Back to Downrange Journal

Soldiers work with Afghans

Soldiers of 5-20 Infantry work toward establishing relations

1st Lt. Ben Westman and his interpreter, Waffa, talk with a village elder about his mosque (to the left) during a visit to Mutashim. /J.M. Simpson

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

About 400 meters outside the wire from HR2 is the village of Mutashim, a small place on the west bank of the Argandab River.

On a good day, it's an easy walk.  On a day where there may be IEDs (or improvised explosive devices) in the road, it's a bit slower.

HR2, or Haji Rahmuddin, is a strong point about 65 miles southwest of Kandahar Air Field in Zharay Province.

It's also home to 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.

"This is our first visit to the village," 1st Lt. Ben Westman briefed before the mission.

Up ahead two Soldiers called "mine hounds" swept the trail checking for IEDs.

"The village elders have asked about our help in rebuilding or moving their mosque; it's also a good time for us to talk with them."

Called a "village assessment," Westman's mission was in alignment with counter-insurgency, or COIN, strategy.

Currently, COIN objectives are to build economic infrastructure, promote social development, work with local governance, work with the Afghan National Army (ANA) to provide security and attack the Taliban network.

"The motto here is to ‘Get After It,'"explained Capt. Allie Scott, public affairs officer, 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne.

For Westman and his Soldiers, this meant going into Mutashim and establishing relations with the elders.

In particular, Spc. Jeffrey Wade and Spc. Michael Smith grew small crowds of the little ones. Pfc. Heather Owens and Spc. Wendy Vickery, members of the battalion's FET, or Female Engagement Team, went into the village compound and met with women.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Vincent Raila and Staff Sgt. Chad Boyd made sure their Soldiers kept a sharp eye out for trouble. Westman and his Afghan interpreter, Waffa, soon began discussions with the village elder.  Chief on his list was the preservation of the village mosque, a small structure next to the river.

He explained to Westman that when the Argandab rose it threatened to wash away the structure.  Westman listened and took notes.  

The elder went on to say that he wanted to divert the direction of the water rather than move the mosque.

By this time, other elders had joined the first elder, and the discussion went back and forth between them as to what to do. Westman politely listened; he wanted them to decide.  He did not promise any more than his resources could deliver.

The consensus between the elders was to divert the Argandab.

Westman explained that that could be done, but that a temporary road would have to be built across the village's fields in order to bring in the necessary materials. As long as the road was temporary, the elders seemed to be in agreement.

Before he left, Westman asked if the elders would keep him apprised of any movement by the Taliban.  He also pointed out that his Soldiers were well trained and would only engage when they were absolutely sure it was the enemy.

The village leaders seemed satisfied.

Read next close

We Recommend

Sunday, April 8: Oberhofer

comments powered by Disqus