25 October 2007

Operation Rock Avalanche In Afghanistan

Spc. David Hooker, 22, of Palestine, Ark., shoots the MK-19, an automatic 40 mm grenade launcher, at suspected Taliban positions in the northeastern mountains of Afghanistan near the village of Aybot. His unit, Company A, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, is atop a 7,600-foot peak in the Watapor Valley of Kunar province, which borders Pakistan. Photo: Les Neuhaus / S&S.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with Afghan forces, are conducting offensive operations in the Korengal Valley of northeastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan. An unknown number of Taliban fighters - by some reports up to 20 - were killed in the battle.

Pakistan deployed 2,500 paramilitary soldiers to part its Northwest Frontier province on Tuesday (Update: see additional reporting about this deployment here), across the border from the Kunar province where Operation Rock Avalanche is under way.

ISAF officials said close-air support was brought in to help troops in the battle Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, three other companies conducted maneuvers on Wednesday in an effort to confuse Taliban rebels.

According to Capt. Louis Frketic, commander of the 503rd’s Company A, the mission is to weed out an organized foe. His men are atop a 7,500-foot mountain in Kunar’s Watapor Valley, another restive area close to the Korengal Valley.

“Our area is mainly comprised of hidden Taliban,” Frketic said. “The problem is that you get these huge ACM (anti-coalition militias) on the high ground, and getting control of that high ground is crucial.”

His men have endured two frigid nights, waiting for someone to make a move.

The soldiers of Company A have endured frigid temperatures in the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan while carrying out Operation Rock Avalanche. Troops got down time and used anything to cover themselves in order to keep warm. Photo: Les Neuhaus / S&S.

That move came on Wednesday afternoon after Taliban “chatter” intercepted by his men led to a call to cut loose with a 50-caliber machine gun, an automatic grenade launcher and a 81 mm mortar gun at suspected Taliban positions.

His men were due to move out after dark in search of Taliban positions to attack.

A 81 mm mortar shell is launched near the northeastern Afghan village of Aybot. The men were aiming at suspected Taliban militants. Photo: Les Neuhaus / S&S.

Sgt. Joshua Ochoa, 24, from Reedley, Calif., fires off a .50 mm machine gun in northeastern Afghanistan's Kunar province, near the village of Aybot. His unit is in an operation seeking to search and attack Taliban militants in the area. Photo: Les Neuhaus / S&S.

“We have had one incident with troops in contact and one ISAF soldier was killed during operations ... and two ISAF troops were wounded,” according to Maj. Charles Anthony, a spokesman for ISAF headquarters in Kabul.

Thursday, that Soldier's identity was released as SSG Larry Rougle of Battle Company, 2nd BN, 503rd Airborne Infantry Reg, 173rd Airborne BCT.

Godspeed, SSG Rougle. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family and your fellow Soldiers.

See also 173D brave Taliban, rugged terrain in Afghanistan

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

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