Border Crossings

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 ambush along their avenue of approach.   Now for all of you Monday morning quarterbacks who are already saying to yourself why didn’t you set up an ambush after the first night or use mortars, artillery, or even call in air assets to eliminate this threat.  Well, those are courses of action that were 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. 

As soon as darkness arrived, my squad of 12 ANA soldiers and I moved out towards the pre-determined ambush site.  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.  I then received a radio call from the 10th MTN commander 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.  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 could have my element into an ambush position in approximately 15 minutes.  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.  In combat this moment is called having tactical patience.  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).  

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.  I requested again to maneuver my small element toward the enemy to set up the ambush as they were now approximately 1200 meters from my current position.  Again, I was denied and at this point I’m starting to feel like the kid who gets picked last for dodge ball.  I also have to explain the denied request to the ANA soldiers, 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.  Now this is a prime example of the cultural differences between US soldiers and Afghan soldiers.  In this situation US soldiers might grumble a little but will drive on with little explanation on why.  The ANA soldiers react much differently as most are unable to keep their emotions in check.  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.  I was basically using the same tactics on them as I would a middle-school classroom full of ADD/ADHD students. 

Shortly after getting the kids, I mean, the ANA settled down the Apaches did come on station.  The Apache pilots dropped down to my radio frequency to confirm my location and the bad guys location.  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.  Unfortunately, five were able to run back across the Pakistan border to play another day.  Just another chapter of the cat and mouse game played out along the Afghan-Pakistan border.


Live Free or Die Trying!

7 thoughts on “Border Crossings”

  1. a great post. but we see the fear factor play out. the fear you may louse American troops. tie there hands behind there backs, send in air support to do it.

  2. While comms with higher ups can be great, they are not ALWAYS a good thing. Tactical situational awareness is best seen and determined by those on scene.

    If a commander does not trust his subordinate leaders, then he needs to make some changes or be changed him/herself. Waiting for air assets while the bad guys are just 2 clicks away is not too wise, especially in their back yard.

    Just my opinion after 35 years.

  3. Winston,

    I agree with your opinion. From what I’ve observed is that most battalion commanders and higher never had the chance to experience combat as a platoon leader or company commander and they try to grasp that experience by micromanaging their subordinates. An effective commander knows when to let the troops on the ground make their own calls.

    Live Free or Die Trying

  4. Get the Pakistan intelligence agency – the notorious ISI and you will get all the terrosrist and the war will be over in no time.

    We are being fooled by Pakistan army who it seems we have bank rolled and they are using our very own money against us.

  5. Mr. Keyne,

    Based off of my experience I’m afraid you are correct. Pakistan military by day, Taliban by night but the higher ups don’t want to admit that.

    Live Free or Die Trying!

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