Written by Army Capt. Michael Greenberger, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (March 29, 2009) – The rising sun brought a flurry of activity in the 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 101st Airborne Division Special Troops Battalion motor pool March 19 as they prepared to run a joint checkpoint with Afghan National Police outside Bagram’s Entry Control Points.
Just two weeks prior, one of the ECPs was attacked by a suicide bomber who was thwarted by local Afghan peacekeepers. The attack made things a little more real today; the attention to detail was a little more important.
Everywhere in the 2nd Platoon motor-pool, Alpha Company Slayer’s moved with a purpose, loading equipment, weapons and water into their up-armored humvees. After radio checks were complete, the Soldiers mounted up and rolled out to the ECPs.
The road outside the southern edge of Bagram Air Field is a stretch of muddy potholes, rocks and debris. With skill, precision and watchful eyes, the Slayers navigate their immense vehicles over the uneven terrain, constantly beeping their horns at civilian traffic to alert them to the Slayer’s presence.
“Our main goal is to keep everyone and the vehicles safe,” said Army Sgt. Roberto Castillo, an Iraq veteran now serving in Afghanistan. “We do a lot to avoid civilians and their vehicles on the road because we have to share it and want to maintain a better relationship with the locals.”
Gunners constantly scan the terrain for threats while the vehicle bounces around the muddy mess.
“We are always aware of our surroundings,” said Army Spc. Todd Haskel. “When I first got here I was constantly scanning – constantly on edge. Now it is like second nature to me.”
After a short but challenging trip, the Slayers roll onto the checkpoints in force. They move swiftly to cover the avenues of approach, laying down concertina wire and orange cones to block the roads while patrol leader Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Button makes contact with the Afghan National Police already on the ground.
“We are very happy with these guys [the Slayers],” said Jalaludin, a captain with the ANP. “We have worked with them often and we work well together. The Army Soldiers are happy with us because they know when they call us for a joint mission, we will be here.”
The town outside Bagram is a bustling hub of two-story buildings, shops and shanties – people are everywhere. The Afghans watch the Soldiers intently as they go about their tasks, yet keep their distance.
“We set-up these blocking positions as an anti-terrorism measure,” said Button. “It’s a nice show of force for any bad guys who might be in the area.”
The Slayers keep an eye out for anyone or anything that looks suspicious.
“If we see a suspicious vehicle the Afghan Police stop and search the vehicle and question the occupants,” Button said. “We mainly serve in a support roll to back them up.”
“We’ve been doing missions like these for 13 months,” said Army Spc. Randall Preston. “We set-up these positions and the Afghan people immediately adjust. They stay out of the way and try to help.”
The ANP are familiar with the people who congregate around the ECP and quickly recognize strangers.
“Before the Americans came there were a lot of bad people here,” said Jalaludin. “These are good people here now though, and they are tired of all the fighting. They just want security and peace, and are glad the Americans are here to help.”
“These ANP are really solid,” Button said. “They do what you ask them to do and they show up and do a good job.”
Random-Antiterrorism Measures and Procedures, or RAMP missions, are an important part of security operations in Afghanistan.
“It’s important to do random patrols to disrupt enemy forces,” said Army Capt. William Coulter, Alpha Company commander. “As well as not set a predictable schedule or pattern of patrolling.”
After an hour or so, the ANP commander gave the call to collapse the blocking positions, so the Slayers secured their equipment, said their goodbyes, and headed for home just in time for lunch, completing another mission - just an average morning for the Slayers in their 13th month in Afghanistan.
Unique to the 101st Airborne Division, the Slayers serve as a Mobile Reaction Force, or MRF, able to respond within minutes of being called.
“We have infantrymen, signal Soldiers, a Mechanic – it makes us self-sufficient, adaptable, and flexible,” Button said, adding that 2nd platoon is a unique conglomerate of military occupational specialties.
Along with Alpha Company’s 1st platoon, 2nd platoon’s primary mission is patrolling and the security of Bagram Air Field and Parwan and Kapisa Provinces.
“These are an extraordinary group of guys,” said Button. “They never back down from a mission and never got a mission they couldn’t handle.”
The Slayers have performed over 1,000 missions since arriving in Afghanistan in March 2008.