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)
We spent two days under so called blackout conditions. The armed forces have a strict policy of shutting down all means of communication, from collecting mobile phones to capping the internet connection. They want family members to be informed about any killed relative by an official source, instead of rumors being spread.
We only got sketchy information about one service member being killed in Paktika late on Saturday. I haven’t been able to confirm any such news on the internet after it came back on this morning.
Saturday night fireworks, bring ya ear plugs! (Photo: Heimken)
On Saturday night we were standing right next to the mortar pit when they were firing illumination rounds out of their 120 Millimeter tube, lighting up the three Kilometre corridor between the base and the town of Sar Howsa. They shot at least ten rounds into the night sky – for show of force more than anything.
The assistant gunner steps to the mortar. The NCO tells him to “hang it” and the gunner will place the round into the tubes opening. After he’s commanded to fire, he simply lets the round drop into the tube. Where the rounds initial charge explodes and the grenade is violently propelled into sky. The loud explosion makes the area the pit tremble.
The illumination rounds break into half over the destined area. The part with the phosphorus substance glides to the ground on a parachute. They changed the direction of fire slightly once. Axel took some awesome pictures of the live firin exercise.
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.
Dinner at the police chief"s compound (Photo: Heimken)
“I’m so full, I can’t breathe when sitting down“. That was my commentary after our first adventure outside the wire.
I had just finished my last blog entry when Axel turned up behind me at the computer booth with a piece of news: He had talked to Captain Perkins and we were invited to join him and two of his lieutenants for a meal with the local police chief in an hours time!
The problem was that we only just had dinner. Two man size burritos with loads of meat and sauce and rice. My first thought was that I couldn’t possibly go have a meal with Afghan dignitaries with the imminent danger of throwing up.
I went back to our hut and lay down to digest the burritos and prepare for some goats meat. Continue reading →