Sunday, August 12, 2007

Chuck Norris, Mr. T keeps Dangam safe

31 July 07
By Sgt. Brandon Aird
173rd ABCT Public Affairs.

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team spent July 22-28 in Dangam district in Kunar province near the Pakistan border. The area is surrounded by lush farms that thrive from a stream flowing through the valley.

The Soldiers are from Red Platoon, Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), and they were in the area to help fortify the position of an Afghan National Police station and also to establish and reinforce observations posts with the Afghan National Army on nearby hilltops.

The OPs help monitor and stop Taliban extremist movement in the area. Red Platoon named the OPs after one Soldier’s mom, another’s daughter, Sandra and Haden respectively and famous TV stars:, Chuck Norris and Mr. T. "We thought of the baddest dudes we knew," said Army Staff Sgt. David Benoit, a squad leader in Red Platoon. "Naming OPs like we do helps keep morale up."

Even though the atmosphere in Red Platoon is a little laid back, the Soldiers take their jobs seriously. From OPs Norris and Mr. T, the platoon observed cross-border activity, called for and adjusted indirect fires, and engaged the enemy with direct fire.

"Our mission was to establish a joint security station in the Dangam area with the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army," said Army 1st Lt. Jesus Rubio, Red Platoon leader. "We’re also out here to get situational awareness of the area and build friendships with the local leaders."

The district center of Dangam is a sign of progress for the local ANP. The center has a store, mosque, police station and a school for girls and boys. It also has computers and internet capabilities.

Red Platoon has built up the area around the ANP station to better safeguard against attacks from Taliban extremists. The district center fortifications are just a small piece of the mission. The observation posts that Red Platoon maintains also help build cohesion between the Soldiers and the local populace. "We met the new Afghan Border Patrol commander while we were out at Mr. T," said Benoit. "A local villager walked all the way up the mountain to tell us the whole valley was talking about us. Everyone was very excited we were up here, he told us."

Another benefit of establishing OPs throughout the valley is the intelligence that was gathered. "We observed the bad guys moving on the mountain," said Benoit. "We also got names of smugglers. We definitely laid the grounds for long-term relationships with the locals."

Red Platoon is in the initial phase of helping build up the district center. Future joint operations will continue for the next 14 months that Red Platoon will be in Afghanistan.

Numerous times at OPs and at the district center, the local village elders would invite the Soldiers over to their houses for food and tea. "The Afghans treated us like kings at Mr. Ts," said Benoit. "It was awesome."

Photo - Paratroopers from Red Platoon, Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), navigate to Observation Post Chuck Norris July 25 in Dangam, Kunar province. Photo by Sgt. Brandon Aird.

Source: Asymmetric Military.

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