By Army Staff Sgt. Adora Medina
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 29, 2008 - People in the smaller villages of southern Afghanistan have limited or no electricity. Though rows of power lines stretch for miles across the desolate sands of the region, only residents of major cities have electrical power. U.S. forces joined with Afghan forces and NATO's International Security Assistance Force last month in an operation officials expect will lead to the eventual establishment of power for the smaller communities.
The combined forces transported a new turbine more than 100 miles across southern Afghanistan to the Kajaki dam in Helmand province.
On Aug. 28, soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, escorted the turbine as it passed through their area of operations. The light infantry unit cleared a path and secured about a 20-mile vicinity, enabling safe travel. The vast open area presented a challenge for the light infantrymen, who began operations in the district just months ago.
"We're still not sure what villages are pro-ISAF or pro-Taliban, or where some of the areas along the route are worse than the others," Army Capt. Trevor Voelkel, commander of the battalion's Company C, said.
To familiarize themselves with the area, the soldiers in Voelkel's company went out to perform reconnaissance just a couple of days prior to the operation. When they reached a certain portion of the district, Voelkel said, they were attacked by rockets twice within an hour. To alleviate unnecessary risks on the day of the operation, Kiowa and Apache helicopters circled the district, providing air support to the combined convoy.
Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division shadowed the convoy for about 10 hours, encountering only one incoming rocket round, which landed north of their perimeter. As the convoy departed from the district, soldiers transferred responsibility to Task Force Helmand, which led the convoy the rest of the way.
Despite Taliban attempts to deter the operation, the turbine safely arrived to the Kajaki Dam on Sept. 2. There, engineers would begin the construction process to provide electricity for the remote areas of Afghanistan.
(Army Staff Sgt. Adora Medina serves with Combined Joint Task Force 101.)