By Army Spc. Brandon Sandefur
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 17, 2008 - For the soldiers in the dangerous terrain of Afghanistan's mountainous Nurestan province, improving their outposts is important to security and relations in the area, as the Pakistan border is a common entrance into Afghanistan for terrorists. Building relationships with local residents helps to deny the terrorists sanctuary along the Pakistan border, Army Sgt. 1st Class Donald Couch, an outpost platoon sergeant from Smithville, Texas, said.
Units along the border patrol through villages to meet with the local people and show them they are there to help. But the outposts' locations, though good for interaction with villagers, also are targets for insurgent attacks. The soldiers who live and fight in these outposts have to constantly improve their boundaries to stay safe so they can continue to help the people in the area.
Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division's 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, make any improvements that can be made to their positions, even if it means taking a creative approach to building supplies. The soldiers use ammunition cans for steps and nearby timber to build walls and improve fighting positions.
The soldiers say they get a sense of satisfaction from their work improving their outposts, which they call OPs.
"The best thing about being on the OP is seeing the improvements and the satisfaction of knowing you made the OP better," Army Sgt. Brian Creed, a squad leader from Siloam, N.C., said.
Couch noted that while the soldiers have improved their ability to fight and defend, the morale value of their efforts is equally important in their austere location.
"Improving soldiers' morale is really important, too, especially up here, because we're kind of away from everything," Couch said. "We now have Internet and phones up here, so the soldiers have contact with home when they have time."
The soldiers also have made changes to assist the Afghan forces who fight by their side. This not only helps to develop the outpost, but also builds relationships between the soldiers and members of the Afghan National Army and Afghan security guards.
"We've built new fighting positions for the ANA and ASG, and we're currently in the process of building barracks for them as well," Couch said. "We have a good working relationship with the Afghan national security forces, and we want to keep improving that."
(Army Spc. Brandon Sandefur serves in the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)