Story and photos courtesy Capt. David Gauthier, commander of A Company, 1-186th Infantry Battalion
With the coming of 2015, the war in Afghanistan transitioned from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom Sentinel; marking the end of U.S.-led offensive combat operations and the men of Alpha ‘Apache’ Company, 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment found themselves with a new mission. They transitioned from their previous deployment site and are now operating out of Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.
Preparation for site transition required planning that began weeks in advance. Once the marching orders were given, the company’s staff coordinated with outside elements to facilitate movement of equipment and personnel. Once the plans and schedules were coordinated, then came the tedious task of slowly reconsolidating equipment for accountability, maintenance and final movement; all while sustaining 100 percent mission capability.
In addition to the company and platoon assets, Soldiers need to prepare themselves for moving. We all dislike moving houses back home, and those feelings transfer to military life as well. Packing all the equipment that they have been issued (plus the stuff they have acquired during deployment to make their off-duty time more bearable) is a tedious process; often more difficult than anticipated given the amount of room they have available for storage.
Upon arrival, the company hit the ground running. With a zero-dark-thirty arrival, it was a continuous rush to get a multitude of tasks done in order to begin operations. Assigning and receiving billeting, off-loading equipment, moving in, and establishing a new pattern of life is just the start of the resettlement process.
With the new mission came new equipment. Receiving vehicles and weapons systems from another unit is never an easy process and since they will be held accountable for all that they receive, the Soldiers painstakingly went through all the paperwork and equipment to ensure accuracy. Once the paperwork was finished, the Soldiers needed to familiarize themselves with the equipment they received; which is a mission in itself.
After a short nap, the company moved to the firing range in order to ensure that their weapons and equipment were functioning properly and accurately. ‘Apache’ Company went on a four- mile, round-trip, dismounted patrol to the firing range and back. Preparation for the trip constituted planning, like every other combat patrol, rehearsal of battle drills, redundant contingency planning and gear inspections before they stepped off. Once the patrol reached the firing range, they confirmed the accuracy of their machine guns and practiced acquiring and engaging targets with accurate and sustained automatic fire. Upon return of the patrol, the Soldiers assumed their force protection mission and integrated into the complex defense of one of the largest operational bases in Afghanistan.
The New Year not only marked the transition of the majority of operations to the Afghanistan forces, but also the halfway point of the mobilization for ‘Apache’ Company, 1-186th Infantry Battalion. Missing the holiday season is tough for anybody, but for a Soldier half-a-world away from their families, it’s something to be respected and admired.Despite being away from their friends and loved ones, the Soldiers have been receiving a morale boost in the ability to be together in cheering for the Oregon Ducks while watching their championship game. It was a nice reminder of home and why we are here.