Chaos Company Soldiers, ANA counterparts deliver ‘Viper Strike’

Story by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs

 

Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, Combined Task Force 4-2 cross the Tarnak River in the Panjwa'i district of Afghanistan with their Afghan National Army counterparts, April 10, 2013. The soldiers participated in a two-day clearing mission in the Komandek Ghar area. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, Combined Task Force 4-2 cross the Tarnak River in the Panjwa’i district of Afghanistan with their Afghan National Army counterparts, April 10, 2013. The soldiers participated in a two-day clearing mission in the Komandek Ghar area. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs)

COMBAT OUTPOST KHENJAKAK, Afghanistan – Approximately three U.S. Army platoons from Company C “Chaos,” 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, Combined Task Force 4-2, and three platoons from 1st Company, 6th Kandak, 205th Afghan National Army Corps participated in a two-day clearing mission of the Komandek Ghar area in the Panjwa’i district of Afghanistan, April 10-11, 2013.

The purpose of the mission, titled “Operation Viper Strike,” was to identify and exploit explosives caches and put pressure on the Taliban’s distribution system, said Capt. Ralph Parlin, Company C commander. It covered approximately nine to 12 miles of desert in an area difficult to get to, isolated by the Tarnak River.

A week before Operation Viper Strike, the company interdicted a vehicle travelling toward Komandek Ghar, a key terrain feature in the area, from the south. The vehicle was transporting 2,100 pounds of processed hashish worth an estimated $440,748 and a net worth of $10 million, said Parlin. They also caught several high-value members of the Taliban drug distribution system.

That vehicle was headed to an area populated by nomadic people known as Kuchi tribes who live in “Kuchi camps.” The structures they live in vary from mud huts to tarps strewn over sticks. The tribes travel to find grasslands for their animals, but return to the camps, said Parlin.

Early the morning of April 10, U.S scouts arrived on top of the mountain that oversees the Kuchi camps and set up an observation point overlooking the villages that the platoons would be searching. Meanwhile, the Soldiers of 2nd and 3rd Platoons mounted up in their Stryker vehicles and met up with their ANA partners.

Soldiers of 3rd Platoon met their first challenge crossing the Tarnak River.

Earlier in the day, the depth of the river was estimated at shin-high, but due to recent rainstorms, it had risen to waist high and continued to rise. 3rd Platoon and their Afghan partners had to quickly cross and could only take mission-essential items with them, to include food, water, radios and batteries.

Once the U.S. and Afghan soldiers moved their equipment to the other side of the river, they reevaluated their plan and began a daylong clearing process. The ANA led the way into the camps and interacted with the locals who lived there. First Lt. Francis Igo, the platoon leader of 3rd Platoon, and his Soldiers followed behind.

“… It’s their country; they’re the face of the people,” said Igo. “People are more willing to talk to them and give information.”

Igo said his ANA counterparts are effective and efficient at searching structures for possible caches. “They know what belongs and what doesn’t belong because it’s their culture.”

U.S. Soldiers asked the villagers if any outside people had come through the area and found that numerous tractors and other vehicles had been seen passing through. After searching several camps, 3rd Platoon and the scouts set up a hasty patrol base in the Registan Desert.

Early the next morning, they set out again and cleared the south side of the mountain.

Meanwhile, 2nd Platoon continued to clear the north side.

When 3rd Platoon and the ANA made it back to the Tarnak River, the water was chest high, forcing the soldiers to cross the river holding their weapons over their heads while they fought against the current.

Although the soldiers didn’t find any caches, Parlin said they learned valuable information about the non-malicious material distribution system, and how the Taliban is exploiting the existing Kuchi distribution system.

Parlin added that the U.S. and ANA presence in the remote region would have a significant impact on the enemy’s efforts in the area.

“It will present obstacles for the enemy’s (exfiltration) of opium and hashish in support of next year’s fighting season,” said Parlin.

  • Billy Dawg

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