Sunday, August 22, 2010

Frustration, pride in a year of danger in Afghanistan

Frustration, pride in a year of danger
This is the story of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment's year in Afghanistan, as soldiers struggled with their mission in the conservative Islamic region. The story reflects broader tensions within the U.S. military and among civilian leaders about the conduct of the war: how to balance battling the Taliban with winning the trust of Afghans.
By Hal Bernton

Seattle Times staff reporter

About the Strykers

The 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, served in Afghanistan from July 2009 to July 2010. The 750-member battalion, under command of Lt. Col. Jonathan Neumann, was divided into smaller units that include Bravo, Charlie and Alpha companies. The battalion is part of an infantry brigade of about 3,700 soldiers built around eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles that can travel at more than 60 mph and have high-tech communications and considerable firepower.

1st Battalion casualties The battalion lost 22 soldiers in Afghanistan, and more than 65 were wounded.

On a late September afternoon last year, Capt. James Pope climbed a hill that offered a sweeping view of the Arghandab Valley. He gazed on thousands of acres of irrigated farm fields and orchards that faded into a dusty, mountain-ringed desert.

Pope, a North Carolinian with a reputation as a hard charger, commanded a company of soldiers from the Western Washington-based 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment.

He took a certain pride in pointing out the formidable size of his area of operations, which stretched some 15 miles through some of the most hostile terrain of southern Afghanistan, a place the Taliban claimed as a staging ground for its growing insurgency in Kandahar province.

Two months into the deployment, Pope had yet to visit all of the villages in his sector. But he knew where to find a fight: amid the orchards that offered thick cover for insurgents.

"See that green zone, where it's very thick," Pope said. "That's where the Taliban like to hide."

It was from these orchards two decades ago that Afghan mujahedeen fought off the Soviet army as it tried to secure southern Afghanistan.

Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton spent two weeks in Afghanistan last fall with the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. This story is based on reporting during that period as well as interviews this summer with soldiers after their return to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He can be reached at 206-464-2581 or hbernton@

read more here
Frustration pride in a year of danger

No comments:

Post a Comment

If it is not helpful, do not be hurtful. Spam removed so do not try putting up free ad.