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Famous 3rd Infantry Division Complete Mission in Eastern Afghanistan

November 08, 2013

It’s going to be a great time  in Savannah and the Ft. Stewart, Georgia community this week as they enjoy a sweet home-coming to their very own 3rd ID “Cottonbalers”. The Division, deployed in March, accomplished their mission, and will be welcomed back by family and friends.

I have to admit, I’m a little partial to this story. My son, SGT Xachary Way, is one of the soldiers coming home. It was his first deployment to Afghanistan. I am so proud of him, and to all the men and women who serve in this great country of ours.

Welcome Home!

In the photo above: Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, the commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Regional Command – East, Afghanistan.recently recognized 19 Soldiers with coins for their excellent performance at Forward Operating Base Shank, in RC-East, Afghanistan. In this photo, U.S. Army Sgt. Xachary Way, center, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, received a coin in recognition for his outstanding leadership in supporting security operations to help enable Afghan forces to provide security for their country.



LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 7th  Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division,  prepare to return to their home station in Fort Stewart, Ga., after a successful  mission in eastern Afghanistan.

The 3-7 Inf. Bn., known as the  Cottonbalers, arrived on Forward Operating Base Shank in March 2013 to serve as  the division reserve, or emergency combat element for Combined Joint Task  Force-101, operating in support of NATO’s International Security Assistance  Force in Regional Command-East, Afghanistan. The Cottonbalers, who earned their nickname when their  commander, soon-to-be U.S. President Andrew Jackson, had them hold their  position using cotton bales as cover against the British, proved they are just  as tough, agile, and disciplined in today’s fight as they were then.

Operating as the division  reserve was no easy feat. The battalion maintained the ability to move anywhere  in RC-East within 24 hours. Each mission was different and posed its own set of  challenges.

Many missions involved partnered operations with Afghan  National Army soldiers including securing a pivotal area for a special  operations unit to move into.

The mission, which included ANA, 3-7  Infantry soldiers, and Special Operations soldiers, was planned within 24 hours,  which made it a tough plan to execute. “This was one of the most complicated  missions I have ever been on,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Brown, an East  Hartford, Conn., native who is on his third deployment and the battalion’s fire  support sergeant. “The number of assets and ground forces involved was the key  to the success of the mission.”

After six months as the division’s  reserve, the Cottonbaler Battalion maneuvered elements to support other  operations..

Company A, 3-7 Inf., supported 3rd Bn., 15th Inf. Regt.,  4th IBCT, to deny the enemies of Afghanistan freedom of movement along Highway  1, a critical route for resupply and movement in Wardak Province and one of the  most volatile regions in RC-East.

The ANA, with the assistance of Co. A,  increased their presence to eliminate enemy activity in the area and denied them  accessibility to supplies. ANA commanders commended the efforts of Co. A and  praised them for their ability to take the fight to the enemy.

In  southern Logar Province, Company C, 3-7 Inf., partnered with the ANA, and first  targeted an area that went without a Coalition Force presence for over a year.  During an operation, Co. C and ANA soldiers entered the area at night to  surprise the enemies of Afghanistan. The enemy attempted to mount a  counter-offensive which was quickly defeated by U.S. and ANA soldiers working  together to surmount the attack.

Headquarters Support Company, 3-7 IN,  provided support in the form of enablers such as mortars, scouts, maintenance  personnel, medical assets, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The HSC’s  mortar section advised the ANA on the proper use of their mortar systems. The  medics provided medical training to the ANA and cared for casualties.

Unmanned aerial vehicle operators provided over 500 hours of aerial  surveillance to identify enemy activity which directly led to defeating several  indirect fire attacks on FOB Shank and prevented the emplacement of improvised  explosive devices along roads increasing the safety of Coalition and Afghan  forces and Afghan citizens.

Co. B, 3-7 Inf., attached to 6th Squadron,  8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th IBCT, provided an essential presence within their area  of responsibility augmenting 6-8 Cav’s operations.

At the culmination  of the nine-month tour, the Cottonbalers supported the ANA in one of their most  significant missions. The Soldiers advised and assisted the ANA as they  conducted clearing operations in the Tangi Valley, known to be a historical safe  haven for enemies of Afghanistan.

A portion of the Cottonbaler’s advise  and assist mission entailed air support operations, as this was the first time  an Afghan Air Force aircraft supported an Afghan ground operation. The airspace  and aircraft were coordinated by new Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators or ATACs  for the first time in an operation known as Shaheen II.

U.S Army Capt.  T.J. Marlatt, a native of Summerville, S.C., and a battalion fire support  officer for 3-7 Inf. was on hand to coordinate airspace de-confliction between  U.S. and Afghan aircraft with the new ATACs. “Their air-to-ground integration  was exceptional and I was very impressed that they had just completed their ATAC  course,” said Marlatt. “They performed very well for their first operation  considering how difficult air to ground integration can be.” The ANA and Afghan  Air Force were successful in increasing security in the area and pushing enemy  fighters back.

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