KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Dec. 23, 2009 – On a rugged mountaintop bordering Pakistan, less than two miles from Northern Waziristan, sits Combat Outpost Chergotah in Afghanistan’s Khost province.

Here, U.S. Army soldiers work with Afghan border policemen to sustain border security and maintain peace among local people.

The soldiers and policemen secure the area with a fierce drive and a wealth of firepower.

“At Chergotah, we help provide security for Afghan contractors building the [combat outpost], and my duty as a gunner is to make sure that if we are attacked, I gain fire superiority as quick as possible to eliminate the threat, using heavy weaponry,” said Army Spc. Ryan Harris.

Harris serves as a heavy weapons gunner with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Mine-resistant, ambush -protected vehicles with common remotely operated weapons stations are a vital piece of weaponry to keep security within the area. Heavy-weapons platforms such as .50-caliber machine guns and Mark 19 grenade launchers are combined with precision computer video targeting systems controlled from behind a 10-inch screen that the gunner observes while tucked inside the vehicle.

While the advanced weaponry gives the soldiers the advantage against insurgents, they routinely leave the protection of their MRAP vehicles to connect with the local people. The unit conducts daily, dismounted security patrols led by the platoon sergeant and platoon leader.

“My duty as a platoon sergeant is to take care of my men,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph De Lage, a platoon sergeant with Company D. “I do this by resupplying them with food, water, ammo, and by ensuring they have a good security plan in place to protect themselves and their Afghan counterparts.”

While the platoon sergeant works to ensure the safety of his soldiers and the Afghan border policemen, the impact the servicemembers have on the area’s civilian population is not lost.

“I believe our presence makes a difference locally,” De Lage said.

Army 1st Lt. Jason Cumiford, a platoon leader in Company D, said the soldiers and policemen must find the best way to secure the trust of local residents. They find the enemy, separate them from residents, and defeat them.

However, Cumiford added, the U.S. soldiers’ most important task is to ensure the Afghan border police are competent, well trained and able to defeat the enemy by themselves, and that they are trusted by the Afghan people.

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