Tuesday, May 12, 2009


12th May, COP Herrera.

Last night was a complete buzz as we apparently had good intel that the Talibans were going to hit the District Compound (DC) again. There was a pandemonium of men prepping their personal weapons and loading the humvees with ammo and heavy weapons. Then we waited and waited and were told to stand down but be ready. So the intel wasn’t too solid after all! Darn!

You see, last Friday night there was contact with a fairly large force of Taliban fighters that attacked the DC. They were actually trying to overrun the compound, which also houses the Afghan National Police and firefight ensued.

Now, Charlie Platoon had earlier set off in the direction of the next village and was hoping to pick up a guy who was suspected to have ties with the enemy. Just as they had set up an OP when they heard RPG and rifle fires. The firefight had just begun!

The Talibans were expecting to overrun the compound without too much resistance. Heck! They even got inside at one point! They had about 30 fighters surrounding the compound when mortars started to rain down on them from the Americans’ position. For the next three hours, all hell broke loose! An airstrike was called in and a couple of A-10 showed up dropping two 500lbs bombs and strafing the attackers.

First light came and the surviving Afghan Police and the Americans started looking for the enemies in the surrounding hillsides. They recovered nine bodies and captured a heavily wounded. There were three police officers wounded and no US casualty.

So that was Friday night/Saturday morning. Today we heard that more bodies were found and the now the tally stands at 21 Taliban insurgents killed. By now, we had truly pissed off the local Taliban cadre and hence the single rocket attack on our base two nights ago and the rumors on an impending attack last night. Now I heard through the grapevine that this rather large force of insurgents are really mad at us and intend to hit us sometime within this week. Welcome to COP Herrera!

BTW, a Taliban spokeman (whoever the heck he is) claimed responsibility for the attack and stated officially that there were only 2 - TWO - insurgents killed in that attack! :D

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Heating up!

Just as I was about to settle in for the evening with a movie on my laptop when I heard a loud thump. Hmmm... rocket attack or someone just dropped something heavy? No sirens but lots of noise outside. So I peered outside and men were running around and someone shouted, "Incoming"! Yikes!

Grab my body armor, helmet on, and my trusty camera. Well, if a round were to destroy my laptop no biggy but I have to ensure the survival of my rice-bowl. We were supposed to go to the nearest bunker but I went to the TOC (Tactical Ops Centre) instead. Nothing so far - only one round. We figured it was probably in retailation for the failed attack they (the Talibans) carried out two nights ago when they try to overrun the sub-governor's compound only to run unexpectedly into an American unit on patrol.

Many mortar rounds, an airstrike and nearly three hours of firefight later the TBs withdrew leaving behind nine dead and one captured.

Makes for great reading!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Last photos...

Finally these are a couple of photos taken from the village we went into and two photos taken in FOB Gardez.

A little of everything...

And here's a little of everything...

Out in the sticks

My first patrol with the 40th Cavalry Reg, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf Div.

Day 2, Combat Outpost Herrera

Getting to COP Herrera was a real pain in the arse! Literally, I swear!

So I finally left Sharana after a 5 days wait for a helicopter ride to FOB Gardez. Many of the non-military helicopters were flown by civilians and managed by private companies. It was a 20 mins flight through some amazing country, and I keep telling myself that if one day Afghanistan were to become safe and peaceful again, I would come back as a tourist!

Gardez is a much smaller base built around two traditional Afghan courtyard houses with a local cemetery within its compound. "The Talibans don't hit the base because of the cemetery", I was told by my liaison officer. Now that's reassuring but means that I don't going wandering around too much at night! I had hardly settled into my little earthen room when I was told that I would be put on a convoy the next day to COP Herrera since I've requested to be assigned to a more 'action-packed' base.

So after a grueling 7 hours ride in the most uncomfortable model of the MRAP ever produced, I finally arrived in COP Herrera right close to the Pakistani border. Heck, I can even see the mountains of Pakistan from the base! Herrera is TINY although I've been told that there are smaller bases that this. A little over 100 US troops manned this outpost and we are nearly 3000m up in the mountain. There are no PX, no barber, no coffee shop, and no post office here. Just the troops, a chow hall, gym and internet facility. Yes, my friends, I'm truly out in the sticks. At least we still have hot showers so that's a consolation.

Day 2 - I'm assigned to one of the recon patrol and we will be visiting a village in the hope of talking to or picking up some suspected insurgents. Since this is the unit first visit everyone was told to be as non-aggressive as possible. "We don't want to make unnecessary enemies", said the LT to me.

The village council rep was there but seems reluctant to take us to see the people on our list so we have to come back another day. Remember 'non-aggressive'! Then off we went to the Afghan-Pakistan border and what a sight! The landscape is really beautiful but remote. How strange that three years ago, I looked into Afghanistan from the Pakistani border and now I looked into Pakistan from the Afghan side. Someday, I really have to come back and backpack through this country!

After a couple of hours talking, drinking chai and inspecting the border crossing and another border outpost we left feeling tired but in good spirits.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Another day stuck in Sharana

So here I am trying to get a helo flight out to another FOB north of Sharana but the flight has been cancelled 3 times so far! Reasons? Bad weather! Kinda makes you think when the most powerful military in the world cancel their flights for bad weather... However, from their standpoint, safety takes priority over everything else.

Certainly a frustrating thing but part of the whole embed experience. Be prepared to wait out on missions, flights and other stuff. I am sorry to say this but being an embed media is not all action and glory! :D