10 May 2009

Fighting together with the Canadians in Kandahar province

Staff Sgt. Dylan Lugibihl, 24, of Napoleon, Ohio, with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, shouts orders during a firefight with Taliban insurgents near the village of Zangabad in Kanadahar province, Afghanistan. Photo and story: Drew Brown / S&S.

Nice to see some news about these guys. The 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division assists NATO in providing a permanent presence in southern Afghanistan. They're based at FOB Ramrod, the only battalion-sized U.S. unit operating in the Kandahar province - and the only U.S. military unit that falls under a Canadian command.

Two of their companies accompanied Canadian forces on a recent four-day operation into the Panjwayi district, where some of the sharpest fighting has occurred in southern Afghanistan.

The objective was to secure the way in and out of the village of Mushan, about 10 kilometers to the west, where the Canadians would tear down a small outpost that had been occupied since late 2006 by eight Canadian advisers and 60 Afghan soldiers.

On the way out, the entire armored column of more than 400 Canadians, 200 Americans and 100 Afghans was stopped for a day when a Canadian tank was disabled by a Taliban bomb. Meanwhile, other soldiers were engaged in three firefights like the one described below.

From left, Sgt. Zachary Swelfer, 27, of Merrillville, Ind., Cpl. Aaron Barrett, 31, of South Bend, Ind., and Spc. Chad Brown, 24, of Jacksonville, Fla., who survived a close ambush by Taliban fighters near the village of Zangabad in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The soldiers are with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment. Photo and story: Drew Brown / S&S.

On the second day of their operation, soldiers with 2nd Platoon were out on patrol again, not far from where they had gotten into a firefight with Taliban fighters the day before.

Kiowa scout helicopters were overhead, keeping watch on two men who had been shadowing the platoon for a while. They were believed to be part of the group that had set up the previous day’s ambush.

The platoon was nearing the end of the patrol when the lead squad entered a narrow alley set amid poppy fields and mud brick walls.

The alley forced the soldiers to narrow into a single file. Cpl. Aaron Barrett, who was walking point, turned and told the soldier behind him, Spc. Chad Brown, to keep his eyes sharp and be prepared for a close ambush.

The alley curved. As soon as Barrett went around the curve, two Taliban fighters opened up on him and Brown from no more than 10 to 15 feet away.

Barrett, 31, of South Bend, Ind., dove for cover behind a stump when the barrage started.

"I was trying to get as small as possible," he said, recounting the events a few days later.

Brown, who was carrying an M-249 light machine gun, was just behind Barrett in the file. He hit the dirt and began returning fire.

"We wanted to break contact, but the Taliban fire was too intense," said Brown, 24, of Jacksonville, Fla.

The Taliban had Barrett caught in a crossfire. One fighter with an AK-47 rifle was crouched behind a low wall, just to his front. Another was firing a PKM machine gun at him from down an alley to his left.

Taliban gunshots were cracking all around him, so close "I could feel the heat from the barrel and the pressure from the [muzzle blast] coming by my face," Barrett recalled.

Check out both of Drew Brown's articles and the great photo gallery.
Taliban command of Afghan terrain makes fighting conditions difficult
2nd Platoon soldiers survive harrowing Taliban ambush

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