LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (12/6/2011) — Named the Death Star, the observation post sits on a ridgeline of mountains overlooking several villages and Combat Outpost Najil in northern Laghman province.
A soldier peeks out of the “Death Star” Oct. 27, 2011. The outpost overlooks Combat Outpost Najil and is manned by soldiers 24 hours a day. Photo by Army Spc. Leslie Goble
Its name may have come from the tyrannical amount of weaponry it boasts or the daunting hike it takes to get up to it.
Life is simple at the outpost for American soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team: eat, sleep, and protect the COP. It is manned 24 hours a day despite attempts from insurgents with small arms fire or artillery.
Below the Death Star, COP Najil is filled with fortified fighting positions and wooden buildings called B-huts. The only running water is in the shower area and the self service laundry. Resources are few and far between but soldiers look to keep each other's spirits up despite their location.
“We make do with what we got though,” said Pfc. Charles Brake of Edmond, Okla. “The gym is heavily used, especially since we got more cardio machines recently.”
The basic amenities at COP Najil define the soldier's view of what “soldiering up” really means. They rely on supplies to be flown in. Soldiers from other bases collect items to send to those at places like COP Najil.
Though they may feel separated from so much, soldiers are able to find ways to do one of Oklahoma's favorite past times — watching football.
“We hook up the TV in the dining facility to the computer in the [recreation tent] so we can watch OU and OSU games on TV,” said Brake. “That's usually what I look forward to these days.”
Life can almost seem like a fish bowl within the walls of the COP, but life gets very different as soldiers move outside the compound walls.
Brake described living on the COP as an ironic juxtaposition.
“You look around and see nothing but beauty,” said Brake. “The mountains are breathtaking and the valleys are amazing. Yet mountains that should be used for hiking and sightseeing are filled with fighting positions.”
These fighting positions are commonly used to stage attacks on soldiers when they are outside the compound walls or to attack the COP with mortars and rifles to try to disrupt day-to-day life.
“We don't get attacked on the COP too much anymore, but we can go right outside the wire and get into fire fights,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Duff, from El Reno, Okla. “I really think they are afraid of the Death Star.”
Soldiers keep their head on a swivel in and out of the COP due to the mountainous terrain and harassment form insurgent activity.
“It's pretty secluded out here, reminding me of the wild, wild west of Afghanistan,” said Brake. “It's like the rural areas of Oklahoma, just with mountains and mortars.”
Combat patrols go outside the wire several times a week into the secluded valleys around the COP to hunt the insurgents.
The enemy's tactics rarely see results.
By Army Spc. Leslie Goble
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