U.S. Army 1st Lt. Matthew McCoy, Medicine Park, Okla., native and a platoon leader in Company B, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, executes a picture perfect fist-bump with a local boy after a successful key leader engagement at a school in the Nurilam valley, Jan. 11. (Photo by Spc. Leslie Goble)
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (January 19, 2012) — Soldiers of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team joined forces with members of the Afghan National Army, Afghan Uniformed Police, Operational Coordination Center Provincial Laghman and a new local militia known as the Community Based Security Solution, in a three-day valley clearance operation to disrupt insurgency Jan. 9 in the Nurilam Valley.
The joint operation linked villages within Nurilam Valley with the Afghan government and made it possible for Afghan officials to assess the area.
This is the first time so many agencies have been on the same mission together.
A route clearance package, made up of soldiers from Company A, 45th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, as well as a team of explosive ordnance disposal soldiers who found and disposed of several improvised explosive devices during the convoy’s movement into and out of the valley, cleared a clear path ahead of the rest of the force.
“That’s right, guys! Saving lives one IED at a time,” said a member of the EOD team, as a mushroom cloud developed where they blew an IED found during the convoy.
During the route clearance, a vehicle was hit by an IED, but it only managed to damage some equipment while the vehicle remained in working condition and was able to travel further into the valley.
The IED, that struck the route clearance vehicle, was placed more than 300 feet from a school. No children were injured from the blast, but the teachers were concerned for their safety.
“We welcome you and respect you because you are here to help Afghanistan,” said the headmaster of the school. “But these people who make and set up the IEDs, I think, are uneducated and are taught the wrong things.”
While patrolling through a village, ANA soldiers found a homemade explosives lab as well as bomb-making materials in a buried cache.
Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces detained 11 insurgents suspected to have connections to the cache and the HME lab. Of the original 11, two suspects were kept for further questioning.
In the end, an operation or mission that produces no loss of lives could be considered a victory - There were none taken by the enemy or by Afghan and coalition forces.
Small steps such as these add up to the bigger picture. The path to an Afghan-led security system is being paved in increments.