News: Chaos Company strikes back with Operation Viper Strike
Story by Sgt. Kimberly Lessmeister
COMBAT OUTPOST KHENJAKAK, Afghanistan – Approximately three United States Army platoons from Company C “Chaos," 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, Combined Task Force 4-2, and three platoons from 1st Company, 6th Kandak, 205th Afghan National Army Corps participated in a two-day clearing mission of the Komandek Ghar area in the Panjwa’i district of Afghanistan, April 10-11.
The purpose of the mission, titled “Operation Viper Strike," was to identify and exploit explosives caches and put pressure on the Taliban’s distribution system, said Capt. Ralph Parlin, C Company’s commander.
It covered approximately nine to 12 miles of desert in an isolated area that is difficult to get to by Afghan National Security Forces and International Security Assistance Forces due to being isolated by the Tarnak River.
A week before Operation Viper Strike, C Company interdicted a vehicle travellng toward Komandek Ghar, a key terrain feature in the area, from the south. The vehicle was transporting 2,100 pounds of processed hashish worth an estimated $440,748 and a net worth of $10 million, said Parlin.
They also caught several key high value individuals in the Taliban drug distribution system. The area the vehicle was headed is populated by nomadic people known as Kuchi tribes who live in “Kuchi camps.” The structures they live in vary from mud huts to tarps strewn over sticks.
These people travel to find grasslands for their animals, but return to the camps, said Parlin.
Early the morning of April 10, U.S scouts assaulted on top of the mountain that oversees the Kuchi camps and set up an observation point overlooking the villages that the platoons would be searching. Meanwhile, the soldiers of 3rd Platoon and 2nd Platoon mounted up in their Stryker vehicles and met up with their ANA partners.
Soldiers of 3rd Platoon met their first challenge of crossing the Tarnak River.
Earlier in the day, the depth of the river was estimated at shin-high, but due to recent rainstorms, it had risen to waist high and continued to rise. Third Platoon and their Afghan partners had to quickly cross and could only take the most mission essential items with them, to include food, water, radios, and batteries.
Once the U.S. and Afghan soldiers moved their equipment to the other side of the river, they reevaluated their plan and began a daylong clearing process. The ANA led the way into the camps and interacted with the locals who lived there. First Lt. Francis Igo, the platoon leader of 3rd Platoon, and his soldiers followed behind.
“As our partners, it’s their country; they’re the face of the people,” said Igo. “People are more willing to talk to them and give information.”
Igo said his ANA counterparts are effective and efficient at searching structures for possible caches.
“They know what belongs and what doesn’t belong because it’s their culture,” Igo said.
U.S. soldiers asked the villagers if any outside people had come through the area and found that numerous tractors and other vehicles had been seen passing through. After searching several camps, 3rd Platoon and the scouts set up a hasty patrol base in the Registan Desert.
Early the next morning, they set out again and cleared the south side of the mountain.
Meanwhile, 2nd Platoon continued to clear the north side.
When 3rd Platoon and the ANA made it back to the Tarnak River, the water was chest high.
Like a scene out of Vietnam, the men crossed the river holding their weapons over their heads and fighting against the current.
As the mission came to an end, even thought they didn’t find caches, they learned valuable information about the system of distribution of non-malicious material and also how the Taliban is exploiting and taking advantage of the existing Kuchi distribution system, said Parlin.
Parlin added that the U.S. and ANA presence in the remote region would have big impacts on the rest of the enemy’s efforts moving things into the area.
“It will present obstacles for the enemy’s [exfiltration] of opium and hashish in support of next year’s fighting season,” said Parlin.