Residents from the village of Meden Kheyl are glad to see the Afghan National Army opening the route - ‘cleaning the way,’ as they call it - from their village to the local bazaar, allowing them to move back and forth to the bazaar so they could get the basic goods and services that they’re accustomed to during the winter months. (Photo by Sgt. Christopher McCullough)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SWEENEY, Afghanistan (Oct. 2, 2012) — Old man winter has Afghanistan’s Shinkai district – a remote mountain community situated 6,343 feet up in the eastern fringes of the Sur Ghar mountain range – in its frosty grip. Here, the Afghan mountains normally bring about long, cold winters, though this year the deep chill is longer and colder than usual, according to the locals.
Most recently, a three-day storm dumped snow in excess of 24 inches in parts of the district, affecting the movement of local residents and leaving many of the outlying villages completely isolated.
Not content to leave their community homebound, the 1st Kandak, 205th Corps of the Afghan National Army, set into motion a mission to clear the roads to and from the local bazaar, in conjunction with Battle Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment.
“The snow clearance was actually conducted at the request of the ANA,” said Capt. Joe Mickley, commander, Battle Company, 5-20 Infantry. “They wanted to enable the population to gravitate to the local bazaar so they could get the basic goods and services that they’re accustomed to during the winter months.”
So the ANA teamed up with Battle Company and did a combined mounted patrol utilizing a contracted bulldozer to clear the four-kilometer route from Forward Operating Base, or FOB, Sweeney, through the Shinkai Bazaar, all the way to Menden Kheyl, one of the major population centers in Shinkai district.
“We also plowed up to the village of Shinkai, which is just to the east of FOB Sweeney. It’s also another major population center here in Shinkai district,” said Mickley.
Overall, the assistance from the ANA, and Battle Company, 5-20 Infantry, was received with overwhelming support from the villages, where locals were very appreciative.
“They were glad to have us out there,” Mickley said. “They were glad to see the ANA out there opening the route – ‘cleaning the way,’ as they call it – allowing them to traffic back and forth to the bazaar.”
Since that day, the snows have largely melted and the locals here have resumed their normal movement throughout the district. However, should old man winter decide to pummel Shinkai district again, the local residents here can be sure that their local ANA unit - the 1st Kandak - together with Battle Company, 5-20 Infantry, will be on hand to clear the roads so that people here can make the trip to the bazaar and get the goods or services they need.
“They said this was a good thing, and they would like us to continue to do it in the future,” said Mickley.