Oua, dwa, dre. One, two, three. An Afghan National Army (ANA) platoon leader, part of the 5th Combat Service Support (CSS) Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 201st ANA Corps, sized up his men as they prepared to travel on one of the most unforgiving roads in eastern Afghanistan: Main Supply Route (MSR) California. This CSS kandak partnered with Soldiers of the 426th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), to provide critically needed supplies to the 1st Infantry Kandak in northeastern Afghanistan on their 101-mile trek in support of Operation Azmaray Fury.
Operation Azmaray Fury was a joint Afghan National Security Forces operation aimed at taking back Barge Matal from Taliban forces and establishing security throughout the district.
Soldiers of the 426th BSB worked diligently with the 5th CSS Kandak to improve the ANA soldiers' tactical and technical skills while the units delivered logistics support to the infantry forces in the northeast.
Getting the kandak up to par was no easy feat. The 426th BSB conducted classes on proper vehicle operations, reacting to direct and indirect fire while mounted, and proper radio procedures to hone the skills of 5th CSS Kandak soldiers. This training not only prepared ANA soldiers to work with the 426th BSB but also to conduct logistics convoys long after their U.S. partners depart.
According to Sergeant First Class Ryan Waters, a platoon sergeant with A Company, 426th BSB, proper planning, rehearsal, load up, and execution of a logistics convoy takes an average of 7 to 10 days and many man-hours. “It's not something that can be taught overnight,” said Waters. “My Soldiers work shona-bi-shona (shoulder to shoulder) with the soldiers of the 5th CSS Kandak to get the mission accomplished and keep the force rolling.”
After arriving in Regional Command East in April 2010, Soldiers of the 426th BSB conducted more than 50 combined logistics convoys with their partners in the ANA.
Convoy operations provided training not only for those on the road but also for those back in the combined action tactical operations center at Forward Operating Base Fiaz. Soldiers of B Company, 426th BSB, and the Headquarters Company, 5th CSS Kandak together tracked the movement of their logistics convoy on MSR California on the Blue Force Tracker screens as it moved up north.
Sergeant First Class Gerald Gimenez of B Company showed his Afghan counterpart how to send on-screen flash important priority routine (FIPR) messages to the convoy commander. “We show them the same skills that we learned from our training prior to deployment to help develop them so that, by the time we leave here, they have the ability to track the battle themselves,” said Gimenez.
The tactical operations team received a FIPR message alerting them that the convoy took brief rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire in a frequently high-engagement area. With the help of soldiers from the 5th CSS Kandak, the U.S. Soldiers in the convoy returned fire and pressed through the kill zone.
Attacks like this became typical on the MSR, and each time, U.S. and Afghan Soldiers responded appropriately within the rules of engagement. Each time 5th CSS Kandak and 426th BSB Soldiers went on the road together, they inflicted devastating casualties to the enemy, protected the civilian population, safeguarded crops, and conducted their mission of delivering supplies to soldiers of the 1st Infantry Kandak.