Scouts Take On Tough Mission in Afghanistan
By Army Staff Sgt. David Hopkins
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Feb. 18, 2009 Cavalry scouts and Afghan National Army soldiers conduct ongoing dangerous missions along the unpaved roadways in northeastern Afghanistan’s Konar province.
Army Capt. Paul Roberts gives a night-security plan to Army 1st Lt. John Grant before dark in northeastern Afghanistan, Jan. 11, 2009. The scouts had to wait out the night in the location, securing it for transports coming through the area. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. David Hopkins
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“We do about 20 to 25 missions a month,” said Army Capt. Paul Roberts, commander of the 1st Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “We do combat logistics patrol overwatch, night patrols, route [reconnaissance].”
Recently, the soldiers were called on to guard a convoy of supply trucks and military vehicles as they passed through one of the most frequently attacked locations on a dangerous stretch of road to transport supplies to outposts in the region.
These are the hardest missions, Roberts said. “They require the most combat power, and there are a lot of moving parts,” he explained.
The location the scouts were watching had been attacked several times over the preceding months, including a close-range ambush on a convoy in October that wounded four American servicemembers.
For this mission, the scouts sat on a plateau along the river, where they had a vantage point along the road, while a group of Afghan soldiers headed up a mountainside to set up a position with a view from above.
As they scanned the road, valley and hillsides, they watched cars and trucks, children playing in the small village, goat herders -- any movement -- for possible threat. They used binoculars, laser range-finders and the naked eye as they watched and waited for the convoy to come through.
The scouts saw some suspicious signs along the road and on the mountain ridges, but the mission went off without incident. The supplies were delivered, and no shots were fired. This is not always the case for the cavalry scouts. They frequently are attacked and have to counterattack. However, the scouts are well-trained for such attacks and for the mission.
“I’m really proud of my guys,” Roberts said. “They’ve been doing exactly what I expect of cavalry scouts. They are out there all the time doing a tough job.”
The scouts’ leaders have high hopes for the future of their troop, but their main hope is for the Afghan security forces.
“My biggest hope for the future of the unit is for the [Afghan security forces] guys,” Roberts said. “My hope is that [they] get better and take on more responsibility, extending the face of the government, take the fight to the bad guys. Until then we’ll be there doing our job.”
(Army Staff Sgt. David Hopkins serves in the 1st Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)