MANSURABAD, Afghanistan- Since the war began more than ten years ago, the mission statement for soldiers deploying is ever-changing. Now, as soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division prepare for the drawdown of troops, their mission is to have the Afghans lead from the front.
Patrolling through villages, hilltops, schools and orchards is practically a daily occurrence for soldiers in 4th Platoon, Courage Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1/1 AD. Rain or shine, the soldiers are led by 1st Lt. William Neves, platoon leader, and a native of Spanish Fork, Utah, to conduct patrol missions with the Afghan National Army.
“Our main goal is to follow and support the ANA,” said Neves. “That is including missions of clearing the orchards, as well as conducting disruption missions, so our main focus has been to follow them.”
As the soldiers followed the ANA into the village of Mansurabad, Feb. 22, children of all ages ran out of their homes to catch a glimpse of the heroes in uniform, following soldiers of their own nationality.
“Yesterday we found one rocket-propelled grenade and one possible directional shape-charge,” said Neves.
The RPG was located by the ANA leading the patrol through a local orchard. As they proudly presented their explosive find, they continued their mission of searching for other potential threats.
“They see us in their backyard, they’re having to move their caches,” said Neves. “We actually found a possible cache site that had been removed from a wall from a spot we had cleared earlier. That shows us that obviously the enemy is in the area, but we are showing our freedom of maneuver.”
The soldiers of 4th Platoon, much like the other platoons of Courage Company located at Combat Outpost Jannat, patrol their respective villages six days a week. While it may seem monotonous and mundane, Neves disagrees.
“One thing is everyone is very eager, especially my team leaders” said Neves. “They want to get out there and get it done. They’re not afraid, they look after their men, but they really want to succeed.”
The soldiers have settled in there for the duration of the deployment. They are constantly working together, not just for missions, but for training, team building, and weight lifting, which is a big thing, said Neves.
“All the training we do and the biggest team building we do are the missions,” said Neves. “The chance to get out there and sweat and suffer with each other really brings us closer than just about anything.”
While the unit is only a few months into their deployment, and still have a long time to go, Neves, like any other soldier has the same goal.
“It’s so close to the end with the drawdown, I want to make sure these guys get to go back and see their families,” said Neves, who has a wife and two children waiting for him back home.