News: ANA, White Platoon key to security in Southern Bala Murghab
Story by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
BALA MURGHAB, Afghanistan - After receiving waves of enemy attacks from three different directions, Jan. 6, a small team of U.S. soldiers known as White Platoon, based at Combat Outpost Delorean in Bala Murghab valley are ordered to recon their battlefield area.
White Platoon reports to Bulldog Troop at Forward Operating Base Todd, in the center of Bala Murghab. The soldiers are all deployed from the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson, Colo.
We've been successful by getting out on foot patrols and walking among the Afghans who live nearby,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Costello, platoon leader, White Platoon. “These face-to-face encounters show them that we are human beings too.”
“I never like to miss a patrol,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Lewis, ranking non-commissioned officer, White Platoon.
“I always worry about my guys when I'm not there,” said Lewis. “I know they can handle themselves but I hate to think about one getting hurt and me not being there to help out.”
White Platoon teamed up with Bala Murghab based Afghan National Army soldiers, two Tactical Air Control Party airmen, an Air Force ground asset attached to Army units and call in close-air support when needed, and two military journalists from Regional Command-West Public Affairs.
“We need to recon the riverbed east of the outpost and gain intelligence to learn infiltration routes and flank the enemy,” said Costello.
“The Afghan National Army and Police are great. We work with them a lot and include them in all operations and training,” said Costello.
As the patrol made their way down the riverbed, they took accurate small-arms fire from the southeast. The platoon initially took cover. Then, after hearing Lewis return fire and order the soldiers up on a line, everyone came to their firing lines and scanned the area.
Meanwhile, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jose Cruz-Richardson, a joint terminal attack controller, called for close-air support.
“We give these soldiers all we can,” said Cruz-Richardson. “We patrol with them and get into the mix of combat with them. When the enemy gets too close, my job is to do what I can to get close air support or a show of force from the Air Force. These guys are my brothers.”
Costello decided the platoon would bound forward toward the direction from which they received fire and continued to recon the fields and riverbed.
Costello, Lewis and Sgt. Jonathan Sweetman, a unit NCO, divided the soldiers into three teams. They gathered intelligence from the battle space. After the patrol, the service members moved back to COP Delorean, stopping by to talk to some village elders on the way back. The elders alert Costello when there are newcomers in the area.
Since the ANA and White Platoon has taken root in the southern tip of Bala Murghab, many villagers who once fled to the mountains in fear of insurgents are now returning to live there.
“Holding this ground helps to keep Insurgents out,” said Costello. “We want them to be afraid to come into the villages in our area of operations, and to know that the ANA is here to stay. They can no longer terrorize the people of Bala Murghab.”