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Air Assets Keep Troops in Afghanistan Moving, Supplied

By Spc. Dijon Rolle, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Dec. 3, 2004 – Aviators from Task Force Diamondhead are helping to ensure the success of coalition forces here by providing air support for various missions throughout the southern region of Afghanistan.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Soldiers from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment rush away from an aircraft during a combat air assault. Photo by Spc. Dijon Rolle, USA
  

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

This support often comes in the form of air-assault missions, during which aviation assets are used to rapidly insert ground troops and equipment into remote locations.

The air support can also be in the form of resupplying units. Regardless of the specific task, each mission is a carefully orchestrated operation between Task Force Diamondhead and the requesting unit. Air support has proven itself to be not only faster, but also more effective, than ground convoys for deployed troops serving across Afghanistan, officials said.

"Here in Afghanistan, the majority of the movement that we do is by aircraft," said Army Maj. Robert Ault, Task Force Diamondhead operations officer.

"The distances here are pretty great, and Afghanistan doesn't always have the highway infrastructure system or roads to be able to move around," he said. "If you want to move large concentrations of soldiers, troops or supplies, or evacuate personnel, we rely on aircraft to do that -- and that's where Task Force Diamondhead comes in."

A major benefit of using air assets to move troops and supplies is the added safety. The aircraft lands just long enough to drop off personnel and equipment before leaving the area.

"We can move them in quickly and move them out a lot quicker then you can on a ground convoy," said Staff Sgt. Deddra French, Task Force Diamondhead operations noncommissioned officer. "It's a lot easier to move a larger amount with the aircraft than with the convoy, and we can use the element of surprise with the air assault."

Soldiers said they are also pleased with the benefits of air assaults. "With the air assault, we can position troops better and there's less (of a risk)," said Army Spc. Tambouzi Green, a team leader with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment. "It positions me with my team and helps me to maneuver better with them on the battlefield. Once we land, we have a better idea of what needs to be done and where we need to go."

Air-assault missions not only insert ground troops directly into a desired location, but supplies and equipment as well. "As infantry, we're already carrying a lot of gear," said Army Staff Sgt. Kenrick Rampersad, a squad leader with Company A. "This makes it a little easier for us to move our soldiers and all of our equipment from one point to another. We can fit a whole platoon in one Chinook (helicopter)."

After the initial air-assault mission is complete, the aircraft often make a second trip to the area to drop off supplies, like food, water and fuel, that ground troops will need to successfully accomplish their mission.

"It aids the commander and his decision making process, and allows him to move personnel and equipment around the battlefield more effectively," said Army Staff Sgt. Bruce Bryant, support platoon sergeant from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment. "This helps us accomplish our mission and meet the commander's intent."

(Army Spc. Dijon Rolle is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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