SHINWARI, Afghanistan — Just as night was approaching a small car
went off the road and went down a 130-foot bank. The car rolled
multiple times sending three of the four passengers to a local
hospital. Though the owner was unharmed, the outlook was grim for the
recovery of his car, as in the remote village of Shinwari in the
Parwan District of Afghanistan; there is no local towing service.
Fortunately, the Soldiers of Troop A, 1-172nd Cavalry Squadron, 86th
Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) happened to be in the area for
a leaders meeting, and when the village elders turned to them for
help, they soon found themselves providing a solution to a daunting
“We were at the Afghan national army compound and they asked us if we
could help,” said SFC Todd Gagnon an infantryman, from Alexandria,
N.H., and a U.S. Army Mountain School Instructor.
By the time they got to the scene a small crowd had formed to see what happened.
“We went and looked at it, and it was at least a 130-foot drop but it
was easy with these [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain]
vehicles,” said Gagnon.
As the Soldiers set out to retrieve the car, Gagnon stationed his MATV
to stop traffic and use the winch installed on the front of the
vehicle. Another MATV was stopping traffic in the other direction
while Gagnon headed down the embankment.
“The hardest thing was using the cables, it was a small car and only
one place to hook it up and that broke about ten feet from the top but
we hooked it back up and pulled it up,” said Gagnon.
The crowd of onlookers grew as the car started to make its way back to
After they recovered the car, the Cavalry Soldiers, learned that that
they had saved the small town a lot of money in recovery costs.
“The interpreter said that we saved them about 1,400 U.S. dollars
because there is no wrecker service out there,” said Gagnon. “They
would have had to bring in a crane from a local jobsite, so that was a
good thing, and we enjoyed doing it for them,” added Gagnon.
When they finally got the car to the top of the ravine the Soldiers
were surprised when the owner was able to jump in and start his
vehicle back up.
“He jumped in when it was almost to the top and it started right up,”
said Gagnon. “Even though the windows were all smashed and the front
was a mess he did not have a scratch on him.”
They knew by the sheer size of the crowd that they were really helping
out the local community and they were strengthening their relationship
with the local Afghans.
“There was quite a lot of people there not just because we shut down
the street, but to see us pull this car out of the ditch.” Gagnon
said. “The interpreter could hear the crowd talking and saying
encouraging things the whole time we were pulling it out.”
Supervising the event was 1st Lt. Peter Burnham who was very pleased
with the performance of the team and the outcome for the citizens of
“They did an excellent job in the recovery of the car and helped out
the population,” said Burnham. “It just shows you that no matter what
mission you are on, you never know how it is going to turn out or what