Written by U.S. Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division PAO
Khowst Province, Afghanistan – The engines of the CH-47 Chinook roar deafeningly through the main cabin like the winds of a monsoon. Through nightvision, the stone-chizzled faces of Soldiers stare engrossed with the view out of the back ramp of the helicopter while in flight.
“Five minutes,” yells the back door gunner.
Five minutes. The gravity of the mission flows through the cabin like a white water river. This is not just an everyday mission, this is an air assault. The bread and butter of the 101st Airborne Division.
Soldiers assigned to Troop B, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), are being air lifted into an area normally not accessible by ground due to obstructions such as road side bombs and mountainous terrain.
As the helicopter touches down, Soldiers stand up and swiftly move out through the rear, off the ramp into the pitch black abyss of Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain.
“This air assault was my first one,” said Army Pfc. Timothy Nelson, a mortarman assigned to Troop B. “It was really exciting and definitely an experience I will never forget.”
“Our stated purpose on this mission was to support the Afghan Uniformed Police establish a presence in Shamul area,” said Army Capt. Andrew Jenkins, the Commander of Troop B.
“We also wanted to help them to develop their own actionable intel and exploit some of the intel they have already gained,” Jenkins continued.
Once the helicopters left the area of operations, Soldiers and AUP moved silently into the night using the cover of darkness to their advantage.
They positioned themselves outside the chosen villages before dawn to surprise any potential insurgents.
“The AUP found enemy weapon systems that could only be used for nafarious purposes,” said Jenkins.
During the search, more than 400 machine gun rounds were discovered as well as five anti-personel mines, a hand grenade, an anti-tank mine fuze, a rocket propelled grenade and a half dozen AK-47 magazines full of amunition.
Jenkins discussed the significance and potential dangers of the munitions found lending even greater weight to the success of the mission.
“Those mines weren’t as much a threat to our U.S. vehicles as it was to the AUP,” said Jenkins. “Our trucks were designed to take that strike, but just one of those could have devastated the AUP.”
“This was a good victory for the AUP,” said Army Sgt. Justin Applebaum, the signal support specialist assigned to Troop B. “Finding the cache, as well as developing their relationships with the key leaders of these villages, was a success for them.”
Adding to the AUP’s success was the arrest of the home owner where the cache was found.
“The discoveries and arrest was good today,” said Jenkins. “Everytime we get one person, it always leads us to three or four more (and) that is what will lead to future success.”
Jenkins continued, “The AUP are excited; this was a huge find for them.”
Once back at Camp Clark, Afghanistan, Troop B, also known as “Beast”, discussed the success of the air assault and the progress of their Afghan Uniform Police partners.
“We got a lot of work done today,” said Applebaum. “Flying in by air assault, we got to hit a lot of objective houses that normally we aren’t able to get to.”
“When we got here, we knew we had a long way to go with our AUP partners,” said Applebaum. “They have developed significantly.”
Jenkins agreed, “the development and changes we have seen with our Afghan partners have been remarkable.”
The successful actions of the day by the AUP make the progress evident and the hard work “Beast” Troop is putting in is paying huge dividends.