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1/508 settles in for new mission in Afghanistan

Story by Sgt. Adrian Schulte, CJTF-76 Public Affairs

Soldiers from 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry (Airborne), patrol the small town of Naka during a mission there March 24, 2005. (Click photo to launch PDF file with 7 pages of 608th news)
FOB ORGUN-E, Afghanistan -- Lt. Col. Tim McGuire, commander, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Task Force Fury, is noticeably excited when he talks about his battalion’s new mission in Afghanistan.

The 1/508 have settled into their new home at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, outside the town of Orgune in the Paktika province of southeastern Afghanistan.

The paratroops, who began arriving at the FOB March 1 and took over responsibility March 12, will be stationed at the forward operating base for the next year as part of Task Force Fury.

The battalion, along with other elements from the 173rd, fell in on the position occupied by elements of the Hawaian-based 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

“We are really pleased with the living conditions here,” McGuire said. “Our predecessors did a great job of building up the FOB for us.”

“It’s a piece of cake compared to Iraq,” said Pfc. Robert Beall, a forward observer for Alpha Company, 1/508, who spent time in northern Iraq with the battalion. “This place is nice. We have power constantly, the phones work, we have the Internet and we have running water so you can take a shower everyday. The living quarters are pretty good. We have a lot of guys in there, but if you can’t live in close quarters for a year, how can you expect to work with them? It’s a little crowded, but nothing we can’t work with.”

“It’s definitely a notch above what we left in Iraq,” said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Holland, platoon leader, Co. A, 1/508th. “[The 25th] left it in good order so we moved right in, it was really easy. All we are doing is improving on something that they have already made great for us, so it’s a great place.”

[web site and photo no longer available]

Sgt. Adrian Schulte
Soldiers from Delta Battery, 173rd Airborne Brigade, sling load a M119 105mm howitzer to a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E in southeastern Afghanistan March 12. The paratroops, along with the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and other elements of the 173rd, are a part of Task Force Fury and will be responsible for the Paktika province for the next year.

For the next year, the Red Devils of the battalion will be responsible for the Paktika Province. The province is approximately the size of Vermont and shares a 600-kilometer border with Pakistan.

“We are extremely prepared,” McGuire said. “We have spent the last year preparing for this mission. A large percentage of the battalion was in Iraq and those Soldiers who have joined us since our return from Iraq, many of them come with experience from Iraq and Afghanistan. So we are ready, well-equipped and very eager to get out and build upon the success of the units that have preceded us here.”

The Soldiers of the 1/508th will be working hand-in-hand with the Afghan government, the Afghan National Army, the Afghan Police and most importantly with the Afghan people to ensure the long-term peace and prosperity of the region, McGuire said.

The transition has been very smooth for the Red Devils as they adjust to their new environment and responsibilities.

“This has been the best relief-in-place transition I have taken part of,” McGuire said. “The Wolfhounds from the 25th Infantry Division did a great job. They have really done a great job getting us out among the people so we can learn from their year’s worth of experience.”

The troops are prepared and looking forward to the adventures that lay ahead, McGuire said.

“The Soldiers are excited by the mission. They realize the importance of Afghanistan on the Global War on Terror. We have a chance here to show this entire region that democracy and rule of law works, and that the people benefit.”

Task Force Fury’s area of responsibility is a large one that will keep the Soldiers of the 1/508 busy and engaged for the next 12 months.

“In the next year, I’m looking forward to going out there and seeing my whole sector,” Holland said. “I’ve already been out there for eight days and I haven’t seen enough. I want to go out there and I want to be able to see every town and check it out. There will be a lot of good experiences for my Soldiers and myself. Morale is really high. The Soldiers are new in sector and they are pumped to get out there and start doing things and seeing what is around.”

While the troops are excited about what lies ahead, they are aware of the challenges as well.

“There is an enemy out there and we are fighting an insurgency,” McGuire said. “We are going to fight and win this insurgency because we are focusing on the people. The A

Afghan people are committed to peace and they are committed to working together for prosperity. We are going to work hand and hand with the government. One of our challenges will be helping to empower and enable the government and the Afghan security forces. It’s just continuing to extend the reach of the central government and show the Afghan people that their future lives are better with the rule of law, democracy and freedom by working closely with the international community.”

The terrain of the Paktika province is an unforgiving one and will continue to pose a challenge through the next year. It has been an especially harsh winter for the Afghan people and the weather is wreaking havoc on the countryside. For troops who rely on large, brawny humvees to get around, the lack of roads will pose a challenge in a country that often relies on alternate modes of transportation such as mules.

“One of our challenges will be the lack of infrastructure here,” McGuire said. “Some of the roads right now are more rivers or tar pits of mud, so we will put a lot of effort into working with the Afghan officials to improve crossing sites and roads throughout the area.”

“Maintenance is going to be a big challenge,” Holland said. “The terrain out there… there aren’t any real roads, except for actually in Orgune itself and some of the other major places in our sector. But down south, there really aren’t a lot of roads. You drive down wadis and you drive over large rocks so you go out there with your maintenance team and you're fixing stuff.”

The Red Devils are in place, settled and ready for the year ahead. They will be working with the Afghan people to help improve this war-torn country.

“The Afghans are committed to close relations with the U.S. and improving their life,” McGuire said. “They have had 25 years of war here. They are ready for peace and they are ready to work hard to achieve it.”

Source: 1st Battalion 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association


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