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.