by LTC Jesse Pearson, Former Spader 6, 2010-2012
The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment Blue Spaders deployed from Fort Knox, Kentucky in December 2010 as the main effort of the 3d Duke Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. The battalion departed from Louisville International Airport, Kentucky with over 800 Soldiers on multiple passenger jets during multiple weeks in December 2010. We transited on multiple air sorties through Manas Airbase, Kyrgyzstan and Bagram, Afghanistan and eventually established our initial position at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Salerno to begin our relief in place with the 1st Battalion, 187 Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans) and 3d Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment (Red Knights). In January 2011, the platoons and companies loaded CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters at FOB Salerno and moved to six remote combat outposts around Khost Province to assume responsibility for their areas of operation.
The Blue Spaders established our battalion headquarters at FOB Salerno and we partnered with two Afghan National Army Battalions, two Afghan National Police Battalions, and seven Afghan District Police forces. Our area of responsibility included all of the eastern districts in Khost Province along the border with Pakistan as well as Khost City. With our Afghan partners, we were responsible for over 100 kilometers of the Afghan/Pakistan border and faced a challenging set of Haqqani Network and Taliban insurgent cells who continuously attempted to attack us and our partners with direct and indirect fire, ambushes, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and snipers. Our area of responsibility across Khost Province included over one million Afghan local national civilians.
Able Company (A Co) was responsible for partnering with the 3/2 Afghan Border Police Battalion and Afghan Local Police in Terezayi District. Able Company became border experts and superbly skilled at operating in this remote and dangerous region. They re-opened Combat Outpost Chergotah and transformed it from a remote patrol base into a fully functional operating base and dramatically enhanced our reach into enemy territory along the Pakistan border. Tragically, Able Company lost two Soldiers killed in action in Terezayi District, both from 2nd Platoon – First Lieutenant Demetrius Frison and Specialist Michael Elm. We honor their sacrifice, their memory, and their families’ courage and we keep them with us in our hearts.
Viper Company (B Co) operated in our most contested district – Sabari, and partnered with the 3/1 Afghan National Army Battalion, they also conducted multiple battalion and company air assault missions in the mountainous Musa Khel District above 8,000 feet altitude, hunting for Haqqani Network insurgent cells. Viper Company faced a committed and expert enemy force in Sabari and stopped them cold with their courage and professionalism. From indirect fire 75 and 82-mm Recoilless Rifle and 82- mm Mortar Cells, to IED bomb makers, to insurgent grenadiers – our enemies did everything they could possibly do to try to defeat Viper Company and their Afghan partners in Sabari, but they failed again and again. Copperhead Company (C Co) partnered with the 4/2 Afghan Border Police Battalion and 2/1 Afghan National Army Battalion in Gorbuz and Matun Districts.
Copperhead Company trained 4/2 ABP to be the premier Afghan National Security Force in all of Khost Province, capable of conducting independent targeting and combat operations. Copperhead was also responsible for the strategically critical Ghulum Khan Gate Point of Entry on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. Copperhead Company Soldiers became experts at Company level intelligence operations and targeting and their legacy is the superb combat capability of their Afghan partners in Gorbuz and Matun.
Dragoon Company (D Co) partnered with the 4/2 Afghan Border Police Battalion, the 2/1 Afghan National Army Battalion, and Afghan Local Police in Tani and Musa Khel Districts. Dragoon Company Soldiers operated in both the high altitude plains of Tani District and the rugged alpine mountains of Musa Khel. Delta Company provided superb operational reach to our Task Force and the Duke Brigade and conducted multiple successful battalion and company air assaults above 8,000 feet altitude in Musa Khel and routed the Haqqani Network cells operating in that district. It was truly awe inspiring to see Dragoon Soldiers and their Afghan partners inserting for continuous 5-7 day combat operations with 100+ lb. packs, relentlessly chasing insurgent cells up and over those mountains in their home territory again and again and breaking our enemies’ will to fight.
Hannibal Company (HHC) took on an extraordinary challenge by re-organizing as a maneuver company and fighting as a combat formation in Bak and Jaji Maidan Districts. Hannibal Company partnered with the 3/1 Afghan National Army Battalion and Afghan Local Police and transformed Bak District from an enemy sanctuary along the traditional Manzerra Route from Pakistan into an area of emerging Afghan governance and security. Hannibal Company Soldiers faced a tough fight in Bak and Jaji Maidan every day and performed brilliantly, providing fantastic flexibility and agility to our Task Force. Fletch Company (F Co) was responsible for supply distribution and maintenance for the six companies assigned to Task Force Spader, spread across over 1,000 square kilometers at six separate combat outposts
Fletch Company’s ability to accomplish every one of their combat resupply and recovery missions without fail over 12 months under incredibly difficult combat conditions is a testament to the courage and dedication of Fletch Company Soldiers. Fletch Company Combat Logistics Patrols braved attacks daily to deliver critical supplies and support to Task Force Spader Soldiers across the battlefield and we could not have operated for a single day in Afghanistan without their support.
Our attached 870th Military Police Company (Wolverine) from the California Army National Guard based at COP Matun Hill in Khost City. The Military Police of Wolverine Company partnered with the Khost City Afghan Police forces and provided outstanding training to them on community policing and investigative techniques. Wolverine Company also provided our Task Force Spader quick reaction force for combat in Khost City. Wolverine troops conducted multiple successful combat operations in Khost City and Khost Province that were critical to the success of Task Force Spader.
The Battalion Staff performed magnificently and ensured that our Soldiers had the resources and support they needed to conduct their combat mission 24 hours a day for the entire year in Khost Province, without a single pause or day off. The Staff provided administrative and logistical support and planned our Task Force operations throughout the deployment. The Staff synchronized our fire support and intelligence assets and flawlessly coordinated the deployment and redeployment of the Task Force. In January 2012, Task Force Spader completed our redeployment back to Fort Knox, Kentucky.