Dog’ Company Takes Fight to the High Ground

GAYAN DISTRICT, Afghanistan, May 20, 2011 — “Dog” Company’s mis­sion, here near the Pak­istan bor­der, is sim­ple: “climb moun­tains and kill bad guys.”
Army Capt. Edwin Churchill com­mands the com­pa­ny, part of the 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 506th Infantry Regiment’s fight­ing force for the 4th Brigade, 101st Air­borne Divi­sion.

U.S. Army Capt. Edwin Churchill calls for indi­rect fire fol­low­ing an ene­my attack on his company’s posi­tion near the Pak­istan bor­der in Afghanistan, May 18, 2011.
DOD pho­to by Karen Par­rish
Click to enlarge

“You’ve got to be will­ing to own the high grounds and stay out overnight,” Churchill said. “You need to go where you know [ene­my forces] are, and have the con­fi­dence that you’ll push them out of the area.”

From For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Till­man here in the Pak­ti­ka province, Churchill’s troops lit­er­al­ly went to the high ground recent­ly. The com­pa­ny spent five days, from May 14-to 18, march­ing into the moun­tains of the Gayan dis­trict, car­ry­ing tons of weapons and equip­ment, aid­ed by Afghan army and bor­der police part­ners and a small Army engi­neer detach­ment. Their mis­sion: slow the flow of ene­my fight­ers from the bor­der region into the rest of Afghanistan.

On May 14 – a Sat­ur­day — the company’s first and third pla­toons set up posi­tions on three hill­tops, with the first pla­toon split between two posi­tions. The sol­diers flew in by Chi­nook, then marched and climbed to their assigned posi­tions before dawn.

Churchill said the over­watch posi­tions cov­ered an area rough­ly sev­en by three kilo­me­ters, cen­tered on a road that pro­vides an ille­gal cross­ing into Pak­istan.

Local Afghans use the road to cross into Pak­istan, where the near­est bazaar is locat­ed. But the road also pro­vides a route for insur­gents to move men and equip­ment into Afghanistan with­out pass­ing through a check­point, Churchill said.

“We’ve been hit­ting that area hard, and it’s cre­at­ed quite a fight from [the ene­my.] They very dear­ly want to hold on to that cross­ing point,” he said.

A pri­ma­ry objec­tive of the oper­a­tion was to dis­able that road, he added.

Engi­neers accom­plished that Mon­day morn­ing, set­ting off a series of explo­sive charges that left two craters in the road. One is 22 feet long by 8 feet deep, and the explo­sion rolled a 1,000-pound boul­der into the pit, he said. The sec­ond crater is 15 feet wide and 6 feet deep.

“The ene­my can bring heavy equip­ment out to try to fix it, but we’d instant­ly react … and find out who it was,” Churchill said.

Legit­i­mate res­i­dents will detour through the traf­fic con­trol check­point near FOB Till­man, and sol­diers will be on the look­out for peo­ple who are sud­den­ly devi­at­ing from their nor­mal trav­el pat­terns and those who are using ille­gal cross­ings, he said.

In the wake of the explo­sions in the road, insur­gents attacked third platoon’s posi­tion ear­ly in the after­noon, and sus­tained the assault into Tues­day morn­ing. [See relat­ed arti­cle “Infantry Troops Hold Bor­der Hill­top.”]

Lat­er that day, the company’s oth­er two ele­ments con­verged on the third platoon’s posi­tion, and were in place the fol­low­ing day when the ene­my attacked again.

“It was four to five dif­fer­ent posi­tions, machine gun and small arms fire com­ing from the same ridge­line,” Churchill said. “The insur­gents ini­ti­at­ed and … we had at that point four machine guns on the line plus five dif­fer­ent squad auto­mat­ic weapons [and] two 60mm mor­tar tubes.”

With­in two min­utes, Dog Com­pa­ny had fire supe­ri­or­i­ty. The entire engage­ment last­ed about 20 min­utes.

“We had just start­ed to break down … and get ready to leave,” Churchill said. “We called for [air weapons] and imme­di­ate sup­pres­sion from the 105 how­itzers at FOB Till­man. We have an unbe­liev­ably good gun crew here, and we’re very com­fort­able fir­ing them ‘dan­ger close.’ ”

The com­bi­na­tion of indi­rect and direct fire quick­ly drove the ene­my away, he said.

“We know they broke con­tact back into Pak­istan,” he said. “At that point we sat at stand-to for a cou­ple of hours wait­ing to see if they want­ed to come back.”

Churchill said an esti­mat­ed two squads’ worth of ene­my fight­ers were “removed from the bat­tle­field” dur­ing the two engage­ments.

His sol­diers’ per­for­mance dur­ing the mis­sion was high­ly pro­fes­sion­al, Churchill said. He not­ed that most of the company’s men have been involved in “more fire­fights than they can count” dur­ing their deploy­ment, and have walked at least 700 miles of patrol through the moun­tain­ous bor­der region.

“Every infantry­man finds that point in his career … some­thing like the oth­er day, when those rounds were every­where,” he said. “How did they not find any­thing? Nobody [from Dog Com­pa­ny] got hit.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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