JALALABAD AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The Zone 1 Afghan Border Police along with 2nd Brigade Afghan National Civil Order Police delivered school supplies to hundreds of students as part of a community outreach mission, May 25, at a school in western Jalalabad.
U.S. Army Soldiers with ABP Zone 1 Security Forces Advise and Assistance Team, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division assisted their Afghan National Security Forces counterparts by providing security and help hand out supplies.
“The mission was basically to put a spotlight on the ABP and ANCOP as they deliver school supplies to the school children across the street,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Joseph L. Jenkins, the assistant operations officer with ABP Zone 1 SFAAT, and native to Brandenburg, Ky.
Jenkins said the supplies consisted of books, backpacks, pencils, notebooks and soccer balls and were donated from the U.S.
“They came from all over the place. I got a few from churches,” said Jenkins. “I know my parents sent some stuff.”
“Everybody else had family members, church groups and schools bring stuff in,” Jenkins added. “We had about 600 bags worth of stuff sent from all over the country.”
The mission began in the morning with the ANSF and U.S. Soldiers taking the supplies out of boxes and loading them onto the police trucks.
Everyone then got into formation and conducted a dismounted patrol from the Zone 1 compound to the school across the street where they were greeted by the teachers and students.
The trucks then drove into the school and everyone worked together to take the supplies off the trucks and put them into a tent to be handed out to the students by the ANSF leaders.
“They did pretty good,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Stokes with ABP Zone 1 SFAAT, and native to Louisa, Ky. “They were out there smiling, shaking hands, handing out supplies, talking to everybody; it was pretty good.”
“They actually took the initiative; standing up and handing out all the school supplies to the kids,” Stokes added. “I thought they did a pretty good job.”
“I think it went great,” said Jenkins. “The mission was to hand out school supplies and we handed out rapport-building items. The children were smiling. It was just a great time.”
Although the ANSF units do patrols, Jenkins said this kind of mission is still important for the ANSF to maintain their presence in the local community.
“This is an opportunity to get out there,” Jenkins said. “Their mission was a show of good will. They (ANSF) were the ones handing everything out. We were just helping to coordinate.”
“It was a way for the ABP-ANCOP forces to interact with the locals, and show them we’re friends with them,” said Stokes.
After the supplies were handed out, the Coalition Forces said goodbye to the students and made their way back to the Headquarters Zone 1 compound.
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.
JALALABAD AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Stepping off at dawn with more than 22 pounds of weight from combined gear and bag, they began their march in the early morning hours.
U.S. Army Soldiers with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, conducted a Danish Contingent, or DANCON March, at Forward Operating Base Fenty, April 20.
“The DANCON March is an old tradition from 1972 where the Danish peacekeepers in Cyprus started out with a march like this,” said Danish Lt. Col. Michael Nielsen, a United Nations military advisor.
The DANCON March invites Soldiers from nations allied to Denmark to participate in a 25-kilometer or a 100-kilometer march, and has taken place in numerous countries around the world.
The Soldiers were first required to weigh themselves and their gear, one at a time, then they received a briefing from Nielsen about the march. After the briefing, everyone moved to the start line and were released on their own to complete the march.
The goal was to complete the march at a distance of 25 kilometers within six hours, for a total of three full laps around Jalalabad Airfield, according to Nielsen.
Each Soldier who participated had their own reasons for taking part in the march.
“I wanted to try and come out here and show my support for the NATO forces and come out and support my platoon because they are gone on mission right now,” said Spc. Adam Wojciechowski, a grenadier with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, and native to South Bend, Ind.
“For me personally, I’m representing two organizations here,” said Nielsen. “The one is a Danish organization, and today is a way to show my appreciation since, during all the wars we have been in, more or less, we have been working with American troops.”
Nielsen said, “For me, it’s an honor to give something back because you (American Soldiers) are also giving a lot back to the Danish troops, so that’s an honor.”
“Also, I’m the only one out here and I get a lot more support from American forces here than I can get from other U.N. organizations,” Nielsen said.
The Soldiers were allowed to complete the march at their own pace instead of as a group. During the march, there were checkpoints set up so they could check-in to keep track of how much of the march they had completed.
“It was rough at certain parts, but you know the feeling when you push through it and get done at the finish line,” said Wojciechowski.
When each Soldier finished their march, they were awarded a medal from Nielsen for successful completion of the DANCON March.
“I liked it. It was fun,” said Wojciechowski.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan – It’s hot, the sun’s not even up yet and it’s the weekend.
Given a choice, most people would still be in bed with the air conditioning on.
And then there are those few, those crazy few, who do otherwise in a grand fashion.
Running marathons and half marathons in a combat theater isn’t a new phenomenon. The challenge may be unconventional given time or space constraints, but marathons appear on the calendar with predictable regularity.
For instance, two posts on the outskirts of Jalalabad in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, each hosted a marathon over the April 27-28 weekend.
On April 27, Forward Operating Base Fenty boasted a 7-lap full marathon asphalt course that skirted the landing strip, with half-marathoners running half that.
On April 28, FOB Finley-Shields’s half-marathon required participants to make 22 laps around the much smaller post, the track varying from plum-sized gravel to asphalt as dusty as at Fenty.
But why? Why run 13.1, or 26.2 miles in a hot, arid environment at five o’clock in the morning? Therein lies the rub.
The Music City Marathon at FOB Fenty was set-up by U.S. Army 1st Lt. Rebecca Stratford, medical operations officer-in-charge, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, of King George, Va., for two main reasons.
Stratford said she’d heard of other units hosting marathons on deployment, and she wanted to set one up during her deployment as a change of pace to help boost unit morale.
“Everybody loves to get out and do something a little bit different,” Stratford said. “It kind of takes away the stress of the day.”
It’s not just about raising morale here in Afghanistan, though.
Several of the runners at Fenty wore tributes to the victims of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, whether inscribed on their racing tags, or, as in the case of U.S. Army Sgt. Terry Antee, a Soldier with the Task Force Long Knife, and a native of Wichita Falls, Texas, on a prominent yellow armband.
Antee said he is a member of a racing group in the States, which is currently doing a fundraiser for Boston Marathon victims. Their symbol is a yellow armband that says, “We run for Boston.”
“That’s why I’m actually wearing this one here today: to help raise money for the people of Boston,” Antee said.
The half-marathon at Finley-Shields was a memorial.
Originally planned as an April Fool’s Day run, the death of U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Cable, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, who was killed in action, March 27, near Jalalabad, prompted the command to make a change.
The Sgt. Cable Running of the Bulldogs Memorial half-marathon attracted participants who wouldn’t normally run because it was more than a morale booster, said U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Brian Slamkowski, integration detachment platoon leader, 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Inf. Reg., 101st Airborne Div., of Colorado Springs, Colo.
“This one took on an even greater meaning in that it was the memorial run for our fallen Sgt. Cable,” Slamkowski said. “I think it motivated a lot of people to get out here and do it, people that normally wouldn’t even run maybe five or ten miles.”
Some Soldiers, such as U.S. Army Spc. Cesar Garcia, radio transmitter operator, HHB, 327th Inf. Reg., of Watertown, N.Y., carried a loaded rucksack for the entirety of the 13-mile run.
Garcia said he carried this burden, which weighed more than 60 pounds, to prove to himself that he could do it, but moreover, to honor his fallen comrade.
“I did it just because Sgt. Cable was a great guy,” Garcia said.
Whether a participant finished the rough course first (as Slamkowski did), or last (as Garcia did with his heavy pack), each one paid tribute to a fallen brother.
Slamkowski said, “It was a great event to honor Sgt. Cable with our pain out here.”
The success of both runs boosted morale, offered support to folks back home and remembered those taken along the way.
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