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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

'Resolute Strike' brings back intel on ambush

by Spc. Jim Wagner

SANGIN, Afghanistan (Army News Service, April 11, 2003) - A task force led by 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment garnered information and equipment related to an ambush that left two U.S. service members dead and one seriously injured.

The mission of Operation Resolute Strike -- conducted April 8-9 in the affluent southern Afghanistan city of Sangin by 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers, Special Forces operators and criminal investigation task force members -- was two-fold: to gain intelligence and the perpetrators of the March 29 ambush, and to deny sanctuary and remove weapons and ammunition used by anti-coalition forces.

Lt. Col. Richard Clarke, task force 3-504th PIR commander, said the operation was a success on both counts.

"We're gathering a significant amount of information about this ambush that may help lead others to find the perpetrators/attackers," Clarke said after the first day of the operation. "What we've done so far is recover a significant amount of small arms, mortar rounds, mortar tubes and anti-tank mines. Most importantly, we recovered bomb-making materials, to include some old C-4, and explosive devices that could have been used against coalition forces later."

At the end of the operation, a large cache of AK-47s, RPG launchers and other small arms weapons were taken by U.S. forces. Also, more than 240 pounds of ammunition used with mortars, RPGs and small arms were seized and destroyed by 731st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company members.

When the convoy moving outside of Sangin was ambushed March 29, the equipment used by the three U.S. casualties was left behind in the rush to Medivac them to safety. One of the key goals of Operation Resolute Strike was to get that equipment back.

"It looks like we've recovered one weapon and we're in the process of recovering additional materials from the ambush against coalition forces," Clarke said.

Capt. Del Monroy, battalion intelligence officer, said the overwhelming show of force used in the operation was critical to the mission's success.

While 82nd paratroopers established a containment area around the city and special forces operators swept the city for suspects and intelligence, close air support aircraft buzzed overhead as another reminder of American power. Air Force A-10s and F-16s, Marine Corps Harriers and Army Apache helicopters were ever-present throughout the course of the operation. During the night, a steady barrage of illumination mortars were fired to remind local residents the U.S. was still in town.

"The influence that we were able to bring here had a lot to do with the success here," Monroy said. "I didn't think we would get any of the U.S. equipment back."

The show of force was enough to convince a government official from the Helmond province - of which Sangin is a member of - to bring forth several witnesses and people who had picked up the U.S. equipment after the ambush.

Qualified personnel and members of the criminal investigation task force questioned more than 50 local residents who might have had knowledge of the ambush. Out of that crop, four were flown to a Kandahar Air Field field collection point for further questioning.

(Editor's note: Spc. Jim Wagner is a member of the 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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