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New Combat Outpost Helps Counterinsurgency Fight in Afghanistan

By Army Capt. Ashley Dellavalle
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan, May 7, 2008 – Army engineers have completed construction of a combat outpost on the Afghan-Pakistani border to reduce insurgent attacks there.

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Soldiers of Company B, 864th Engineer Battalion, drill into the rocky earth to place charges used for blasting away rock. The soldiers set the conditions for a new combat outpost at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. U.S. Army photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

For Task Force Pacemaker soldiers, the process started with coordinating with their maneuver brethren to secure the terrain where the new outpost would be built in Margah village in the eastern part of Afghanistan’s Paktika province.

The construction facilitates a key part of the counterinsurgency fight by allowing ground forces to interact with the local people, as well as separating the enemy in historical border-infiltration areas. The engineers provided a residence from which soldiers fight, officials said.

Company B, 864th Engineer Battalion, also known as the “Bulldogs” of Task Force Pacemaker, spent their first days of construction pounding pickets into the rocky mountainside a few kilometers from the Pakistan border. The altitude and the steep, solid-rock terrain challenged the soldiers. They blasted the mountain with more than 300 pounds of explosives to carve the mountaintop into suitable grounds for base.

With an understanding that the enemy was watching and an attack could happen at any moment, the engineers assembled the base walls out of hesco bastions -- wire baskets filled with dirt -- and began construction on the guard towers. While some worked on the towers, others built fortified living and working areas.

“Incredible. Really impressive,” said Army Col. Marty Schweitzer, the Task Force Fury commander in charge of ground forces in the area.

Elders of a neighboring village were thankful the new outpost allows the soldiers to move away from their district center.

“It is a very good thing that you are moving the COP up onto the top of the hill,” one village elder said. “When the bad guys attack the COP now, we are stuck in the middle. Thank you for doing this very good thing.”

(Army Capt. Ashley Dellavalle serves in the Task Force Rugged Public Affairs Office.)

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Related Sites:
Combined Joint Task Force 101
NATO International Security Assistance Force

Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers of Company B, 864th Engineer Battalion, build guard towers at the Margah Combat Outpost in eastern Paktika, Afghanistan. The new outpost allows ground forces to interact with the local people and separates the enemy from the people in historical infiltration areas on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. U.S. Army photo  
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