Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sky Soldiers air-assault onto clouds of Nuristan

8 Aug 07
By Army Sgt. Brandon Aird
173rd ABCT Public Affairs.

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Sailing through the clouds Soldiers from the Afghan National Army and Task Force Saber air-assaulted onto landing zone Shetland July 19 during Operation Saray Has.

The LZ was located in a large meadow near the top of a mountain in here. Local Afghans use the area as a grazing pasture for livestock, while Taliban extremists often use it to stage attacks against TF Saber.

The spot the Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and the Afghan 3rd Kandak, 201st Corps landed on was roughly 10,000 feet above sea level. The air-assault was part of a reconnaissance mission to determine the point of origin for rockets, which were fired at Forward Operating Base Naray that injured several Soldiers a few weeks prior.

"We came up here to confirm or deny enemy-use of the hilltop," said Army 1st Lt. Chris Richelderfer, HHT executive officer. "Seven Soldiers were injured from that attack," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Pedraza, command sergeant major of TF Saber.

After air-assaulting onto the mountain, a patrol was dispatched to an adjacent mountain to scout out the terrain and possible enemy positions. The rest of the Soldiers secured the area while Army Capt. Nathan Springer, HHT commander, along with the Naray district Sub-Gov. SamShu Rochman spoke with the local populace. "I wanted the local government to have the lead when talking with the locals," said Springer.

Rochman spoke with civilians from the villages of Badermashal and Cherigal about security in the area. While Rochman and Springer were speaking with villagers, wood smugglers accidentally walked their donkeys carrying stolen wood into the meadow.

"The wood on the donkeys had been stolen from the Naray lumber yard two days before our mission," said Springer. Rochman was adamant about bringing the wood smugglers to justice. The wood smugglers were brought off the mountain, back to Naray to face prosecution.

Operation Saray Has was more productive than both Springer and Rochman had planned. "It validated the need to conduct future operations in the area to deny [Taliban extremist] that terrain," said Springer.

Photo - Army Capt. Nathan Springer, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop Commander, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, looks up the mountain July 19 while on patrol during Operation Saray Has. During Operation Saray Has, two rocket positions were found that had been previously used to attack Forward Operating Base Naray. Photo by Sgt. Brandon Aird.

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