News: ‘Manchus’ demilitarize COP Talukan
Story by Sgt. Kimberly Lessmeister
COMBAT OUTPOST TALUKAN, Afghanistan – Soldiers of Company B, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment “Manchu”, tore apart the combat outpost (COP) that was their home for nearly seven months.
With the help of engineers from Combined Task Force 4-2 (4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division) and Regional Command-South (RC-South), the company completed the demilitarization of COP Talukan in the Panjwa’i District of Afghanistan, May 30.
While other bases currently belonging to the brigade are slated to be transferred to the brigade’s Afghan National Security Force partners, soldiers of COP Talukan demilitarized it due to a disagreement between the Afghan landowner and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, said 1st Sgt. Erik Rider, the first sergeant of B Company.
When the company first arrived in Panjwa’i, they acquired three tactical infrastructures, said Rider.
After handing over a checkpoint in Perosi to their ANSF partners and closing another local checkpoint, COP Talukan was the last structure to settle, he added.
“Logistically, we have to basically take everything out of here, all the way from the rocks we stand on to the T-walls,” said Rider, a Denver native. “We have to leave it the way it was first originally put in before … any type of forces came in.”
Soldiers from B Company dismantled the tents where they had slept, the dining facility where they had eaten, the gym where they had worked out and the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation center they had used to speak to their loved ones back in the United States.
The last hard standing structure the company tore down was their tactical operations center (TOC).
The B Company commander, Capt. Jesse Sheehan, said the soldiers worked tirelessly to reduce the footprint on Talukan and retrograded a lot of equipment.
“I think it keeps them focused. To them, it’s another mission and they’re professional and they’re going to do it to the best of their ability,” said Sheehan, a Knoxville, Tenn., native. “(It’s a) point of pride they were the last soldiers at COP Talukan.”
Rider said that after everything was said and done, his men would miss their home away from home.
“We came in on COP Talukan (and) made major improvements throughout the entire COP to make it a livable condition, and I think we’ll miss the hard work we put into the COP to make it a home,” he said.
The impact the COP had wasn’t just felt by its occupants, but by the local populace as well.
“We’ve stabilized the area. We’ve given the (ANSF) a chance to get their foothold in here,” Rider said. “We’ve also been able to train them to make this more of a secure location for the locals.”
Spc. Matthew Northrip, a tactical explosives detection dog handler with B Company, had a similar reaction to the company’s effect on the surrounding villages.
“It’s always good to know you’re a part of something that helped,” said Northrip. “I felt like we did something. We helped change a bad area.”
Sheehan said the ANSF’s next challenge would be to continue to secure the Horn of Panjwa’i without COP Talukan.
“My job is to work with the ANSF and with our (Security Force Assistance Team) partners so they can engage the ANSF to make sure they have a security plan on what their force posture looks like now that COP Talukan is going to be gone,” said Sheehan.
Though the COP will be gone, the soldiers who occupied it will have the memories made there.
“The biggest thing I’ll remember here (on COP Talukan) is the pride that the B Company soldiers have from being out here,” Sheehan said. “You can definitely tell it’s a tight group and I think being on this COP as a company internal definitely was a good bonding experience for the soldiers.”