28 March 2011

The Enemy Already Knows You're Here

According to a Mar. 26 Army news release, members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division launched helicopter-based operations in the Galuch Valley of Agahanistan's Laghman Province on Friday, Mar. 25.

News reports from the Des Moines (Iowa) Register and the Omaha World-Herald, each of which currently have reporter-photographer teams on the ground in Afghanistan, posted their respective coverage of the announcement here and here.

Army leaders did not speculate as to the expected duration of the operation. News reports specifically mention involvement of 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1-133rd Inf.), 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment (1-113th Cav.), and 334th Brigade Support Battalion (334th BSB), although other "Task Force Red Bulls" soldiers can also be expected to participate.

The operation involves the movement of soldiers by helicopter--what the military calls an "air assault"--to search villages for equipment used by those fighting against Afghan and coalition forces. In addition to weapons, homemade explosives, and communications equipment, soldiers are also to look for specific enemy personnel. Throughout the operation, soldiers meet with village elders to encourage cooperation against anti-Afghan forces.

According to the Des Moines Register post:
The plan was for Iowa and Afghan soldiers to show up at each village in force and to ask village leaders to voluntarily let the Afghan troops search buildings peacefully. But Guard leaders warned that some villages might resist.

“You need to go into there with the mentality that you’re going into a fight. If you think any differently, you’re fooling yourself,” Major Aaron Baugher of Ankeny said during a briefing of officers and senior sergeants before the operation kicked off.
Despite the fact that Army leaders themselves announced the operation shortly after its launch, friends and family in Iowa expressed mixed reactions regarding the publication of the news. Some worried that even general information would place loved ones at risk--the result of what the military calls a violation of "operations security" ("OPSEC"). Others said they were worried about their soldiers, but were proud of their mission and service.

A number of Red Bull family members reacted to news of the operation on the 2-34th BCT's official Facebook page. Said one:
Just so you know, articles like these make it IMPOSSIBLE to sleep when you are the wife at home with the kids. This is hard enough, thank you for adding to it. Hard enough laying my head on a pillow knowing that at the same time he is putting a helmet on & heading out. It is one thing to be informative, it is another to try to sell a story with total disregard to how it may affect people. There was a time when combat zones were no place for reporters ... and it should have stayed that way.
Said another:
I guess I have mixed feelings about this. During the Vietnam assault my parents, brother, and I sat on the couch every evening watching for a glimpse of my brother's Marine unit. Dreading it and longing for it at the same time. With today's instant news sources ... it's scary to read my daughter is participating in this assault ... but it narrows the playing field and allows me to focus on just those news items that might apply to her situation. I can't control the events ... but I can sure pray more specifically for the teams involved! God bless the warriors and their loved ones back home.
Said a third:
I am so proud of all of these soldiers! They are doing what they have been trained for! My husband would much rather be doing "something" as apposed to sitting around doing nothing while he is deployed. I don't think it's fair to blame the reporters for our fears as army wives war is war and it would be silly of us all to expect it to be all sunshine over there while our husbands and wives are over there. Although I understand the stress that comes from having a spouse gone and a part of a war, don't miss the part of the story where our soldiers are helping these people so much! They are going in and possible saving many lives because of these missions! Thank you all! Your truly amazing and I believe God's angels will protect you all!
When training soldiers to assault an objective--a house or village, for example--military trainers often stress the importance of surprise and secrecy. Soldiers sneak around, and communicate quietly using hand-and-arm signals. Once the helicopters and bullets start to fly, however, the trainers just as often have to remind mute soldiers that it's OK to start communicating out loud, even if it means shouting over the noise.

"Talk to one another!" they say. "The enemy already knows you're here!"

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