25 January 2008

"The Rock" defies terrorists to bring security and hope to Pech Valley

Army 1st Lt. Kareem F. Hernandez, a N.Y. resident and 2nd Platoon Leader in Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), talks on the radio while village elders and an Afghan National Policeman walk down a mountain during a patrol to Omar in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 11. (U.S. Army Photos by Sgt. Brandon Aird)

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - These Paratroopers never stop patrolling the newly-constructed Pech Road in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Night and day, through rain and snow, they diligently patrol the $7.5 million Pech Road to bring security to an area known for violence.

They make up Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), also known as “The Rock”.

Even though Able Company is an infantry company, the company commander stresses their main focus is helping and taking care of the villages in and around the Pech River Valley.

“We’re responsible for over a hundred villages,” explained Army Capt. Louis Frketic, Able Company commander.
“We literally do one to five humanitarian-aid missions a day between our platoons or facilitating the [Kunar PRT],” said Frketic. “We’ve done at least 500 since we got here. It’s astronomical. We’ve given out building supplies, food, Qurans, prayer rugs, clothing - pretty much the entire spectrum of HA.”

One of the biggest projects in the area has been the construction of the Pech Road, which over the last eight months has opened up the area to new opportunities. The Taliban extremists don’t want the region to prosper under the new government.

Arriving in country this past May, Able Company has been engaged in over 150 firefights with Taliban, al-Qaida and other anti-Coalition militants.

Although the violence has not allowed international aid agencies to operate consistently in the Pech Valley, it has not stopped Able Company or the Kunar PRT from offering humanitarian aid or continuing the development of self-help projects, according to Frketic.

Able Company launches these efforts out of FOBs Able Main, Honaker-Miracle and Michigan - all on the Pech Road. The three bases are strategically placed enabling Able Company to engage more villages and cover a larger area. FOB Michigan is the home of 2nd Platoon and they are on the ‘front line’ of these efforts on a daily basis.

Read the rest of SGT Aird's article at the CJTF-82 website, including 1LT Hernandez's story about the "crazy" villagers of South Omar.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

No comments: