News: Mehtar Lam base defense
Story by Sgt. Eric Provost
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – September may be the most unpredictable month for 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, troops deployed to eastern Afghanistan.
September is the fighting season’s last full month before the enemies of Afghanistan return to Pakistan for the winter. Each year, there is uncertainty about how the enemy plans to finish the fighting season.
To make sure soldiers are able to finish the fighting season strong, many forward operating bases conduct defense drills to prepare the soldiers for different attack strategies the enemy might have planned.
“We do try to vary and hit on things that we think are the most likely for us here,” said U.S. Army Capt. Jack Mooney, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, Team Laghman.
Team Laghman is part of 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot, based out of Fort Polk, La.
The beginning of the exercise is the first time the soldiers hear about the training. One of the most important aspects of the drill is maintaining the same level of surprise and spontaneity as a real attack.
Team Laghman’s Quick Response Force mobilized, and immediately assessed fictional damage, reinforced security, and began treatment of simulated casualties. Team Laghman soldiers accomplished all of this together with their Afghan counterparts.
“I think it’s amazing training, especially since we’re in such close proximity with the Afghans on a day-to-day basis, and it’s a very real possibility that something like this could happen,” said Syracuse, N.Y., native Sgt. Bartholomew Murphy III, Team Laghman aid station noncommisioned officer in charge.
The American soldiers took up fighting positions at the gate alongside the Afghan guards, while aid teams moved simulated casualties onto litters transporting them to the FOB Mehtar Lam aid station.
“We were really impressed with how quickly they were able to get to us [at the aid station] from the point of injury,” said Murphy. “From the Afghan response, to our response and how well we worked together as a cohesive unit, it was great to see.”
Another major aspect of a base defense exercise is to integrate all personnel on the FOB into the drill. The Afghan guards assumed the necessary security duties, the QRF supplemented whatever job needed to be done, the medics treated the casualties, and all of the elements involved coordinated with each other through Mehtar Lam’s Tactical Operations Center.
The exercise is done this way not just to provide training to as many functional areas as possible, but so that everyone can see how all the cogs fit together in the machine, gaining a broader understanding of how operations work.
“For each battle drill we get all the units with us here on the FOB that we can and pull them into the team,” said Mooney, a Big Cabin, Okla., native. “We make sure that we’re all on the same page and that we’re all tied in, that we’re a complete unit.”
The base defense drill ended once the simulated casualties were treated, medical evacuation was called in and the treated were successfully moved to the flight line.
Several after action reviews, or AARs, were held to determine how everyone performed and if necessary, make recommendations for things that could possibly be done better the next time.
Base defense is a topic discussed weekly on Mehtar Lam. The command studies attacks on U.S. forces across Afghanistan to drive their base defense plan.
Those studies along with the base defense drills’ AARs also help guide future training to ensure coalition forces are ready for however the enemy plans to end the fighting season.