Axeghanistan ’10: Checkpoint Showdown

02.04.10

Categorie: Afghanistan, Axe in Afghanistan '10, David Axe, Inter-Service Rivalry |
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There’s a new Afghanistan war plan. Last fall, NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal rolled out more restrictive rules of engagement, heralding a “population-centric” approach to the war. U.S. President Barack Obama announced more U.S. troops. While U.S.-led forces in eastern Afghanistan doubled their efforts to prop up faltering local governance, troops in the south identified Taliban strongholds in Marjah and Kandahar and went on the offensive. “Has the U.S. broken the Taliban’s momentum?” reporter Nathan Hodge asked. Maybe. But there are new risks, too: the Dutch might pull out of a key southern province, and Afghan national leadership remains weak. The war might be going our way, for once, but it’s far from over. David Axe and Greg Scott head to “The ‘Stan” to see for themselves.

Checkpoint drama. Photo by David Axe.

by DAVID AXE

It was a confrontation a long time in the making. On March 18 at Bagram, Afghanistan, the U.S. Army’s Task Force Gladius linked up with elements of the Emirates army, the U.S. Army’s 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade and the Afghan army and air corps for a complex air-assault exercise. Two Afghan and two American helicopters would swoop into nearby fields  to disgorge Afghan commandos. There would be two iterations: one in the morning and another after lunch.

Gladius rolled out to secure the landing zone before the choppers’ arrival. At the Bagram gate, pictured, a junior Air Force security guard complained that the convoy’s electronic systems were interfering with her electronic systems. The airmen held the convoy for several minutes while she protested the interference. An impatient Army sergeant told the airman to perform an unlikely physical act upon her own person. It was, sources said, not the first time the Army and Air Force had butted heads at the gate.

The first air assault went off without a hitch. Gladius returned to Bagram to shuffle around some of the exercise participants and grab some lunch before securing the second landing zone. Time was short. But at the gate, the offended airman from earlier had called in reinforcements. They parked an armored vehicle across the road to block the Army convoy. Gladius would not be permitted to enter this gate, the airmen said, because the Army had “disrespected” them. They could go find another gate — a half-hour drive down the road.

“Disrespect?” an incredulous Army sergeant said, staring down an airman several pay grades his junior. “Talk about disrespect — stand at parade rest when you address me.”

“Ain’t going to happen,” the airman said.

Fifty years ago, this kind of dispute would have been settled with a fistfight. Thirty battle-hardened soldiers versus a handful of Air Force gate guards … the outcome would not be in doubt. Two aviation majors on the convoy gently encouraged the airmen to take down names and contact info and settle their gripes with the Army at a later date, when there wasn’t a complex training operation depending on the Army’s speedy entry into Bagram. There was, after all, a war underway, remember?

The Air Force relented and the convoy rolled past, nearly a half hour late.

Related:
Axeghanistan ‘10: Fire Drill
Axeghanistan ‘10: Making Do in Parwan
Axeghanistan ‘10: Parwan Patrol Video
Axeghanistan ‘10: Air Bridge Video
Axeghanistan ‘10: Easier by the Day
Axeghanistan ‘10: Moon Shot
Axeghanistan ‘10: Down Side of the Surge
Axeghanistan ‘10: “Now You Know More than You Did Five Minutes Ago”

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3 Responses to “Axeghanistan ’10: Checkpoint Showdown”

  1. Matthew says:

    Amazing. Kind of like you said, this would have been settled a bit differently not that many years ago. REMF’s stay the same though.

  2. Loic says:

    Air Force needs to be absorbed into other branches as organic air support/logistics!

  3. jackson says:

    The reason the airman told the Sgt to turn his “electrical equipment” off is because that equipment is made to jam the same signals that the airman’s radio works off of. she was trying to get authorization from Gladius control for there convoy to roll out.. i did that same job for 6 months.. at that same exact gate.. We are called security forces, not security guards.. along with “guarding” air force personnel and property we also do Close Precision Engagement (sniper), k9, convoys and various other tasks that the army tends to fuck up.. that is why my squadron of “security guards” took the perimeter of Bagram Air Field (an army compound) from the army.. we had ZERO wire breaks.

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