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A-10s rescue ambushed ground forces
by Master Sgt. Andrew Gates
455th Expeditionary Operations Group Public Affairs
A-10s to the rescue
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- Army Spc. Patrick Little shows
Capt. Scott the bullet holes the Humvee he was riding in received
during a convoy ambush in Afghanistan. Captain Scott and his wingman,
 Capt. Andrew, were on alert and responded to the call in their A-10 Thunderbolt IIs
, breaking up the ambush and allowing the convoy to return home.
Speciailst Little is assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, and Captains Scott and
Andrew, whose last names are withheld for security reasons, are assigned to the
 355th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron here.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andrew Gates)
Click for bigger Picture

8/19/2004 - BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- When Army Staff Sgt. Jamie Osmon met Capt. Scott, whose last name is withheld for security reasons, for the second time Aug. 16, the reunion was much less hectic than the first.

The first time, July 29, Sergeant Osmon and a group of ground forces were trapped in a canyon ambush, and Captain Scott was the lead pilot in a flight of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that responded to provide close-air support. His wingman was Captain Andrew

Sergeant Osmon and his team, Army Spc. Patrick Little and Army Private 2nd Class Robert Schloss, of the 101st Airborne Division who were attached to the 25th Infantry Division for this particular mission, were escorting a convoy to a remote area in Afghanistan, about 217 miles west of Kabul.

The convoy of seven vehicles included one armored Humvee, crewed by Sergeant Osmon and his team. The other six vehicles contained 26 other troops, including Afghan army and global-security forces.

On the way, the convoy entered a deep canyon about 30- to 50-meters (98- to 164-feet) across, with waist-deep water in some locations, Sergeant Osmon said.

“Once we had traveled a bit into the canyon, we decided this wasn’t the place to be. We started heading south toward the mouth of the valley,” he said.

About 1:30 p.m., the convoy reached the edge of the valley and was ambushed for the first time. The lead vehicle, the Afghan army vehicle and a Ford Ranger right behind it took small arms fire. Then, the ambushers fired a rocket-propelled grenade, which struck the Afghan vehicle.

The passengers in the Ranger had gotten out of the vehicle and were pinned behind it by enemy fire, so Sergeant Osmon pulled the armored Humvee up next to them to get them out of danger. Private Schloss was manning the Mark 19 machine gun mounted on the Humvee when he was shot.

“I was hit at the top of the plate on my … body armor,” Private Schloss said. “It felt like I was hit by a train. My knees buckled, and I fell back into the Humvee.”

After escaping from this ambush, the convoy headed north through the canyon once again. Specialist Little manned the turret gun as the Humvee assumed the lead.

“We knew they were going to hit us again; it was just a matter of where,” Sergeant Osmon said.

Almost two miles later, their prediction came true as they were once again attacked. Specialist Little laid down suppression fire with the Mark 19 while the rest of the convoy took cover. He was grazed by a bullet that went under his Kevlar helmet.

“We stayed as long as we could in the open,” Sergeant Osmon said. “We watched an RPG come at us from about 200 meters [656 feet] away; it passed within 10 to 20 feet.”

This was one of more than 10 RPGs fired at the convoy.

By this point, the Mark-19 was empty, and the team backed the Humvee up to get some cover. By now, no one had anything besides small arms to suppress enemy fire from about 800 ambushers. As the team attempted to account for the rest of the convoy, they noticed the Afghan troops were missing.

“We headed back south to the other ambush point to see if we could find them,” Sergeant Osmon said.

On the way back, the first close-air support aircraft, a B-1B Lancer, flew overhead.

“It didn’t seem to have much effect,” said the Army sergeant.

As the Soldiers got back to the convoy, they discovered the other team was still pinned down by enemy fire. One of the embedded tactical trainers was pinned behind a rock in the river. He was squatting behind that rock up to his nose in the water, Sergeant Osmon said.

“I’ve never been more scared in my life. We were able to watch as enemy fire chipped away the rocks we were using for cover,” Specialist Little said. “The rock (the trainer) was using for cover had been chipped from about 2 ½-feet wide to about a foot and a half. The global security squad coordinated suppression fire so we could get everyone together.”

As the convoy regrouped, Sergeant Osmon asked about A-10 close-air support and was told it would be about an hour.

On the flightline here Captains Scott and Andrew had just taken off.

“We were sitting alert and were put on 15-minute alert. We were just waiting for the call to scramble,” Captain Scott said. “Once we got the call, we took off and refueled en route.”

Once the A-10s were close to the ambush site, “we were told they didn’t have radio capability,” Captain Scott said. “We flew over the canyon to put eyes on the situation.”

“We could hear the A-10s come in,” Private Schloss said. “It was like it was Christmas, the happiest moment of my life.”

“It took us a little time to determine exactly where the friendly forces were, as well as where they were taking fire from,” Captain Scott said. “There was a village close by so we wanted to make absolutely sure before we started firing. Once we identified the enemies, we marked their positions and opened up with 720 rounds of 30 mm high-explosive incendiary ammunition.”

“When the (A-10s) opened up, the enemy fire ceased,” Sergeant Osmon said. “It was great.”

Shortly after this, the ground forces were able to get radio contact, Captain Scott said. Since the ground forces did not have a map to give ground coordinates, they fired off smoke grenades to ensure the A-10 pilots knew their exact location.

Not being able to get accurate information on an enemy’s location made it difficult for the Thunderbolt II pilots.

“Responding to an attack like this can be one of the toughest missions we do,” Captain Scott said. “We don’t often get the exact locations of the enemy. Sergeant Osmon did an excellent job getting us the information we needed.”

The A-10s came around for a second gun pass, said Captain Scott, prompting Sergeant Osmon to quip: “Grip-21, this is Maverick. This may be a bit quick, but I think I love you.”

“Everyone started shouting. We knew it was over,” Private Schloss said.

After the A-10s arrived on scene and started firing on the enemy, the convoy discovered the whereabouts of the missing Afghan soldiers.

“One of (them) came up to the group in a lull in the fighting. They told us they had been captured by the enemy forces,” Sergeant Osmon said. “The enemy said they would release the rest of the (Afghan) team and let us go if we called off the aerial close-air support.”

Eventually, the enemy dispersed, and the reconstituted convoy limped home. Shrapnel had pierced two of the tires on the Humvee, so they had to drive on the hard rubber “inner tire.” A trip that normally takes about three hours took twice as long, Sergeant Osmon said. The A-10s stayed overhead the entire trip, protecting the convoy as they rolled home.

The two teams met on the ground two weeks later. The A-10 pilots inspected the bullet holes in the Humvee, and the ground forces got a close up look at the lethal aircraft.

“This is the epitome of our job,” Captain Andrew said. “Getting these guys home safe is why we go out.”

“Missions like this prove the A-10 is still the best fixed-wing aircraft for close-air support,” Captain Scott said.

The Soldiers said the experience has given them a great appreciation of the team providing top cover as well.

“I’m never going to crack another Air Force joke again,” Sergeant Osmon said.

Good-faith effort goes bad when Afghan officials take off with donated trucks, phones, cash

By Jon R. Anderson, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Saturday, August 14, 2004

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Lt. Col. Scott McBride was suspicious of Abdul Ghani from the very beginning.

Ghani had been nominated by the governor of southern Afghanistan’s Zabul province to lead a district north of Qalat in an area known as the Kaki-Afghan Valley. In a gathering of regional leaders a few months ago, Ghani stood up alongside the newly selected police chief for the district denouncing the Taliban and swearing allegiance to Hamid Karzai’s central government in Kabul.

“They said all the right things,” said McBride, commander of the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Division, which is responsible for providing security for the area.

Despite the pledge, McBride said he wasn’t so sure.

He had heard reports that Ghani was secretly collaborating with Taliban insurgents in the area, he said. Still, McBride had nothing concrete on Ghani and felt like he didn’t have much choice but let him take over the key job.

“It was my call. I will trust someone until they betray that trust — and then they become my enemy.”

Double cross

After Ghani’s appointment, McBride’s troops supplied the new district leader and police chief with $100,000, four new Toyota Hilux four-wheel-drive police trucks and four hand-held satellite phones.

The money was to pay the salaries of district policemen as well as to build a school.

It wasn’t long before McBride said he was getting reports that the school was not being built, and the new vehicles were missing.

He dispatched a Company C platoon attached to an Afghan National Army unit to investigate. While the troops were there, they would also support the U.N. voter registration teams, which had been eager to get into that area for Afghanistan’s presidential elections in October.
The mission was called Operation Devil’s Backbone.

The 150-strong contingent flew aboard CH-47 Chinooks on July 21 and quickly moved into the main village.

“We couldn’t find Ghani or the police chief anywhere,” said 1st Sgt. Matthew Grucella, the company’s senior enlisted soldier. Ghani’s deputy, Zafar Khan, insisted both men would be back soon.

It soon became apparent, however, neither Ghani or the chief would return.
Finally, Khan confessed.

“I am embarrassed,” he said. “I’m ashamed. They’ve taken the vehicles and the phones.”

Khan said that Ghani had been allowing local Taliban militiamen to use the trucks.

“They had a deal where the police would use the trucks in the day and the Taliban could use them at night,” said Grucella. Meanwhile, virtually no work had been done on the new school, and most of the money was gone.

Khan said he didn’t know where Ghani was, but he thought he could find the police chief.

Khan came through, duping the police chief into the village where he soon was arrested, said Grucella.

Interrogated by the Afghan Army, the now-former chief soon told the troops the police trucks could be found in a neighboring village.
All but one was recovered.

Ready for a choice

“The problem over here is you just don’t know who to trust,” said Capt. Mike Berdy, 2nd-35th Company C commander. “A lot of these guys, even if they’re not necessarily what you’d call ‘pro-Taliban’ they’re still with the Taliban because they have no other choice.”

Many in the area, however, appear ready for a choice.

In all, the teams have registered more than 2,500 villagers to vote.

“I guess some of them have had enough of the Taliban,” said Grucella.

While far short of the U.N. goal to register 5,000 for that area, considering the region has long been a Taliban stronghold it was better than expected.

Grucella said he hopes Afghanistan’s steady plod toward democracy will make it tougher for Ghani — and men like him — to remain at large.
“There’s going to be hiccups like this until credible leaders are established,” said Grucella. “As time goes by we’ll weed out the bad guys, but we’ve gotta start somewhere.”

McBride said he’s disappointed that Ghani betrayed his trust and is concerned that the Taliban were able to get a police vehicle and the satellite phones, not to mention so much cash.

But he’s not apologetic.

“It’s obviously wasn’t the outcome we wanted,” said McBride. “It’s disappointing; it’s a setback. But I wouldn’t have done anything differently. It’s the cost of doing business over here.”

And he’s confident that Ghani — and the still-missing police truck — will surface eventually. Ghani will either end up dead or in an Army prison like the former district police chief, he said.

“Too many people know him. He’ll turn up,” said McBride. “We’ll get him.”

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