Assignment Iraq: Dispatch
This is the valley the Soviet Union sent a division into to try and conquer. They limped out with the remnants of a battalion.
It's a classic infantryman's fight in the Korengal ... and it's definitely a shooting war here.
The troops of ’A’ Company are slowly waking up groaning from fatigue and aching muscles, overworked from the previous night's patrol.
It was originally supposed to be a "short" mission outside the wire of the Korengal Outpost (KOP). The squad of grunts were to move out under cover of darkness to an area located below the KOP.
As we started moving cautiously down and then up the treacherous valley path, the squad leader received word over the radio that the bad guys were making a move to ambush the patrol with RPG's and AK 47's near the site of a local village.
Hoping to turn the table on the enemy, we moved into position on a nearby ridge. 'A' Company scouts already had "eyes on" the bad guys and back at the KOP the crack 120 mm mortar team was standing by … ready to fire as soon as they received the "go."
The hunters had become the hunted as the scouts fired on the enemy. Within seconds the gun crew back on the KOP were raining suppressive mortar fire down on the position. The squad of grunts waited quietly, weapons locked and cocked, ready to cut off anyone attempting to infiltrate their fields of fire.
After several long minutes of explosions and weapons fire, the night grew quiet again. After a while, the patrol moved out into the enveloping darkness once more. It appeared as though survivors of the ‘A’ Company counter-ambush may have fled toward the village.
As we took defensive positions in the village, Afghan National Army (ANA) members were instructed to knock on doors and question several of the village residents. This took quite a while, and several men in the village were detained for further questioning.
The word came down the line to move out.
As we proceeded along a narrow, rocky path immediately outside the village, the sharp crack of an AK47 from a shallow ravine to our immediate left split the night air. The muzzle flash from the weapon appeared to be about 75 meters away, and our patrol hit the ground and sought cover the grunts swinging their weapons in the general direction of the incoming fire.
The troops held fire. Unable to identify a target they exercised extra caution because of a house setting close by.
"Anybody see where it came from?" a voice whispered to my left.
"Your two-o'clock" I responded to the voice, "it was directly parallel to me."
The grunts waited, ready to open fire on command. Soon the squad leader gave the corporal carrying the heavy automatic weapon the "go" to do a "recon by fire." The corp let go with several controlled bursts of the weapon, but didn't elicit any responding fire.
After more waiting, we moved out again through the rugged terrain … hoping to finally reach the furthest objective of the patrol, and work our way back to the KOP.
We made it part of the way back. But the radio soon brought news of a strong possibility that the enemy was prepared to set yet another ambush ... this time with even more firepower than before.
So the squad leader changed the original planned route of return to the outpost, halted in a strategic spot and set up night defensive positions. After a couple of hours, dawn started to break over the mountains, and we wearily saddled up and made our way safely back to the KOP.
A "short" patrol had turned into a long one, but it was a good night. Everyone returned safely to the KOP. ’A’ Company had killed some of the enemy, hurt some of the enemy and taken several detainees into custody.
So the troops of ’A’ Company 1-32 Infantry square their gear away and try to get some sleep before they turn around and do it all over again ... Do their job as infantrymen ... in a shooting war ... in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.