Bad ideas make for good photos! On the pick up next to the Afghan police gunner (Photo: Heimken)
Our embed with Alpha Company 2-28 in Sar Howza ended with a highlight. On Friday afternoon we found ourselves riding a green Afghan police Ford pickup truck with one of the most respected – and probably feared – mujahedeen of Eastern Afghanistan.
In the early afternoon a convoy of MRAPs left the base in Sar Howza heading down the main road to Orgun. I for the first time was riding in the armoured lorry the soldier’s call a LMTV. It’s more spacious and you have a much better sight out the windows than sitting in an MRAP. The downside is: you have much less protection against IEDs or RPGs.
Our mission was to deliver a metal dam gate to a remote village to the southeast of Sar Howza called Shatowry, not that far from Paktika’s biggest city Orgun. The unit that had been manning the COP Sar Howza before 2-28 took over in July got into a heavy fire fight with insurgents when they attempted to do the same in June.
Welcome to Shangri-La
An elder walks through an orchard in the village of Shatowry, home of mullah Tuti. We actually were given some apples. They were tasty (Photo: Heimken)
The deserted compound of a girls school in Sar Howza (Photo: Heimken)
After we went on patrol to the bazaar on the outskirts of Sar Howza on Monday, 3rd Platoon took us out to what used to be a girls school today. We got the usual briefing by the mortar pit before leaving. The school is infamous for having Taliban graffiti sprawled over the inside.
Apart from being told to watch out for IEDs by the graveyard the guys were warned by Lieutenant Wood and Staff Sergeant Nuñez not to get pissed off if the kids started pelting them with rocks again.
If the Afghan police who were to join the parade started firing in the air to scare off the youngsters, then so be it. This was there country. The soldiers were told not to hand out any presents. It hadn’t worked out last time, added Wood.
Specialist Gloria from Michigan looking out towards One Tree Hill near the village of Gulridin (Foto: Loesche)
Today, we went out on a mission for the first time since we got here. Lieutenant Chad Christian, 24, from Alabama took us with him in his MRAP to see for ourselves what Captain Perkins and his two platoons had accomplished on a previous five day mission.
A convoy of MRAPs and some Afghan National Police vehicles drove down the asphalted street to Gulridin where a check point by the street and two observation posts high above up in the hills had been set up.
Half way we stopped.
Suddenly the gunner in the turret fired a volley of shots from his machine gun. Empty cartridges tumbled into the air conditioned armoured truck. Shots were going off in front and behind us. The Police had dismounted from their pickup trucks and shot their AKs.
It was a test firing exercise, shortly before we reached the end of the asphalted road. Perkins told me yesterday: “The insurgency starts where the asphalted road ends”. Todsay’s mission was to further fortify the check point to be manned by the ANP – to build a shelter for the police.
While some of the guys started unloading building materials from the cargo truck Axel and I followed Lieutenant Christian up the hill. On the way, we met Staff Sergeant Neal Nuñez, 33, from Los Angeles of 3rd platoon 2-28.