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Fire Base Shkin
Fire Base Checo

Fire Base Shkin was located in Paktika province about 4 miles from the Pakistan boarder at an elevation of 7800 feet. At the time of its establishment, living conditions at Shkin included buildings made out of mud that kept the heat in very well during the winter, but lacked air conditioners. The mud fortress was said to resemble the Alamo. The close proximity to the Pakistani border meant that the base saw significant enemy contact. This was not just in the form of improvised explosive devices or indirect rocket attacks, but actual direct fire contact with the enemy. The base also gained the unofficial name of Fire Base Checo after Sergeant Steven Checo, who was deployed there and killed in action in December 2002.

Sergeant Gene Arden Vance Jr., 38, of Morgantown, West Virginia, a member of the 19th Special Forces Group of the West Virginia National Guard, was killed in southeastern Afghanistan on 19 May 2002 near the village of Shkin. An Afghan soldier was wounded in the incident.

Military officials reported US forces killed one enemy and injured another in the firefight that killed an American soldier on 20-21 December 2002. Sergeant Steven Checo, assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, part of the the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was killed when his unit came under fire from enemy forces. Sergeant Checo was attached to 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division at the time, the rest of the 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry being stationed in Kandahar, and this was reported to have been the 3rd Brigade's first casualty in Afghanistan. A US military spokesman at Bagram said the paratroopers were on a mounted patrol near Shkin when they observed several people moving toward the firebase there. When the patrol approached the individuals, the unknown men started running away and opened small-arms fire on the soldiers. Checo was injured in the ensuing firefight. He was evacuated to a forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan and died during surgery. The assailants escaped across the Pakistani border. First Sergeant Rich was also wounded during the incident and another US solider was reported to have been killed near Shkin on 22 December 2002.

Military officials in Bagram said they believed the same individuals were responsible for a series of rocket attacks at Shkin later on the morning of 21 December 2002. Six rockets were launched toward the base, but none of them caused any injuries. Troops later found 6 alarm clocks in the area, leading officials to believe the rockets were on a time delay. Later that night, the US forces at the firebase reported seeing suspicious individuals and called in close-air support. Two AC-130 gunships and 2 AH-64 Apache helicopters responded and reported seeing a convoy of 3 vehicles moving toward the area with their lights off. The pilots later reported seeing a rocket fired, which landed east of the firebase. No damage was reported. The aircraft remained in the area for 8 more hours but reported no more activity.

A US AV-8B dropped a precision-guided bomb on an abandoned religious school on 29 December 2002 after a US solider, part of a joint US-Pakistani patrol, was shot in the head by one of the Pakistani soldiers. The incident occurred near Shkin in Paktika Province in Afghanistan. The US solider was standing on the Afghan side of the border according to US authorities, observing Pakistani border guards destroy missiles found in the area on the Pakistani side of the disputed Afghan-Pakistani border, when one Pakistani solider approached him. The US solider asked the Pakistani to return to his side of the boundary, instead the Pakistani "dropped to one knee, and fired on the Americans," AFPS reported. While other Pakistani border guards helped the US forces, the Pakistani who had fired at the US soldier "ran into a nearby abandoned madrassa, or local religious school. He was the only person observed entering the structure, but U.S. soldiers said they took more fire from the building and called in close-air support," AFPS reported. The report added that the border guard who fired on the US solider was in Pakistani custody, but did not indicate if he was apprehended after the bombing or if there were any other Pakistani casualties. The US solider was described to be in stable condition and was transferred to Germany for treatment. According to the AFPS the school was situated "inside the recognized borders of Afghanistan." However, this border area was contested and Pakistani media reported later that US forces had bombed a building on the Pakistani side of the border during a gun battle between US and Pakistani troops.

On 21 January 2003, US Army Special Forces fired on 3 armed men near a US base in Shkin in Paktika Province, according to a US military statement. Two of the men were detained and one escaped, and no injuries on either side were reported. As of mid-2003, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, an element of the 82nd Airborne Division, was stationed at Fire Base Shkin.

A tragic accident occurred in Afghanistan on 9 April 2003, in which 11 civilians were killed and one was wounded. A coalition bomb hit a home after an Afghan militia checkpoint came under attack in Shkin. Four militiamen were wounded in the attack. A quick reaction force from Coalition Task Force 82 responded to the attack on the checkpoint. The Afghan militia checkpoint was close to the firebase in Shkin and about a mile and a half from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The quick reaction force spotted 2 groups of 5 to 10 enemy and chased them toward the border. The force requested air support, and Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers responded. One Harrier engaged the enemy with cannon fire and the other dropped a 1,000-pound laser-guided bomb. That bomb missed the intended target and struck a house. In addition to Marine Corps aircraft, US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II's from the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group provided close air support in the vicinity of Khowst, Shkin and other areas within Afghanistan to support coalition troops on the ground.

Two US soldiers were killed and an Afghan and 2 US soldiers were wounded on 25 April 2003 in a daytime clash with suspected Taliban fighters in Shkin, Paktika Province, very close to the Afghan-Pakistan border. Colonel Roger King, the spokesman for US forces based in Afghanistan, said approximately 20 of the fighters escaped and headed for the Pakistani border. King said the US-led antiterrorism coalition forces have "made no secret of the fact" that the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the "highest probability of contact," adding that the "more active you are, the more possibility you have of running into enemy elements."

On 8 June 2003, a Task Force Devil patrol took one person under control and discovered a small cache in the vicinity of Shkin. Four Afghan militiamen were killed on 10 June 2003 during a 3-hour gun battle between US and militia forces in the border town of Shkin, Paktika Province. The militiamen were suspected of belonging to the ousted Taliban regime. No US casualties were reported. Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai stated his belief that the Taliban were finished in Afghanistan. If that was the case, the attacks against the US-led antiterrorism coalition had to be seen as being carried out by terrorists or by a combination of forces that were disenchanted with the existing Afghan administration.

According to military spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis, Task Force Devil Scout on 29 June 2003 "received small-arms fire from an unknown-sized element" near the military base in the Paktika Province town of Shkin, some 241 kilometers south of Kabul. On 28 June 2003, a dozen fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades had ambushed a US patrol northeast of Shkin, prompting return fire and air support from Apache helicopters.

On 31 August 2003, 3 coalition soldiers were wounded when their element came in contact with enemy fighters approximately 5 miles northeast of Shkin in Paktika province. The US forces had been conducting a combat mission in the vicinity of a firebase near Shkin when the engagement occurred. All 3 soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to medical facilities. A quick reaction force responded from Shkin firebase and close air support was requested. Two A-10 Thunderbolt II jets launched from Bagram airbase, however, no ordnance was expended. During the engagement four of the enemy fighters were killed. Coalition forces broke contact with the enemy about one and one-half hours after first contact. Total size of the enemy force is not known. Two of the wounded soldiers later died from their wounds and the third soldier was reported initially to be in stable condition, pending medical evacuation to Bagram Air Base from a treatment facility at Salerno north of Shkin.

On 29 September 2003, a US soldier and 2 Afghan militants were killed during a gun battle in southeastern Afghanistan. The fighting took place near Shkin. Two other US soldiers were also wounded. Shkin base, in Paktika Province, 280 kilometers south of Kabul, was regularly targeted by suspected fighters of the ousted Taliban regime. On 27-28 September 2003, a total of 8 rockets had been fired at the Shkin base of US-led antiterrorism coalition forces in Paktika Province near the border with Pakistan. No casualties were reported during that attack.

Forces loyal to the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan were reportedly in control of the Barmal District in Paktika Province, where Shkin fire base was located, as of 1 October 2003. Pakistani forces on 2 October 2003 reported heavy battles on their side of the border with fighters crossing from the Taliban-controlled district of Barmal and the Afghan border town of Shkin. A planned deployment of Afghan forces in Barmal was postponed because of security risks.

Two US nationals contracted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were killed in Shkin in Paktika Province on 25 or 26 October 2003, it was reported. The CIA identified the 2 as William Carlson and Christopher Glenn Mueller and said they were killed while "tracking terrorists operating in the region" of Shkin. The CIA reportedly did not provide details of how the 2 were killed or the exact nature of their operations.

The US Postal Service's unofficial motto reads that it's not stopped by rain, snow, heat or gloom of night. Add on the possibility of mortar or rocket attacks and it's a more fitting version for the 1st Platoon, 303rd Adjutant General Company (Postal). In November 2003, the Army Reserve postal platoon from Fort Devens, Massachusetts, started sending 2-soldier teams with small, portable post offices to outlying firebases such as Orguun-E, Shkin, and Salerno once a month. Armed with a unit's mail, stamps, money orders, and postal mailing boxes, the teams took on most postal duties. They also inspected outgoing packages for contraband.

Air strikes launched by US forces in Afghanistan killed 6 civilians in the eastern Paktika Province, Governor Mohammad Ali Jalali said on 17 November 2003. The bombings came as US-led forces undertook operations against militants in Paktika on 15 November 2003, Jalali said. Jalali said the bombs fell in the Barmal District of Paktika, close to the Pakistani border, near a US base in Shkin. Forces led by the United States had come under frequent attacks from forces loyal to the former Taliban regime and Al-Qaeda militants in the area. US military spokesman Major Bryan Hilferty acknowledged fighting in the area but denied US involvement in civilian deaths, saying the dead were insurgents.

On 24 November 2003, 2 coalition soldiers were wounded when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device on a mounted patrol in the vicinity of Shkin. The soldiers received initial medical treatment on the scene and were evacuated by air to the medical facility at Salerno firebase for further care and evaluation. There were media from several news outlets accompanying the soldiers. However, no media personnel were seriously injured in the incident.

10th Mountain Division soldiers engaged a squad-sized enemy force near Shkin firebase on 15 December 2003. Coalition soldiers returned fire, calling in mortars and close air support. Two anti-coalition militia members were killed and 3 others placed under control of coalition personnel. There were no coalition injuries.

Afghan, Pakistani, and US soldiers joined efforts to defend the Afghanistan town of Shkin when it came under rocket attack on 3 November 2004. Soldiers from these 3 nations conducted a coordinated attack against militant forces in the border region between Shkin, Afghanistan, and Wana, Pakistan. Shkin came under fire from anti-coalition forces operating near the Afghan/Pakistan border region. Having a better view of the target area from their border checkpoint in Pakistan, Pakistani soldiers adjusted US artillery counter battery fire for the Afghan and US forces on the Afghan side of the border. This was done using US-supplied AN/PRC-77 radios that were transferred to the Pakistanis just 2 days prior. Concurrently, the US military liaison in Pakistan coordinated with the Pakistan military higher command to monitor the event and direct their forces.

As of early 2005, Coalition forces were using 14 airfields in Afghanistan. These ranged from from large airfields like Bagram to much smaller airfields like those at Salerno, Shkin, or Tarin Kowt, all the way down to those at Farah, which at the time was a dirt strip. If the Coalition needed to do a medical evacuation of either an Afghan citizen or Coalition member, then some of these airfields like Salerno, Tarin Kowt, or Shkin became very important to move people around the country.

Sergeant Michael J. Kelley, 26, of Scituate, Massachusetts, died on 8 June 2005 in Shkin, Afghanistan, when his helicopter landing zone came under enemy fire. Kelley was assigned to the Army National Guard's 101st Field Artillery Battalion from Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Private First Class Emmanuel Hernandez, 22, of Yauco, Puerto Rico, also died during the incident. Hernandez was assigned to the Army's 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade out of Vicenza, Italy.

On 16 August 2005, US Air Force A-10s, a Predator, and a B-52 provided close air support to coalition troops near Bermel, Kabul, Kandahar, and Shkin.

On 29 April 2006, Air Force A-10s and RAF GR7s provided close-air support to coalition troops in contact with enemy forces near Shkin and Tarin Kowt.

On 9 April 2007, an Air Force B-1B Lancer dropped GBU-38s on insurgents firing upon a coalition forces observation post near Shkin. The weapons directly hit their target and ended the engagement, according to a joint terminal attack controller aligned with the coalition ground forces.

On 19 April 2007, Afghan troops were tearing down the fence near the Durand Line that separated Afghanistan and Pakistan when they were fired on by Pakistani forces. Kabul said the Afghan troops returned fire with small arms. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said the one-hour clash was in the Barmal district of Afghanistan's Paktika Province, close to the town of Shkin. The US military had a strategic forward-operations base nearby, on the Afghan side of the border. The area was immediately adjacent to Pakistan's tribal region of South Waziristan.

On 15 June 2007, Master Sergeant Arthur L. Lilley with the 7th Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina died from wounds sustained in a firefight in Shkin, Afghanistan according to the Department of Defense.

On 29 May 2007, A-10 pilots searched for suspected rocket attack positions and known Taliban locations in Shkin. On 18 June 2007, a Super Hornet released a GBU-38 on an insurgent position in Shkin. A B-1B Lancer executed a show of force expending flares supporting the same coalition forces. Weapons system video and a JTAC confirmed a successful mission. Coalition airpower supported coalition ground forces in Afghanistan during operations on 19 June 2007. During these operations an F/A-18 released GBU-38s on insurgent targets near Shkin. The JTAC and video confirmed weapon impacted targets and exploded. Also in Shkin, a B-1B Lancer provided a show of force over a convoy and villages. After refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker, the aircraft also showed presence along a highway in the area. The overall mission was considered a success by the JTAC. Lastly, an F-15E provided a show of force over an anti-coalition militia firing position on a mountain ridge in Shkin. The show of force was successful and achieved the desired result. On 16 July 2007, Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles provided overwatch for a meeting of village elders in Shkin.

On 5 August 2007, an F-15E watched over a convoy moving between forward operating bases in Shkin. On 8 August 2007, an A-10 dropped a general-purpose 500-pound bomb on enemies in Shkin. On 11 August 2007, an F-15E provided a show of force with flares over a friendly forces position in Shkin. The flybys was considered successful. On 23 August 2007, A-10s conducted shows of force with flares over areas in Shkin and Jalalabad. The shows of force were to deter enemy attacks and reassure friendly forces.

On 16 September 2007, an Air Force B-1B Lancer targeted enemy mortar and rocket positions in Shkin with GBU-38s and GBU-31. The aircrew continued the engagement, targeting enemies with GBU-38s as they moved to new positions. The JTAC reported the strike as successful. On 20 September 2007, a Royal Air Force GR9 Harrier performed a show of force to deter enemies from mounting an attack near Shkin. The JTAC confirmed the attack was deterred.

On 4 October 2007, an F-15E dropped GBU-38s onto an enemy rocket site in Shkin. The mission was declared successful by the JTAC. On 6 October 2007, Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs used a show of force and flares to deter an attack on a friendly ground team in Shkin. The JTAC considered the action successful and the desired result was achieved. Also on 6 October 2007, A-10s in Shkin conducted strafing runs with cannon rounds to control enemy personnel movement. The pilot and JTAC confirmed the rounds hit their target and the attack was reported a success. On 12 October 2007, an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II performed a show of force to prevent enemy activities in Shkin. The JTAC confirmed the mission was successful.

On 23 June 2008, Air Force F-15Es performed shows of force to deter enemy activities in the vicinity of Bar Kowt, Khowst and Shkin. JTACs declared the missions success. On 27 November 2008, in the vicinity of Shkin, an A-10 conducted a show of force to deter anti-Afghan activities. The JTAC reported the mission was successful.

The proximity to the Pakistani border remained a significant issue for US and coalition forces stationed in Shkin. As of March 2009, in the Shkin area, direct tactical communication between the company commander-level forces and the Pakistani military company commander-level forces was maintained, so that when a threat was identified, on either side of the border, that could quickly be referenced, through each of the operation centers. Action could then be coordinated.

On 15 September 2009, in Shkin, an Air Force B-1B Lancer aircraft provided overwatch for friendly forces. Insurgents were observed on foot where friendly forces were under enemy rocket and mortar fire. Coordinates were confirmed for point of origin for the enemy attack and the B-1B deployed a precision-guided munition against the target. Battle damage assessment revealed the target and numerous rockets were destroyed. A request for a show of force was requested while the BDA was performed to deter any further enemy action.

On 15 July 2010, a US Air Force B-1B Lancer aircrew provided armed overwatch for friendly forces in the area of Shkin. The aircrew released precision-guided munitions against enemy targets to deter enemy activity. Joint terminal attack controllers declared the engagements successful.




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