First Lt. Kurt Carlson
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – As the sun crested the mountains that border the edges of the Pir Kowti valley, the citizens of Shey Khan village awoke to a sight they had never seen: D-30 howitzers.
As a part of Operation Pamier, a Dari word referencing a mountain range in central Asia, the Afghan National Army’s D-30 Platoon from Forward Operating Base Orgun-E displaced for the first time in support of a maneuver operation.
Operation Pamier was a corps-level operation that focused on clearing insurgent support zones in the Bermal and Orgun districts of Paktika Province, Af-ghanistan.
For the D-30 Howitzer Platoon at FOB Orgun-E, Operation Pamier served as a significant milestone.
Although the Afghan cannoneers had taken their guns outside the wire in the past during training exercises, they had never displaced this far east, close to the Pakistan border or into contested territory.
Using only ANA equipment and Afghan savvy, the platoon established an artillery firing point outside of the village of Shey Khan on the edge of the Pir Kowti Valley. With their perimeter secured by Afghan gun trucks and observation posts, the soldiers then prepared to take the fight to the Taliban.
In the planning stages it was decided to co-locate the cannons with the 3rd Kandak, 2nd Brigade headquarters of the 203rd Corps. With the guns sitting right next to the nerve center, any enemy contact met by the ANA could quickly be matched by indirect fires.
During the 11-day operation, the Afghan guns thundered in support of troops in contact, suspected enemy movements and disrupted insurgents at every turn.
The display of the platoon’s capabilities and competence served to highlight their necessity and lethality. This helped to strengthen the bonds between the Af-ghan artillerymen and the maneuver soldiers they supported in the Orgun and Bermal districts.
While the platoon at FOB Or-gun-E ventured eastward to support their maneuver brethren, the D-30s at FOB Boris were used to support operations in Bermal.
They supported members of the 2nd Kandak, who were given the daunting task of pushing north to clear numerous villages in Bermal suspected of harboring insurgent fighters and rocket emplacers.
The D-30 Platoon at FOB Boris fired more than 100 rounds of illumination, high explosive and white phosphorous in support of troops in contact and to disrupt enemy freedom of maneuver in the district. At all times of day and night, the ANA gun crews stood ready to fire at a moment’s notice.
The Red 1 Security Force Advise and Assist Team from 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment advised both D-30 platoons during the operation. Both on and off the FOB, advisers ensured that coalition aircraft were safely deconflicted and verified the firing procedures were safe and professional.
Overall, the mission helped bring to the forefront the tremendous leaps the D-30 Battery has made over the past four months.
“This was a huge step in the battery’s development,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Morey, the Red 1 noncommissioned officer in charge.
“They proved that they can go anywhere and shoot whatever missions the kandaks need to close with the enemy,” Morey add- ed.
As Red 1 continues to advise the Afghan artillery, the advisers’ role will become more and more hands off.
“When we first arrived in Paktika, we were essentially here as trainers,” said Staff Sgt. Chad Waleisky, a fire direction adviser on the team. “Now the Afghan soldiers are to the point where we are just advising.”
As the fight continues in the contentious border regions of Af-ghanistan, the D-30 howitzers will continue to play a key role in the struggle.
(Carlson serves with 2nd Battalion,
15th Field Artillery Regiment)