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Friends in high places: Company D checks on ANA observation posts

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Soldiers from 3rd Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, climbed up a mountain in the area around the Aziz Khan Kats Mountain Valley near the Duranta Tunnel outside Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to check on their Afghan National Army counterparts who were manning observation posts there April 15.

Three months ago this was a “pretty hot area,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. William Hayes, the 3rd platoon, a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, leader. At that time, there were frequent attacks against the ANA, as well as some small-arms fire directed at U.S. forces.

Since the ANA soldiers with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 201st Infantry Corps, started manning some observation posts in the area around the clock, attacks have ceased.

“There hasn’t been an attack in the three months since then,” Hayes said. “There used to be one at least every couple weeks. The OPs have definitely brought stability to the area.”

The platoon knows the ANA soldiers well, as they have conducted missions with them for the last three months. The most was an eight-day air assault known as Operation Bull Whip, which took place in the nearby Galuch Mountain Valley.

Hayes and his men found the ANA watching the surrounding area, cooking some food and talking. He asked if the soldiers had any security concerns or had seen any enemy activity. The ANA soldiers said, they had not and things had been pretty quiet lately.

When asked if the soldiers had any other concerns, they remarked that they could use some cots, as they had found a lot of snakes in the area lately.

“Does your company commander know about this?” Hayes asked the soldiers. “I’ll see if he’s tried to do anything. We’ll try to work with your leadership to work these supply issues.”

The U.S. soldiers then walked to the other checkpoints to check on the ANA soldiers there.

The meeting was briefly interrupted by the sound of machine gunfire over the nearest ridge. The soldiers instantly reacted, taking cover and scanning their sectors. The gunfire sounded as if it had come from one of the CH-47 Chinook helicopters flying through the nearest valley, which was actually part of another unit’s area of operations. The soldiers remained vigilant for several minutes while the platoon attempted to contact the other unit. There was no other activity and the soldiers eventually continued on with their mission.

The platoon gave each group of ANA soldiers, at a post, a small transistor radio to listen to, before leaving the OPs.

“Now you can have your dance party,” Hayes said as he handed a smiling soldier one of the radios.

The soldiers will stay at the OPs for long periods of time, and the radios will help their morale while they kept the area security, Hayes said.

The platoon’s area of operation is unique because it includes Highway 7, the main highway in Afghanistan which runs from Kabul to Jalalabad.

U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Colsch, who patrolled the mountain valley since the unit arrived in late October, said he has seen the infrastructure of the area grow just by watching this highway and the stretches of markets and villages that are cropping up along it.

“We can see a lot more people coming through,” Colsch said. “It’s a bigger picture of what’s going on in the country by just watching the road.”

“The main thing we see is the change in technology.” continued Colsch. “Like when we got here, there were not telephone poles, no wires or any of that. They have electricity now. There’s been a lot of progress just in the time we’ve been here.”

“I’d say there’s a lot [of infrastructure],” U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Hosch, 3rd platoon’s platoon sergeant from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, added. “There’s the power lines and there’s areas where there was nothing and now there’s a lot of families moving back from Pakistan. They’re paving the roads off of Highway 7, too, the AO itself has changed a lot just in the time we’ve been here.”

The highlight of the day’s patrol, they said, was - by far - a couple of puppies the soldiers found at one of the OPs. Dogs are one of the least-respected animals in Afghanistan, and are often viewed as pests, definitely not pets. These puppies, however, were obviously fed and cared for.

“These guys up here take care of these dogs, because they’re really good scout dogs,“ Hayes said. “They’ll bark, at night, if anyone comes around these posts.”

For the soldiers of 3rd Platoon, the puppies provided a simple pleasure during a typical mission in Afghanistan.

Article by Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson, Combined Joint Task Force 101