I am scout platoon leader for the 2-503 Airborne Infantry Battalion, and after reading the Oct. 14 front-page article “Afghan war fading quietly,” which attempted to depict my battalion’s experience in Afghanistan, I feel it necessary to speak on behalf of the soldiers I serve with.
Since arriving in July, I have gone on endless missions with my men far ahead of friendly lines and have been in some of the most daring firefights Coalition Forces in Wardak have seen — from some of which my men have narrowly escaped with their lives. On the piece of terrain called Antennae Hill noted in the article, my platoon just this month was engaged in a daylong firefight with an estimated 40 Taliban insurgents. We dodged rockets and fire from automatic weapons, returning in kind with everything from sniper rifles and machine guns to Javelin missiles and A10 gunships.
In three months of deployment we have fought to remove multiple Taliban commanders and sub-commanders from the battlefield and devastated insurgent cells, to protect U.S. outposts, patrols and convoys. Whether we are winning a war is irrelevant in my platoon. What do my men and I consider a successful mission? It is when we have done something, anything, to further protect the lives of our soldiers, period. Insofar as we are able to do this, my men will continue pushing themselves further and deeper in every dimension of the physical, psychological and spiritual — to the very limits of war, and to the end of life.
The sweat and blood of men who believe in what we are doing will continue to run through these mountains and into this sand, until every last one of them has returned home. There is still a fight here. We live and breathe it. We are not awaiting an end — only for the sun to set so we can push, into the darkness, onward to the next objective.
Adam Swartzbaugh, Jaghatu, Afghanistan
The writer is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army.