News: Joint patrol makes a difference in Shalay Valley
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell,
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Aleef Jan, the white-bearded Dag Mene village elder in the Shalay Valley, hardly ever sees International Security Assistance Forces. He lives a secluded life in the valley where he ignores most of the fighting around him. He said he is a farmer with no plowed fields and grows wheat, but doesn’t have any seeds. To earn a living, his relatives, who live with him in the village, travel down the road to labor as unskilled workers for income.
“We are poor people here, and we are helpless, so we need help from the Afghan National Army and U.S. forces,” said Aleef Jan between the mountains of eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
While helping to secure the valley, a patrol of ANA and Task Force No Slack soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, found an improvised explosive device on the outskirts of his village Nov. 4.
“It’s a bad thing when the enemy plants IEDs, but good when ANA find them,” said Aleef Jan.
The Soldiers on the joint patrol were weary of the road before going out and took precautions to search for IEDs.
Merdad, an ANA soldier, spotted an area that looked suspicious and immediately thought “IED.”
Merdad quickly signalled to the joint patrol about his find and established security around the area before calling up an explosive ordnance disposal unit.
U.S. Army Sgt. James T. Schmidt, an infantry squad leader from Decatur, Ill., assigned to Company C, 2nd Bn., 327th Inf. Regt, noted the importance of finding the IED and how it saved many lives that day.
Schmidt and his soldiers said the ANA soldiers they work with on a daily basis are some of the best they’ve seen.
“A lot of times when people think about ANA, they think we’re trying to lead them,” said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Jacob Sass, an infantry platoon leader assigned to Company C, 2nd Bn., 327th Inf. Regt. “But I think instances like today really show they’re coming along and can really start fending for themselves in the future.”
As the joint patrol continued into the rock-strewn village of Dag Mene, the ANA searched the ramshackle houses for weapons. They soon found extra weapons the villagers were hiding.
“When we actually get back into the valleys like this and start talking to people, they start realizing we can provide security for them,” continued Sass, a native of Chatfield, Minn. “Today, for example, the village elder had a lot of weapons because he thought he needed to provide security for his own village.”
The ANA soldiers explained they were there to provide security and extra weapons were illegal. They gave the Aleef Jan phone numbers to contact their base in case anything happened.
“We are happy when they come by, and they work well together,” said Aleef Jan, despite having his weapons taken from him.
Soldiers from both sides agreed the mission was successful and another building block to helping secure the valley.
As the soldiers loaded up their trucks to return to Combat Outpost Penich, EOD set off a huge explosion that echoed in the valley and plumed smoke over the horizon. The joint patrol was over, one less IED was on the road and the Shalay Valley took one more step toward peace.