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News | March 30, 2012

Spartans carry out biometric operations

By Spc. Erik-James Estrada Task Force Spartan Public Affairs

Paratroopers from 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, Task Force Blue Geronimo, detained two suspected insurgents last week near the Pakistan border, south of Matun district.

The three-day mission was conducted by members of 1st Platoon, Comanche Company.

The platoon's mission was to travel to Matun district, in the eastern half of Gorbuz to conduct reconnaissance and biometric operations.

The platoon's mission was not without its challenges. While traveling though the mountainous region, the platoon put their Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles to the test, causing one of their vehicles to lose bolts to its front right tire and nearly the tire itself, while in route to the Afghan Command Outpost Lakkan.

"That first day, we drove through some pretty rough terrain," said Army 1st Lt. Connor Flaherty, 1st Platoon Leader, C/1-501st, from Salem, Ore. "That truck had been broken before. One of the disk brakes came loose and at no fault to anybody, the tire (as well). We torqued them down as best we could and drove it back here to the AFCOP and had it picked up. We actually had a truck ready at Forward Operating Base Salerno and we ended up picking it up a day early."

That same day, the unit's air support, a OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter known as Bam-Bam, had taken small-arms fire.

On day two of their mission, the platoon travelled farther south toward the border up to the village of Spunky-Dory to investigate the area where it was reported the small-arms fire had occurred.

"That area is known to have a lot of enemy combatants," Flaherty said. "We went up there to investigate and look for a suspected cache site since that was the area where Bam-Bam had taken fire."

Flaherty and his platoon also made use of the attached female engagement team in order to conduct a proper search of the village and gather biometric data.

Chicago native Pfc. Maeya Barnes, a military police member with 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Task Force Warrior, who serves as a member of the platoon's FET said, "Working in the FET is cool because you get to interact with the people other than just pulling security and sometimes you find out really cool information from the females if they're cooperative."

Flaherty spoke highly of the FET as a cultural asset, saying it's good to use every resource available when gathering intelligence.

After all intelligence gathering was completed in that village, the platoon mounted their MRAPs and continued their mission toward the Pakistan border to conduct reconnaissance and gather biometrics data.

"We know a lot of the terrorist training camps are right over the border and they use the rat lines and the roads that come between the border-check points as their infiltration routes," said Sgt. Christopher Alford, a team leader with 1st Platoon, from Greenwood, Ind. He added that his team conducting missions in the vicinities of these infiltration routes is denying the enemy the capability to maneuver freely.

On the final day of the mission, Flaherty and his paratroopers left the AFCOP to inspect a report from an Afghan National Army soldier. He spoke of a suspected improvised explosive device in a culvert on Route Crowbar.

"The bag was indeed there," said Army Staff Sgt. Peter Yanez, a squad leader for 1st Platoon, from San Dimas, Calif. "(Afghan National Security Force) verified that it was an IED. At that point we saw a suspicious individual south of Crowbar in a field. Once we dismounted he began to run."

The Afghan Border Patrol fired a few shots in his direction as elements of the platoon began pursuing the individual on foot.

"My element flanked along the right side, pretty much going around the entire village trying to cut off his route of escape to the southwest," Alford said.

When the platoon was unable to locate the suspected individual, the ground elements began a door-to-door search of the qalats.

"We were unable to locate the individual because he ran around a corner," Yanez recalled. "We asked some farm hands and they gave us different locations. So with the ABP, we started searching qalats."

As the platoon conducted their search, Alford and his team came across a qalat that was heavily fortified. After speaking with the individuals there, they were led to another qalat where his team found a cache of weapons and one suspect who tested positive for explosive materials.

"When we got to the qalat that was fortified, I spoke to one of the military age males who live in the qalat," Alford said. "He told us that him and the qalat that we found all the weapons; their two tribes are fighting against each other."

The gentleman also told Alford and his team the other tribe is trying to get the Americans to kill their tribe because of a dispute that they had where a girl ran away from their family and married his brother, which has now led to a feud between the two tribes.

Alford added that the man had also told him that they're probably the ones who are planting the IEDs. He went on to say the other tribe wants the Americans to go over and either detain or kill his people. "Upon hearing that, we went to the other houses and discovered all the ammunition and the guy who tested positive for explosive materials," Alford said.

As Flaherty and his platoon were gathering intelligence and evidence, an explosive ordnance disposal team came on scene and blew the surface IED in place, rendering the area safe.

The platoon then mounted back up with the two detainees and the cache of weapons and returned to FOB Salerno to begin processing the detainees and resupply for their next mission.