30 October 2007

173rd brave Taliban, rugged terrain in Afghanistan

U.S. servicemen traverse a mountain trail on Thursday. The march took 10 hours for the men of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne's 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment to complete. Most of the leadership ranks are Rangers as well.

Two radio men from Company A rest, heading a succession of troops who descended a 7,600-foot mountaintop in Afghanistan's restive northeast. The U.S. troops were wrapping up a six-day mission that left three of their own dead.

Staff Sgt. Brian Mading, 29, of Bonita Springs, Fla., and fellow paratroops negotiate rough terrain down a mountain in east Afghanistan, taking 10 hours to descend it.

U.S. Army Capt. Louis Frketic, 29, of Jacksonville, Fla., (right, no sunglasses) listens as an Afghan man talks about the hardships of living in the mountainous terrain of Kunar province in northeast Afghanistan.

Les Neuhaus of S&S reports from northeastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border.

An endless patchwork of jagged mountains in the east pushes ever northward into the famed Hindu Kush, just beyond the Khyber Pass, and is home to the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Parts of the brigade hike the trails of four provinces — Lagman, Nangarhar, Nuristan and Kunar — in search of al-Qaida and Taliban operatives. It’s a network that reaches deep into the hundreds of valleys and mountain peaks of this region.

Last week, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment descended a mountain peak well over 7,000 feet tall after spending six days encamped along a ridgeline.

They had been on the offensive against Taliban militants holed up in the Pech River Valley, which meanders and winds throughout the volatile Kunar province.

They had all of their gear, guns and ammo — and water. Each man’s backpack was between 60 to 100 pounds.

All the while they were in combat mode, as the “ex-filtration” of the operation involved searches and keeping on general alert. ...

The blue sky exploded overhead with occasional 155 mm howitzer and 120 mm mortar shells pelting ridge peaks opposite of Company A’s torturous trails, which only seemed to grow more and more steep.

Throughout the day, U.S. Air Force F-15 jet fighters also screamed by, with a constant pitter-patter of helicopter blades swirling within earshot.

Read the rest of Les' report here and take a look at more of his photos.

See also Operation Rock Avalanche In Afghanistan.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

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