By COL. CHRISTOPHER TONER
3rd Bde. Combat Team
The last several weeks have shown what we already know. As the days grow longer and temperatures rise, the actions of the enemy are also on the rise.
Unfortunately for the enemy, our first operation, Operation Maiwan, focused on cache clearance and severely disrupted the enemy’s summer plans. Our phenomenal Soldiers and ANSF brothers continue to apply overwhelming effects on the enemy. Our decisive operations are a part of the joint effort to expand security in the region and, with that, peace and security for the Afghan people.
Building upon the momentum from Maiwan, we conducted our next big operation, Maiwan II, earlier this month, which focused largely on clearing insurgent support areas along major routes in Khowst Province in order to allow security forces, as well as the local population, freedom to move about without fear of attacks by the enemy.
The mission was complex, and involved ANSF and TF Duke Soldiers constructing route checkpoints, clearing key areas along these routes for insurgent hideaways and weapons caches, conducting information and decision making meetings—or shuras—with village leaders to instill trust and confidence in us (the ANSF, coalition forces), and even involved installing “Salerno boxes,” or large, iron culvert inserts in areas where roadways traversed ditches.
These boxes are designed to prevent the enemy from emplacing IEDs underneath the road, but still allow water to flow freely through. IEDs are the top threat used right now by insurgents, and Salerno boxes make it much harder for them to emplace these deadly munitions where they can do the most damage.
The results of Maiwan II were felt nearly immediately, because the people in areas who were once restricted by insurgent activity, are now able to travel about without fear of insurgent attack. We plan to build upon this success as we execute more joint operations with the ANSF leading the effort.
Success here is complimented by a strong supporting cast on the home front. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of our Soldiers maintaining positive relationships with families and friends. Keeping in touch through phone calls, or Skyping whenever possible, is important to our Soldiers and their loved ones.
TF Duke platoons “adopted” by the Fort Knox community are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support. There is nothing like getting a bit of love-in-a-box from our fans back home.
Sadly, the past several
weeks were not without loss. Five American heroes have joined the ranks of the fallen since my last column.
Staff Sgt. Mecolus “Mack” McDaniel of Troop A, 6-4 Cav., died March 19 from an IED strike against his vehicle while on patrol in Khowst Province.
We also lost 1st Lt. Robert Welch of Company B, 201st Brigade Support Battalion, who died from wounds sustained in a rocket attack here on FOB Salerno April 3.
On April 11 we lost Spc. Brent Maher of Company B, 1-168 Inf. Regt (Iowa Army National Guard), to an IED strike against his patrol in Paktya Province.
Spc. Joseph Kennedy of Company D., 2-2 Inf. Regt, was killed while on patrol in Ghazni Province.
We lost our fifth hero in a rocket attack that occurred here on FOB Salerno April 15. Capt. Josh McClimans was an intensive care nurse with the 352nd Combat Support Hospital.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these brave Soldiers. I hope some comfort can be found in the fact that Soldiers never forget the fallen. They stay with us in our memories and are forever remembered on our memorials. Their sacrifice is the reason we treasure so dearly our freedoms, our ideals, our country.
No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great.
Editor’s note: Sgt. Brent Maher and Capt. Josh McClimans were not service members assigned to the 3/1 IBCT, nor are they based out of Fort Knox. Maher’s Iowa Army National Guard battalion is based in Council Bluffs, Ia., and is attached to 3/1 for the duration of their deployment. McCliman’s unit is based out of Oakland, Calif. and operates the hospital on FOB Salerno.