Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Taliban attacks California Guard soldiers

Monday, December 21st, 2009

TalibanArmy Spec. Kathy Tanson, 20, of Corning in Northern California, helped repel a double ambush. (Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times)

U.S. troops fight off two groups of militants on a treacherous mountain road in eastern Afghanistan while returning from an agricultural mission in rural villages.

December 20, 2009 | 9:03 a.m.
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Reporting from Dubai, United Arab Emirates – A California Army National Guard group was attacked Saturday by a “complex double ambush” from Taliban fighters along a treacherous mountain road in eastern Afghanistan while the unit was returning from helping farmers in isolated villages, the Army reported today.

The Californians’ slow-moving six-vehicle convoy was attacked by two groups of Taliban militants firing medium machine guns and AK-47s. Most of the vehicles were hit and one was slightly disabled with a flattened tire and a bullet hole in the windshield, the Army said.

The Guard soldiers, from the 40th Infantry Division, returned fire at the groups, one in a cave in the mountain, the other hiding across the Kunar River. The U.S. estimates that 15 to 20 Taliban fighters were engaged in the ambush.

Spc. Kathy Tanson, the only woman among the soldiers, raked one of the ambush sites with fire from a 50-caliber machine gun mounted atop one of the U.S. vehicles.

There were no reported injuries among the California group. Infantry soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 32nd Regiment, were quickly ordered into the area and engaged in an hourlong fight with the militants, again with no U.S. casualties, the Army reported. Artillery and aircraft also pounded the Taliban positions.

The California group is part of a Pentagon agribusiness development program to win support from rural villagers by helping them improve the yield of their crops and the health of their livestock.

The troops had gone to the village of Naray in Kunar province to hold an inoculation program for more than 400 cattle, goats, donkeys and sheep. To get to the site, their convoy had to venture along a winding, boulder-strewn 60-mile road, which follows the wide, fast-moving river.

The road is littered with three dozen wrecks of civilian convoys destroyed by Taliban attacks in recent months or by drivers’ inability to negotiate sharp turns. Kunar has been the scene of some of the most intense fighting between U.S. troops and the Taliban — including one attack on an outpost that killed eight soldiers.

The livestock vaccination visit occurred Thursday and the attack came Saturday as the troops were returning to their home at Forward Operating Base Wright.

Tanson, 20, from Corning in Northern California, volunteered to be part of the unit because of her expertise in farming techniques and managing livestock. All 64 members of the team are volunteers.

Lt. Robert Parry, spokesman for the California unit, who was in the convoy, said the attack will not deter the agribusiness development team from venturing to other villages to help with irrigation, crop rotation and livestock management.

“It’s our intent to go where we’re needed,” Parry said by cellphone. “This is not the first time we’ve been shot at. This goes with the territory. We have a soft mission in a hard area.”

tony.perry@latimes.com
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Mothers final duty to soldier/son – escort his body home

Monday, October 19th, 2009

By Rachel Streitfeld
CNN

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PURCELLVILLE, Virginia (CNN) — When the Army flew home the body of Spc. Stephan Mace from Afghanistan, his mother climbed aboard a small jet with the flag-draped coffin for the last leg of his trip.

Vanessa Adelson escorted the body of her son, Stephan Mace, on the final leg of the journey from Afghanistan.

Vanessa Adelson escorted the body of her son, Stephan Mace, on the final leg of the journey from Afghanistan.

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Vanessa Adelson would not let her 21-year-old son make his final journey home alone.

“I brought him into this world, and he was my baby,” she said. “I thought it was my responsibility as a mother to bring him home.”

Mace and seven other soldiers were killed this month in a Taliban attack on their remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan, making it the deadliest battle for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since July 2008. Video Watch mother prepare to bury son »

All eight were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

The October 3 battle saw Taliban insurgents at one point surging past the outer perimeter of Forward Operating Base Keating in Afghanistan’s Kamdesh District. The battle lasted about 12 hours, with the most ferocious fighting raging for about seven hours.

The base, in a valley, is surrounded by ridge lines where the insurgents were able to fire down at U.S. and Afghan troops. The facility had been scheduled to be closed within days, CNN later learned.

Three days after the deadly fight, Mace’s mother attended the Dignified Transfer of her son, then returned home with him from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Since May, Mace had been on his first deployment in Afghanistan, following a childhood dream of joining the Army. He planned to continue his career in service after his Army stint by joining the Department of Homeland Security or the CIA, his mother said.

Instead, he will be buried Monday in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Back in Mace’s small, tight-knit community in Purcellville, Virginia, many found it hard to believe the solemn military procession through the center of town earlier this month was the last they would ever see of their friend.

“If I could describe Stephan, I would picture him flying through the air on a dirt bike living his life on the edge,” said Sam Chapman, childhood friend and football buddy. “If more people in this country had the passion and the determination and the courage that Stephan had, it would without a doubt be a better place. He was just a great guy.” Video Watch friends remember him as gridiron tough »

Mace, described as a Moto Cross champion, football player, hunter and all around fun-loving, loyal friend, was the kind of child that coaches and teachers remember. And when his body was brought back to Purcellville, the community turned out in support. Hundreds of people lined the streets, saluting and waving flags as Mace’s family brought him home.

“It was great to the see the kids and the families stand there and when the motorcade crossed the crest of the hill [into town] it was just silence…. It was holy,” said Purcellville Mayor Robert Lazaro. “I think we wanted to say to the Mace family, ‘Thank you. We respect what your son has done for us.’ ”

Mace was awarded six medals for his service, including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. But for his mother, the most precious is the medal of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, that her son wore into battle.

She gave him the medal when he was 15 and preparing for a trip to South Africa. Now, after speaking to one of Mace’s friends who survived the outpost attack, Adelson knows her son reached for that medal in his last moments. She was told that in his last moments alive, Mace took off his medal and gave it to his fellow soldiers.

“That’s how Stephan was,” Adelson said. “Here this kid is dying, and he was more worried about the other soldiers that he took his St. Christopher off and gave it to them.”

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She has also learned her son lived for about half an hour after sustaining wounds to the chest and leg. Adelson finds this detail comforting.

“I’m glad Stephan didn’t die right away because he was allowed to give that one gift to his unit and give them the St. Christopher and that he also was able to feel God come to him and take him away,” she said. “That he was able to ponder and have a last chance, a last moment, to think about his family and have God take him.”

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