KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Mimsy is a military working dog with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, trained in personal protection and the detection of explosive devices and is currently serving in Kunar province, Afghanistan.
Military working dogs have been an indispensible asset for the armed forces since the first “K-9 Corps” began in 1942.
Since World War II, the U.S. Army has used thousands of these dogs, in numerous breeds, to serve as sentries, scouts, messengers and to detect mines according to the Military Working Dog Foundation.
As storied as the history of the military working dog is, U.S. Army Spc. Matt Kreutzer, a dog handler with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, would soon learn what the bond between a handler and a working dog is all about.
During a routine foot patrol on a cool spring morning in Kunar province, Afghanistan, Kreutzer and Mimsy were searching for Improved Explosive Devices along a clay wall as they worked their way back to the road.
“Mimsy was about 45 meters in front of me, near the corner of the wall that met the road,” said Kreutzer.
Kreutzer called Mimsy back to him to keep her in sight and to check around the corner of the wall before letting Mimsy continue her search.
As Kreutzer began working his way around the wall, he found himself face-to-nose with a feral dog.
“My first reaction was to push it away, thinking of Mimsy, but as I kicked at it to get it away, it lunged at me,” said Kreutzer.
Less than a year before, a U.S. Soldier died after being bitten by a rabid feral dog in Afghanistan, so Kreutzer’s concern was immediate and justified.
As the feral dog attacked, the bond between K-9 and handler became the only thing that mattered.
For the last eight months, Kreutzer and Mimsy had trained together, worked together, lived together, and survived together.
Today would be no different.
Mimsy saw that her handler was in danger and reacted to save him. “Mimsy intervened right when the local dog lunged at me,” said Kreutzer.
“Mimsy separated the other dog from me about 15 meters by biting it on the neck and dragging it,” recalls Kreutzer.
Kreutzer said it all happened in a split second, “I called Mimsy off the local dog and she came running back to me, but when she let go to run back to me, the local dog attempted to go after Mimsy.”
At this point, Kreutzer said he had no choice but to put the feral dog down in order to save Mimsy and himself from further attack.
Fortunately, neither Mimsy or Kreutzer were injured during the altercation, but Mimsy had come in contact with the blood of the feral dog so the team was flown to Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan and placed into quarantine.
Kreutzer said that the quarantine was just a precaution for the other military working dogs to ensure that the team didn’t contract anything from the feral dog.
Today, Kreutzer says that he and Mimsy are back on the job and that the event served to strengthen the bond between them.
Kreutzer said, “She really is a one of a kind dog.”
JALALABAD AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Soldiers from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division have been training diligently with a new artillery fuse at Forward Operating Base Joyce, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
The XM1156 Precision Guidance Kit fuse is a fuse with GPS capabilities that increases the accuracy of conventional High Explosive and Rocket-Assisted Projectile artillery rounds, according to U.S. Army 1st Lt. Anthony Jones, the platoon leader for 1st Platoon, Btry. A., and native to Ellsworth, Maine.
“It’s a new fuse,” said Jones. “It allows us, instead of us using an Excalibur round, to use a PGK fuse to help increase accuracy.”
Jones said this is the Battery’s first time handling the fuse and they are being trained by a Military Transition Team.
“We did some training prior to the MiTT team showing up here, but we didn’t actually have the fuse to train on,” said Jones. “Once they showed up – they’ve been here for three days now – we’ve trained pretty much all day the last three days.”
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Dellay, the PGK Net noncommissioned officer in charge from the Fires Center of Excellence out of Fort Sill, Okla., and native to St. Louis, Mo., said they have travelled to different FOBs training other units, with Joyce being the third FOB in Regional Command-East.”
“This FOB is great,” said Dellay. “The crews are well trained, the leadership’s got a good handle on the operation and it’s one of the best gun positions we’ve seen in Afghanistan.”
Dellay stated that although the fuse is still new, it is being netted in theatre under urgent material release this year.
“Basically what we’ve got are conventional rounds which have been less than appealing to the maneuver commanders because of their accuracy,” said Dellay.
“Then you’ve got the Excalibur round which is precision, pinpoint accurate,” continued Dellay. “PGK fills the gap in the middle. It gives us very good accuracy on our standard high-explosive rounds.”
Jones mentioned that throughout the deployment his platoon has been supporting the battlespace owners, the Afghan National Security Forces, and the Security Force Advisory and Assistance Teams by being ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“So anytime they leave the FOB and they need a fire mission, we’re the guys that provide that indirect fire,” Jones said.
The Soldiers fired six rounds with the fuse April 29, becoming the first unit in the Army to fire the XM1156 PGK in response to troops in contact.
“The trainers were still there when we shot this fuse for the first time in combat,” said Maj. Aaron Miller, the operations officer for 2-320th FAR.
Miller explained that having the trainers standing by, observing the fire mission, gave the crew a boost of confidence while using the PGK fuse for the first time to support Soldiers on the ground.
The mission required the artillery battery to support ground maneuver units who were being fired upon by small arms and rocket propelled grenades from a ridgeline overlooking their position.
Miller said that firing on a ridgeline is a difficult shot, “It’s like splitting a pea with a razor blade, and this round has the ability to split this pea.”
“The feedback from the observers was that we hit exactly where we wanted,” said Miller.
Besides increasing accuracy, the round is also significantly safer for Soldiers, civilians, and property.
Miller says that one of the safety mechanisms in the PGK fuse is that it will render itself inert if it is off target.
“The PGK fuse makes standard munitions ten times safer, gives maneuver guys more confidence to call for fire and reduces the risk to civilians persons and property,” said Miller.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE TORKHAM, Afghanistan – The Khyber Pass, one of the most well-known portions of the historic Silk Road trade route though South and Central Asia, has been of military commercial significance for centuries.
Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and others like them depended on the pass during their campaigns.
The pass cuts through the jagged Spin Ghar mountain range and runs from northwest Pakistan into southeast Afghanistan.
While the pass boasts no Mongol hordes today, its relevance has never gone out of style. Roughly two-thirds of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product comes from trade conducted along this route.
Torkham Gate, a customs and border patrol station on the Afghan side of the Khyber Pass, regulates traffic flow between the two countries.
While Coalition Forces, along with U.S. military contingents continue to offer mentorship and assistance as needed, the Torkham customs checkpoint is almost entirely in Afghan hands.
Given the gate’s importance to the country’s economic welfare, the fact that Torkham is run by local professionals is not insignificant with the 2014 U.S. drawdown looming.
“Not much will change when we leave,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Redd, 1st squad leader, 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, of Spartanburg, S.C. “It’ll probably stay business as usual.”
Redd’s platoon provides security for advisory groups that instruct and mentor Afghan forces at the border.
“These guys work hand-in-hand with the border patrol, the customs and the baggage scan guys to make sure they’re doing their job right,” he said.
High-end baggage and vehicle scanning technology, coupled with the attentiveness of the customs agents, not only protects legitimate trade as it comes through the gate, but also squelches attempts at racketeering and smuggling.
For instance, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Carl Lawler, 2nd Platoon’s platoon sergeant, described a scam the customs agents exposed, April 23.
To avoid paying import taxes on a load of costume jewelry, smugglers hid the goods in a family vehicle, Lawler said. When security forces confronted the passengers about the cargo, the passengers claimed the goods weren’t theirs.
While this incident revolved around a relatively innocuous tax-evasion scam, Lawler said, these same detection methods are used to thwart the smuggling of weapons and HME, an illegal fertilizer often used in improvised explosives.
Some systems are well in place; others, however, are still a work in progress.
According to U.S. Army 1st Lt. Brian Slamkowski, integration detachment platoon leader, 2nd Platoon, of Colorado Springs, Colo., hiccups occur when a new process goes into effect, particularly when it requires adjustments from both security personnel and travelers alike. He cited the example of a recently redesigned foot traffic path through the customs checkpoint and the border patrol’s reaction to it.
“I think they’re figuring out with the lack of signage and the lack of some resources down there that the people who’ve done the same thing for years are just having to learn a new system,” he said.
Though the gate is mostly in local hands, round-table type discussions continue between Afghan and Coalition Forces.
“Afghans are wanting to use the Coalition Forces’ assistance and our knowledge to help them along,” Slamkowski said. “They want to use us and our expertise before we leave.”
Collaboration continues between local and Coalition Forces at leadership levels. Soldiers provide manpower assistance, such as those in 2nd Platoon, who serve in a security capacity.
One of these Soldiers is U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Tyler Bean, an infantryman with 2nd Platoon from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. In his role as an M249 squad automatic weapon gunner, Bean provides direct security for personnel.
Bean said he is confident that passing his job on to a local guy won’t be an issue.
“Overall, they seem to be taking charge of what needs to be done,” Bean said.
So with U.S. military support at Torkham mostly hovering in the background at present, the eventual changeover will hardly cause a ripple.
ASADABAD, Afghanistan – Soldiers from Provincial Reconstruction Team Kunar and various elements of Combined Team Bastogne conducted a team-building exercise Jan. 24 with a hike up “Bull Run,” an observation post, or OP, near Camp Wright and Asadabad, the capital city of Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
Originally constructed by the Soviets in order to protect Camp Wright in the heat of battle, OP Bull Run is situated 4,200 feet above sea level and approximate 1,600 feet above Camp Wright.
Today, soldiers from the Afghan National Army provide the overwatch and security from OP Bull Run for the Soldiers, sailors and civilians living on Camp Wright.
Just after sunrise, Soldiers from PRT Kunar, CT Bastogne, Task Force Taskmaster, and various attached military organizations braved the chilly temperature and the treacherous terrain to begin the climb.
The PRT Kunar security force platoon leader, 1st Lt. Kevin Nichols, a native of Fairfax, Va., said the climb took the PRT and attached CT Bastogne elements approximately an hour to complete.
The team-building exercise allowed the Soldiers to not only train as a combined team in the unforgiving terrain of eastern Afghanistan, but also to interact with the various Soldiers of CT Bastogne.
The Soldiers of PRT Kunar and CT Bastogne anticipate climbing to OP Bull Run at least once a month as part of their physical fitness and team building program.
“This is a great opportunity for us to practice and learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of our team while simultaneously building team camaraderie,” said Nichols.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE JOYCE, Afghanistan – A U.S. Army Security Force Assistance and Advisory Team with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, recently met with local Afghan Border Police Jan. 28 at two ABP observation posts near Forward Operating Base Joyce in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
The team visiting the observation posts consisted of the 2/1 ABP SFAAT and the Scout Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1BCT, 101st Abn. Div.
“Today’s mission for our element was to secure the SFAAT team and the various OPs that we move to as they conducted a battlefield circulation in the Nawa Valley,” said 1st Lt. Jackson Wittkamper, the scout platoon leader for HHC, 2nd. Bn., 327th Inf. Rgt., and native of La Grange, Ill.
The two platoons convoyed to the OPs in the afternoon. Once there, they secured the road on opposite ends of the OPs and the dismounts made their way to greet their ABP counterparts.
“Basically this was an initial meeting,” said Wittkamper. “It was more of an introduction between the ABP commanders and the SFAAT.
“The SFAAT went around to talk with all the ABP policemen, and inspected their positions, talked with them about how often they get attacked and how they react and things they constructed to improve their positions.”
After talking with the ABP at the first OP, the Soldiers made their way across the street. The second site was located on top of a small mountain.
“Of the seven of us that actually dismounted for that one, everybody did real well,” said Sgt. Andrew Barnett, assistant team leader for Scout Platoon, HHC, 2nd Bn., 327th Inf., Rgt., and native to Lake Mary, Fla.
“As scouts we have to be physically fit and ready to do whatever they ask of us,” Barnett added. “Typically we tend to get the most difficult and most demanding stuff tasked on us. We kind of have to be a little above average.”
“Last deployment we had a lot of success doing co-ops with the ANA platoons that were attached to us,” said Barnett. “The progress that the units here have made, with the professionalism, their sense of duty -- they seem to be a lot more willing to do missions and a lot better trained.
“I was actually very impressed with them. The PL and I were commenting that the weapon systems were actually clean, they had a nice coat of oil on them. They weren’t covered in dust.”
“They seemed pretty disciplined,” said Wittkamper. “They were all in uniform, they appeared to be respectful of their officers, their weapons were very clean, especially their crew-serves.”
When they were done talking with the ABP at both OPs, the Soldiers climbed back into their vehicles to convoy back to FOB Joyce.
“I think it went really smooth,” said Wittkamper. “We had a pretty detailed plan, we did rehearsals well and when we actually got on ground everybody knew what their job was and what they had to do. So I think it was a successful mission.”
Barnett stated that he enjoyed working with the ABP and is looking forward to conducting more missions with them.
“Professionally speaking, it’s good to see the local forces being able to take that front seat and take that initiative, and we’re just there to support them,” Barnett said.
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