Friday, August 10, 2007

KABOOM: Countering IED attacks

27 July 07
By Spc. Mathew Leary
4th BCT PAO.

Hearing the explosion just around the corner from his vehicle July 15, Army Sgt. Felix W. Bala knew that some of his fellow Paratroopers had just been hit by an improvised explosive device.

"We were cruising along about to make a turn when all you could hear was the explosion," Bala said.

Commanding his driver to quickly take the next turn so they could help their presumably injured comrades, Bala’s truck executed a sharp left turn and pulled up near the damaged HMMWV. By this point, the other vehicles in his platoon had formed a wide perimeter around the blast area. As their truck rolled to a stop, the Soldiers were relieved as they looked back at the truck in question, Bala said.

"By that time, the guys in the truck were getting out of the vehicle under their own power," he said. While this IED attack involved Bala and Paratroopers of 1st Platoon, Troop A, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, it is a reminder that for all U.S. servicemembers serving in Afghanistan, the fight against IEDs is critical.

"The way to cut down on IEDs is to build the relationship between local citizens, the Afghan National Security Force and the [Islamic Republic of Afghanistan]," said Army 1st Lt. Briton M. Crouch, 1st Plt. leader for Troop A, 4-73rd Cav. For this reason, the Paratroopers of the 4-73rd Cav. are headed back to the town of Hassan in Gelan district, the village where an IED went off under one of the trucks, the day after the attack.

IED-DAY Minus 1.

Leaders from the 4-73rd Cav. are determined to pursue all leads relevant to the IED attack on Troop A just the day prior to July 16. The return trip to the village is designed to achieve one simple goal--stop further IED attacks. "We are doing a follow-up in the area to garner more support," said Army Capt. George E. Bolton Jr., commander of Troop A. "You have to work with the people so they will prevent [IED attacks] from happening."

As troopers from the 4-73rd Cav. arrive in town, a handful of local villagers begin to fill the streets to see what is going on. After a few minutes, more and more locals enter and begin approaching and talking to the Soldiers, although often neither party can understand the other due to the language barrier. Although not all the conversations can be translated, fortunately there are interpreters with Troop A to facilitate some communication, the fact any talking is taking place is a good sign, Bolton said.

"They showed up and that’s the first step," he said. A group of village elders, who are the authoritative figure for Hassan, gather together with ISAF to hold an impromptu shura, a sort of town meeting in Afghanistan.

Speaking with Bolton and Army Lt. Col. David J. Woods, commander of the 4-73rd Cav., the locals speak their minds about the conditions in their town. They address the security situation and lack of ANSF forces in the area.

One of the problems facing the developing ANSF in the past is they have not had the capabilities to visit all of the villages in their area. However, as they grow and mature, they are slowly extending their hold over areas of Afghanistan that have been void of any law enforcement for several months, Woods said.

"They told me the Taliban comes in at night driving through the village to harass and intimidate the people," Crouch said.

IED-DAY Minus 2.

The Paratroopers are preparing to head back to Hassan to again engage the local populace, but this time with the aid of ANSF and District Commissioner Mubaballah, who is the head of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Gelan.

"This is where we assist the ANSF in their mission," Bolton said. Mubaballah and ANSF soldiers independently wanted to visit the town, but with their police and military forces spread out on other missions they lacked the resources to travel there. So they teamed up with ISAF to make the trip.

"That’s part of our role here, to allow the establishment of their government in their own country," Woods said. "That’s our job, that’s our purpose."

ISAF support ANSF by providing the police force the extra manpower to cover most of the district and provides training to the ANP and ANA, showing them standard military techniques and strategies, Woods said. Really, this is the best way to curb IED attacks that injure not only military forces but Afghan civilians as well. Developing a congenial relationship between the people, IRoA and ISAF are the key, Woods said.

At this shura, ISAF personnel take a back seat as the district commissioner engages the village elders, again encouraging them to work with ANSF and government officials. "When a police chief or government official comes down to see them, it makes the people feel like they are loved and cared for," Bolton said. The results are evident as the townspeople speak freely about their need for new roads and schools, as well as the threat of Taliban insurgents who plant IEDs on their roadways.

"The whole thing is for us to separate the Taliban from the people," Bolton said. "These people are afraid of the insurgency and unsure of their government," Woods said. "But that’s why we are here, to help them establish those relationships, and show them that the ANSF and [IRoA] are going to give them that sense of security."

"By providing that link between the people and their government, while simultaneously distancing the insurgency from the people is exactly the way to slow down the emplacement of IEDs in these remote towns and villages," Woods said.

It is evident some form of bonding is taking place as children run up to Soldiers tugging on their sleeves playfully and the villagers and troopers exchange waves and smiles.

Perhaps that will prevent more Soldiers from cruising along and suddenly hearing that sound no Soldier wants to hear:

KABOOM!

Photo - Communicating through means other than talking, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew S. Parrish, mortar platoon sergeant for Troop A, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, demonstrates the art of "high-fiving" to a group of Afghan kids July 16 while visiting Hassan village in the Gelan District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Photo by Spc. Matthew Leary.

Source: Originally from CENTCOM, but I cannot find the link. Our source today is from Asymmetric Military.

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