June 30, 2014 —
FOB SWEENEY, Afghanistan — Afghanistan is becoming a safer place due to the initiative taken by Afghan National Security Forces to stop enemy weapons from coming into their country.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, air assaulted into the Darwazgay Pass in support of the 1st Kandak, 2nd Battalion, 205th Corps, Afghan National Army, June 23. The joint effort was to disrupt the flow of weapons being brought into Afghanistan through the pass in Zabul province, Afghanistan.
“There are only a few routes that the enemy can use to get lethal aid into Afghanistan,” said 1st Lt. John Eife, a native of West Chester, Pa., who serves as platoon leader for 1st Platoon, 2nd Bn., 504th PIR, 82nd Airborne Div. “So it’s our job to intercept them and disrupt their operations.”
Eife explained that “lethal aid is basically whatever the enemy uses to fight, such as guns, bomb-making materials, rocket propelled grenades, etc.”
Disruption missions serve many purposes. First and foremost is to void the enemy tools used to cause unrest by disrupting enemy movement and presence. Secondly, they allow the ANA opportunities to conduct a mission while the 82nd Airborne Soldiers can be there to train, advise, and assist them in any way they need.
“We operate off of their game plan. We give them suggestions, and then we’ll change according to what they feel is needed in the area,” Eife said. “They’ve portrayed good initiative by showing a presence in their areas of operation. They also conduct patrols and searches in the villages where they’ve been given tips on whereabouts of key enemy leaders.”
Entering the area by air assault offers the ANA unique opportunities as they are limited in air assets. Some training to safely conduct air assault missions on the CH-47 Chinook helicopters is necessary.
“Before we leave, we show them how an air assault mission works,” said Staff Sgt. Cory McMillen, a native of Franklin, Pa., who serves as platoon sergeant for 1st Plt., 2nd Bn., 504th PIR, 82nd Airborne Div. “First we show them how to load onto and off the aircraft.
Second, we show them how movement works from where we’re dropped off to where we need to go to effectively control the terrain.”
Doing these kinds of missions with the ANA adds a residual element of trust, and promotes a lasting relationship between U.S. and Afghan forces.
“The ANA are doing great things and understanding what they have to do to protect their country,” Eife said. “I feel really fortunate to be on these missions with them, and it shows the ANSF that we’re here for them and want them to succeed in making their nation a better place to live in.”
The ANA presence also encourages a firm relationship between the ANSF and civilians in working together to keep Afghanistan safe.
“The ANA tactfully clearing villages gives them a sense of ownership of their national security,” Eife said. “Their presence in these remote areas encourages unison between the ANSF and the people of Afghanistan.”