After observing approximately 15-20 bad guys cross the Afghan-Pakistan border in the same spot for two nights in a row, I decided to take a squad of Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, my Embedded Tactical Trainer (ETT) NCO, and myself to set up an overnight ambushÂ along their avenue of approach.Â Â Now for all of you Monday morning quarterbacks who are already saying to yourself why didn’t youÂ set up an ambush after the first night orÂ use mortars, artillery, or even call in air assets to eliminate this threat.Â Well, those are courses of action that wereÂ discussed but other priorities limited our manpower for maneuver capabilities, air coverage wasn’t available at the time, and we could only get a few mortar rounds off before the enemy would scurry back across the border into Pakistan and then our hands were tied with the rules of engagement.Â
As soon as darkness arrived, my squad of 12 ANA soldiersÂ and I moved outÂ towards the pre-determined ambush site.Â Not even 10 minutes into our movement, I received a radio call from one of the observation posts (OPs) that there were 15 bad guys crossing the border at the same location as the previous two nights.Â I then received a radio call from the 10th MTN commanderÂ at FOB Tillman wanting my element to take up a defensive position and hold because he had air assets (two F-16s) moving to our area of operations.Â When told of the estimated time of arrival (ETA) for the air was going to be approximately 20 minutes, I requested to continue my movement as I couldÂ have my elementÂ into an ambushÂ position in approximately 15 minutes.Â Unfortunately, I was denied this request and found myself internally battling the adrenaline rush excitement of instinctively charging forward to inflict casualties upon enemy forces versus keeping a cool demeanor, follow orders, and reminding myself of the big picture and the many moving parts that are currently involved.Â In combat this moment is called having tactical patience. Â Its a delicate balance of knowing when to put the hammer down and when to ease up and let the situation develop (something I’m sure General Custer could’ve used a little bit more of).Â Â
After the 20 minutes had passed for the arrival of our close air support I received another radio call informing me that the 2 F-16s were diverted to another location that was in a more dire situation at that moment but we should have 2 Apache helicopters on station within 10 minutes.Â I requested again to maneuverÂ my small element toward the enemy to set up the ambush as they were now approximatelyÂ 1200 meters from my current position.Â Again, I was denied andÂ at this point I’m starting to feel like the kid who gets picked last for dodge ball.Â I also have to explainÂ the denied requestÂ to the ANA soldiers,Â who are starting to act like a cranky 7 year old kid jacked up on Mountain Dew, is being forced to stand outside Disney World and is told that he can’t go play.Â Now this is a prime example of the cultural differences betweenÂ US soldiers and Afghan soldiers.Â In this situation US soldiers might grumble a little but will drive on with little explanation on why.Â The ANA soldiers react much differently as most are unable to keep their emotions in check.Â I informed the ANA that I was very disappointed in their ability to maintain their military bearing and they can/need to do better because we still have bad guys out there in front of us.Â I was basically using the same tactics on them as I would a middle-school classroom full of ADD/ADHD students.Â
Shortly after getting the kids, I mean, the ANA settled down the Apaches did come on station.Â The Apache pilots dropped down to my radio frequency to confirm my location and the bad guys location.Â After having them positively identify my location (my NCO partner and I were wearing infra-red strobes that are only visible with night vision devices), the Apaches began their gun runs and quickly neutralized the majority of the bad guys.Â Unfortunately,Â five were able to run back across the Pakistan border to play another day.Â Just another chapter of the cat and mouse game played out along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Live Free or Die Trying!