll out to another remote village in another remote district. Other than the typical Soldier grumbles about the cold weather, or the early wakeup, there is hardly a negative phrase uttered. What you hear, perhaps not explicitly, is the sense of pride the Soldiers have in successfully taking on the most difficult mission of the 48th IBCT. You can see it written on their faces. You can hear the confidence in their voices. “We’ve had the hardest mission since we were brought together before mobilization. It only makes sense that they would assign us to the hardest mission here too. I guess if you want something done right, you send us,” said Sgt. Michael Turner, a Duluth, Ga., native and gunner with 2nd Platoon.
It is the sense of righteous indignation and perseverance that has fostered Company D’s resounding success during the deployment—a completely fitting motivation for a company whose call sign is “Defiance”.