COP Shangri-La, Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan:
Welcome to the front. We spent a few days at Wilson getting briefed by lawyers on when we can and can’t shoot, and what we can and can’t blow up. This is very important because the “hearts and minds” aspect of our fight is key. We spend quite a bit of focus on it, and it helps. There was an incident a few days ago where two civilians were severely wounded by a Taliban IED (Improvised Explosive Device). The villagers carried them to Shangri-La in wheelbarrows and shortly after they were wheels up in a medevac bird. The locals get really testy when they get blown up by them, or by us. We, however, are exceedingly careful. In the last year, civilian casualties caused by the Taliban were nearly three times what ours were. As terrible as it is that these people died, it causes a swelling of angry support to deliver these guys a swift kick in the rear.
The COP wasn’t always a COP. It began it’s life as a faming compound that happened to be on high ground. Sometime between 1979 and 1989, when the Soviets were traipsing around the country, the Mujahadeen used this particular farming compound as a command node and bunker. The high ground provided excellent fields of fire and the three foot thick adobe-esque walls made for excellent cover. After the war, The Mujahadeen left the compound and I assume it went back to use in it’s original purpose. Many years later, the Taliban came in and identified this place for it’s useful qualities and used it too. Fast forward again to last year, and the 101st Airborne gave the Taliban a high explosive eviction notice. Now we own it, shared with the ANA (Afghan National Army), and spend our days roaming the countryside.
Speaking of roaming, this countryside looks very similar to the border between Texas and Mexico. The river makes the surrounding area very fertile, but there are deserts in view on both the north and the south. These grape vineyards are interesting to walk though. As I have mentioned before, instead of fences they use walls. They are about a foot and a half thick of the same adobe materiel the buildings are made of. What this provides is an impenetrable bullet shield to cover our movement, despite the effort and time it takes to cross a grape field of a fifty rows.
Living space is tight right now because we are sharing the COP with the outgoing unit. Showers are non-existent, but along with the MWR computers, they will come. There is a gym tent comprised of “re-appropriated” work out equipment from Wilson. The ANA live together separately and are a unique breed. I will write more about them in a later update. In fact, there may be an entire update dedicated to the ANA. We’ll see.
The platoon is well. We recently received a package from the Tobeys containing Girl Scout cookies. This was a great morale boost and there should be a picture soon. Many thanks, again. We are training with the 101st Airborne while they prepare to leave. Joint patrols have begun, and we are learning their techniques and meeting the people. Soon they will leave, we’ll tag out and take the lead on operations in the Zhari district. We are looking forward to showing the Taliban what the HE in Heavy Cavalry stands for.
Staying ten and a half hours ahead, HE heavy, and until next time faithful readers,
1LT Wm Treadway