BALA MURGHAB, Afghanistan - Afghan National Army soldiers and U.S. Army scouts continue to hold the high ground, Jan. 18, in southern Bala Murghab Valley at Observation Post Cougar, Badghis province, Afghanistan.
From the OP, they provide over-watch protection to villagers, fellow ANA and scouts below.
The same scouts from 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson, Colo., and some of the ANA currently assigned, built the OP in late 2010.
"We were under constant enemy fire, and had to avoid mines and frequent rocket attacks during the day, and did most of the building at night," said U.S. Army Spc. Stephen 'Doc' Marsh, a 7-10 medic who hails from Clearwater, Fla., and was one of the soldiers who originally secured the hill that OP Cougar was built on.
A fellow U.S. soldier recalled the many nights Doc spoke of, and described the time when he was part of a four-man scout team that came under an aggressive attack while scouting out a nearby hill.
"We got pinned down really good right over there," said Pfc. William Orkies, from Lebanon, Ohio, as he pointed to a hilltop roughly 400 meters from OP Cougar.
"The four of us stood our ground against about 40 insurgents who were annihilating the hillside with [rocket propelled grenades] and small arms," said Orkies. "We eventually had to break contact, [ex-filtrate] by the rear of the hill and regroup back here."
The stories of sacrifices made on the hills around OP Cougar are many. But, through tireless effort and continued dedication, the scouts and ANA soldiers built the OP, and keep the vital location secure so over-watched activities can continue in their area of operations.
The combined team sleep and work in shifts at the OP, rotating down to Combat Outpost Delorean frequently. While up on the OP, each member relies on the next for practically everything.
"We're like one family here," said ANA Platoon Sgt. Ghulam Hazrat Mohammadi, one of a few ANA non-commissioned officers who rotates through OP Cougar.
"We eat together and sometimes even relax and drink Chai [tea] together," said Mohammadi. "When we fight, we fight as one team, though we hail from two different armies."
According to Mohammadi, their tactics have proven successful.
"When we go on patrol, we get good feedback from [Afghan] people that security has improved since the ANA and Americans arrived here," said 23-year old Mohammadi, who hails from Herat City, in nearby Herat Province.
Like many ANA soldiers, Mohammadi said he joined the army because there weren't many opportunities for him. Now, he admits that the opportunities for young men are improving, but he's found a sense of dedication to his unit and to the ANA.
"I really want to help my people," said the unmarried Mohammadi. "Some day I will have children of my own. I want a future for them that is much better than the world I was born into. I think that is common for all people in this world, and I believe it is achievable here in Afghanistan."