Theodore's World: Paratroopers Take Fight to Taliban

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September 09, 2007

Paratroopers Take Fight to Taliban

Maj. Christopher Milstead, attached to Task Force Bayonet, watches as a 500-pound bomb lands on a Taliban position after a small firefight during Operation Destined Strike in Chowkay Valley, Afghanistan

Paratroopers Take Fight to Taliban BY Sgt. Brandon Aird, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team

American Forces Press Service, Sept. 5, 2007) - The tense paratroopers and Afghan National Army soldiers sat in silence surrounded by darkness.

The previous hours were spent huddled together rehearsing the mission, "Destined Strike," which was to be an air-assault into the Taliban's backyard.

The whoop, whoop, whoop sound of the CH-47 "Chinook" helicopter's rotary wings reverberated in the Soldiers' ears drowning out all chance of another sound. Some of the Soldiers said last minute prayers while others day dreamed of loved ones back home. Squad leaders made last minute checks in the dark.

When the Chinook landed all thoughts came to the task at hand. The Soldiers jumped off the noisy helicopter onto a quiet, moon-lit mountain above the Chowkay Valley in Kunar province. The mountain is over 7,000 feet above sea level.

The Taliban's biggest advantage in past firefights has been their ability to dominate the high ground, but not this time.

Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team's 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment and elements of the Afghan National Army's 2nd Kandak, 201st Corps, conducted Operation Destined Strike Aug. 21-25. The U.S. Soldiers were members of the 2nd platoons of the 2nd Battalion's A, C and D companies.

"We came here to show the local populace that coalition forces aren't afraid to come into the Chowkay Valley," said 1st Lt. Kareem F. Hernandez, Company A, 2nd Platoon leader.

After the initial insertion, the Soldiers pulled security and waited for daybreak. During the night, they searched with night vision devices for 15 individuals spotted earlier near their position by an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Once dawn broke, the U.S. and Afghan Soldiers put their gear-laden rucksacks on, and broke trail down the mountain to the first farming village. The village and fields were hand cut out of the mountainside.

1st Lt. Hernandez said he was surprised at the reaction he received from the first villager he encountered.

"It was the first time in this country I had someone admit he knew who the Taliban were. He showed me where they had been coming through to attack us," 1st Lt. Hernandez said. "I've never had that happen before. They always act like they have no clue what I'm talking about."

1st Lt. Hernandez learned the Taliban in the area were from the Korengal Valley. The trip from the Korengal Valley to the Chowkay Valley takes the insurgents two to three hours, according the local villager.

As Company A's 2nd Platoon continued to the next village, rain started falling, along with bolts of lightning. During the ensuing storm, Taliban fighters attacked Company A's landing zone, which was now occupied by the company commander and an overwatch element.

"They took small arms-fire and two RPG's from the northwest," 1st Lt. Hernandez said.

In response, Soldiers fired small arms, 120mm mortars and 155mm artillery at the Taliban positions. The Soldiers called in for air support, and fighter jets dropped four 500-pound bombs on enemy positions, ending any plans the Taliban had to move the Soldiers from their position.

After the short firefight, 1st Lt. Hernandez's platoon and C Company's 2nd Platoon spent the next few days moving to their extraction point for pick up by a helicopter.

Posted by Wild Thing at September 9, 2007 12:47 AM


GREAT Article! So many have forgotten we have soldiers in Afghanistan standing on this dangerous line between the innocent struggling villagers, and the hardline Taliban who want to take back control of the country.
Thanks for remembering
Vicki In TN
SkySoldier Mom

Posted by: Vicki at September 9, 2007 07:05 AM

Hi Vicki, thanks, your so right about our awesome troops.

I always try to find things on our troops in Afghanistan. There is a lot out there on Iran but Afghanistan is a little harder to find.

Thank you again so much for commenting.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 9, 2007 12:21 PM

The 173rd Airborne Brigade was a hot shot unit in Vietnam. Now I am glad to see it operating in Afghanistan. The 173rd also made a jump into Northern Iraq to support Special Forces and Kurds during the initial Iraq invasion.

Thank you and your SkySoldier Vicki.

Posted by: TomR at September 9, 2007 01:38 PM

Tom thank you soooo much for sharing about thew 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 10, 2007 02:45 AM