Troops In Contact -Commandos, SF take fight to the Taliban

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http://news.soc.mil/releases/News Archive/2008/November/0811013-03.html

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Courtesy of CJSOTF-A Public Affairs, Nov. 13, 2008) – The frigid wind generated by the spinning blades of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter as it sat, waiting to depart felt like a fierce blizzard to the Afghan Commandos of 3rd CO. 205th Commando Kandak and U.S. Special Forces Soldiers sitting inside its cargo area. All the freezing warriors could do was patiently wait as the pilots went through their pre-flight checks and inspections.

The cold slowly dissipated as the Afghan sun gave them the day’s first rays of light as it slowly rose over the mountainous horizon, revealing pastel colored clouds and a warm, orange morning sky.

If it wasn’t for the ballistic helmets, bullet proof vests and weapons, one would have thought the Commandos on board were about to take off for a sightseeing tour of Afghanistan’s dramatic landscape by the way they looked at the picture perfect scenery. But you don’t take tools of battle on sightseeing excursions. The Commandos on that helicopter had a much less leisurely purpose.

The purpose of their mission was to conduct an air assault into a village in the Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province, where reports showed an area saturated with Taliban activity, to search the enemy out and clear every compound in the village in a search for illegal weapons, explosives and Taliban documents, said a Special Forces detachment commander.

When the Chinook finally lifted off the ground and took the Soldiers away from the relative safety of Kandahar Airfield and into the heart of southern Afghanistan’s desolate desert, soldiers on board peered out of the portals of the helicopter to take a look at jagged, barren mountains and deep canyons carved by thousands of years of erosion.

The flight crew held up two fingers, indicating to the troops on board they were merely two minutes away from landing on the outskirts of the village. There was no more time to absorb nature’s beauty. Their focus was solely on the task at hand. One could tell by their calm and composed demeanor that this was something they had done before. It was just business as usual to the battle hardened Commando and Special Forces warriors.

The flight crew held up one finger, 60 seconds away from the objective.

The bird landed and the troops sprinted off the helicopter, all taking a kneeling position and setting up a security perimeter at the rear of the Chinook. Once everyone was off of the aircraft, it lifted off the ground, kicking up a mess of pebbles and sand that pelted the troops.

With the aircraft gone, they formed a tactical movement formation and maneuvered into position with other elements of their team to begin searching the compounds at the edge of the village.

Commandos alongside their Special Forces mentors began the slow, dangerous task of searching a village compound, one house and one room at a time. They would enter the compounds filled with goats, chickens, farm equipment and families and search every nook and cranny for anything the terrorists use for their operations.

Though the soldiers were unexpected visitors, many villagers welcomed the troops inside their homes. They unlocked doors and showed them each and every room. The also proudly showed off their families. Some went as far as to invite the troops to sit down and enjoy some tea, but there was no time, too many compounds still left to be cleared and contraband to be found.

“The Commandos are real cognizant to how people perceive them,” said a Special Forces medic and Commando mentor. “They are aggressive and tactful at the same time. They tell the people ‘We’re here fighting for you.’”

Other soldiers found something a little different from a kind, warm welcome.

“During the search of the compounds, we discovered and burned 300 lbs of marijuana, 30-kilograms of hashish and about 50 marijuana plants, all of which the Commandos took outside and burned,” the detachment commander said. “We also found some Taliban documentation.”

With flames and smoke shooting upwards into the sky, the soldiers began to move to another section of the village. Initial reports showed the insurgents were planning an ambush and were ready for a fight. As the troops slowly made their way to enemy’s location one compound at a time, the Taliban lost their nerve and ran, opting to abandon their fighting position and attempting to hide in crevices in nearby mountains.

For a short time, it looked like as if there would be no fighting for the day with the enemies of peace escaping into the nearby mountains. However, one observant soldier saw and positively indentified an insurgent reconnaissance element reporting on Commando movement. Troops who had already established a mortar position began to bombard the enemy’s position in an attempt to not only eliminate them but to also mark their general location for incoming helicopters. When the Apaches arrived, they positively identified the enemy and released a barrage of missiles on their remote mountainside position.

Despite all the sights and sounds of a skirmish happening on the outskirts of their village, locals nonchalantly sat against mud walls and waited for the engagement to be over so they could go back to their daily routine.

While villagers waited for the skirmish to end, armed Taliban on another ridgeline were spotted. Commandos launched their mortars at the ridgeline to once again mark the enemy’s location and Apache helicopters unleashed another storm of missiles on the enemy.

With three enemy fighters eliminated, it was time to be airlifted back to home base. All of the Commando’s and their Special Forces mentors gathered at an over-watch position and marked landing zones for the helicopters. As the air became a haze of desert sand and dust, the helicopters landed at the designated location and troops piled in and were flown back to their base after a job well done.

They had accomplished the mission of searching an entire village and taking the fight to the enemy, but it’s the Commandos who took the most away from the mission.

“The mission was very interesting to me,” said an infantry team leader with 3rd. Co., 205th Commando Kandak. “We went through green zones. We knew which helicopters were landing where. We cleared a lot of compounds. We did a good job.”

“This battalion of Commandos has been active for about one year now,” said the assistant detachment commander. “They’ve been fighting for about nine months and have proven themselves. They did a good job this mission, and they just keep getting better and better.”

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Afghan Commandos and Special Forces soldiers walk away from a village where they searched and cleared every compound where they found hundreds of kilograms of drugs and Taliban documentation in a village in the Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province Nov. 5. (Photo by Sgt. Michael J. Nyeste)
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Afghan Commandos provide security from a fortified fighting position that overlooks a village Special Forces and Commandos fought and killed at least three inurgents in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province Nov. 5. (Photo by Sgt. Michael J. Nyeste)
 
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