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Spanish army
Ministry of Defence
Spanish army

Ejército de Tierra

Only the wind goes up to Ludina

Captain Jesús Julián García del Castillo

13th Company of the Flag 'Ortiz de Zárate', 3rd Paratroops Battalion

 

IT IS 28TH AUGUST 2012 IN AFGHANISTAN.

The date is not marked by time, but by wind, that either lets it pass unpertubed or fills it with facts and wounds. Movement is started by the 13th Company of the Manoeuvring Battalion 'Badghis', that set off from the 'Ruy González de Clavijo' base, in Qala-I-Naw, to Sang Atesh, in Ludina.

 

A Ludina solo sube el viento

They know Ludina pefectly. They have been deployed in the 'Bernardo de Gálvez' COP since 1st June until the end of July, and during all these days, they have made the ground theirs: getting to know it, smelling the air, remaining unattentive to the harsh weather, visiting its people, sick and tired of combats and warlords. They have fought the faces of insurgence already. They have been for almost three months in Afghanistan and today, 28th August, they have been commanded a different mission: the 'Estaca' operation. They will attack from behind the insurgent lines, where they least expect it. They will destroy their weapons and explosives stores. They will do so many things, all of them so difficult.

First of all, one movement, so that it seems that the COP that garrisons Ludina, is relieving. Then, they will pretend  to make a convoy towards the North, beyond the verification point, named 'Mara 8', and there they will establish the patrol base, like any other day.

 At 2 am they start walking with the combat element: 60 paratroopers, the Reconnaissance Unit (with IED equipment) and the security element from the 11TF. It is the night of 29th August. It is 2 am. 'Krusty, for the whole group, we start the movement.' It is the wind that leaves its trace on the calendar, it walks together with them and the pacient stars.

The combat will soon begin. They must take the first positions at the 924 and 925 levels. About 40 metres away from the 924 level, Sergeant Puche, deployed at the right side, says that he is hearing loud voices in the local language. After checking it, the personnel lay down flat on the ground, just at the point when several insurgents start shooting. They respond with fire automatically, in the direction of the enemy, manoeuvring to support their partners.

A Ludina solo sube el viento

The 924 level is key for the manoeuvre, and Captain Jesús García del Castillo orders Lieutenant Mayoral and his section to evict the enemy in order to conquer the 925 level. Quickly, the 1st Squad from the 3rd Section direct their movement and the fire towards it. First Sergeant Varela and his chiefs of squad, Corporal Sansano and Corporal Marulanda, move the group, supported by the movement, the fire and the night with quick leaps. At 4:17, this important position is taken.


Once both levels have been occupied, the order to continue deploying to the south is received. At 4:32, the Raven is launched again. An eagle with eyes made of steel that reaches places nobody ever  does quickly spots about 15 insurgents and three motorbikes.

As the 1st Section occupy the final deployment positions, they discover another numerous group of insurgents, all of them armed and provided with transmission elements, They know that they are running out of time to fortify their positions and they quickly get ready for it. The enemy is close, more and more numerous, and it is planning its next movements. The captain knows that without a consolidated position, defence will be hard. There are many insurgents located in several groups, as well as six motorbikes with armed personnel.

It is the moment when the motorbikes moving accross the border to begin the attack. The Spanish forces open fire on the insurgents who try to advance. The enemy reacts quickly con fire from gunfire, machine guns and rockets over the paratroopers. In these situations, unity is key to succeed. Captain García del Castillo knows it well, and he also knows that the men and women who form his Company, with instruction and discipline, will turn every order they receive into a small conquest.

The distances are small. The heights become shorter, the valleys redden with the dust and the wind, that seems to move time slowly in this place of Ludina, They know that dreams do not come to Ludina today, since all they see moving is the wind.

A Ludina solo sube el viento

The shots from the insurgents are increasingly more precise and come from more positions. The situation begins to get critical, and it becomes necessary to support the 1st Section with gunfire so that they can break the contact and manage to hide behind the walls of a cemetery nearby.


There are new attacks that, from the west, search for the Spanish forces overcoming heaps, closing the valley and looking for paths. The Command Post is being attacked. Fire is being fought with machine gun fire from the support squad. Before this situation, Corporal Perona occupies a new position with his light machine gun, as he keeps preventing the resistance from conquering a single metre in the combat.

Taking into account that the situation is getting complicated, the Legionnaire Knights Morales and Galera occupy a new position to repel the enemy fire, with neither protection nor a single doubt. The fire they are making on the insurgents is so efficient that, suddenly, the enemy weapons keep quiet for a second, giving the observer the opportunity to report shooting information to the mortars.

The ones at the cemetry are not in a much better position. The Spanish forces are fighting fiercely, and before the great amount of shots, they realise that the enemy bullets are crossing the weak walls made of stone or clay to write a secret sentence that only the Spanish paratroopers know. The whole Company is engaged in the combat, altough they can only see the wind blowing in Ludina.
 

'Air support in the area in three minutes.' With this sentence they know that the situation is about to change. It is 9:01. After the aircrafts get into action, silence reigns in the area. They do not know for how long it will last. They do not care about time.
 

A Ludina solo sube el viento

The retreat begins at 9:30, as expected, towards the Patrol Base. The 3rd Section is commanded to head to 902 level. This movement is carried out in two succesive leaps, to prevent the insurgents from taking the initiative.

At that time they start receiving fire again. It is occasional at the beginning, but it soon turns into a severe attack again. The insurgents have been seriously damaged, and they do not want the Spanish forces to go out of the maze they created almost without any harm.

It is turn to start the combat again. Once more they mount guard and counterattack. The insurgents are being severely punished, but they do not stop fighting back. Neither do the paratroopers. Corporal First Fraile's squad covers the movements of the 3rd section. Legionnaire Knights Pérez González and Riofrío Robles must abandon their fortified positions with their machine guns to move to others without fortification. They do not have a doubt. They move to a less safe position, but there they will support their partners more efficiently. 'Make or break' is their motto. They do not want a different one.

The impacts of the bursts fall a few centimetres away from their positions, but the paratroopers keep responding with their weapons, fighting the terrible attack they are receiving. The MG machine guns of the Legionnaire Knights Jesús Fraile and Daniel Moyano keep looking for the enemy and firing back. These are the two faces fighting the iron that sounds like an echo. Everyone is engaged in the combat. The hours do not go by, they can only see the wind blowing.

The radio-operator Legionnaire Knight Juan Jesús Guillén looks at Captain García del Castillo with his face covered with dirt. The impacts are destroying the sandbags in the foxholes they have dug with a cutter. There are not many options. They fire back with great difficulty. Suddenly, as it all came out of nowhere, Chief Corporal Luque and Corporals Risueño and Castellar appears with their Barrett shooter squads, neutralising the origins of the fire.

 

At that very moment: 'Red smoke! It can't be true! We have a leave!'. The CLP Fraile has received several shots in both legs

 

At that very moment: 'Red smoke! It can't be true! We have a leave!' The Paratroops Legionnaire Knight (CLP) Fraile, as he supported his partners with his machine gun, has received several shots in both legs.
.

A Ludina solo sube el viento

It is 10:16 when First Sergeant Montesinos signposts the position of the injured with a tin of red spray. The Legionnaire Knight Moyano bends over him to protect him. They are receiving shots from everywhere. Moyano tries to drag Fraile to take him out of the death area. Then, Sergeant Puche rushes to his position, and together they move him. Fraile draws strength from the steel in his legs, manages to jump up helped by his partners, and they ran for cover.

The rest of the company, offering them protection, fight with fire everyone who try to finish with their lives. The whole squad acts quickly, placing tourniquets in the legs pierced by the shots and the pain. Nobody lags behind. The medical evacuation team (MEDEVAC) is already on the way. Only the wind goes up to Ludina, even though an old neighbour said that dreams did it too.

The enemy fire and the violence in the combat do not stop. The red smoke colours the air, and the wind sticks it to the calendar. The enemy is hardly 500 metres away. The fre from the insurgents continues restlessly, but it is responded by all the members of the unit with precision, not giving a single milimetre of ground despite the intensity of the fire and the sharp hills, now favourable to the insurgents. The insurgents are being beaten by the paratroopers with the patience of the stars and with the measured pauses that fly over the transmissions in the shape of orders. The captain knows that the whole unit has done a great job, and he thinks that there are not many soldiers like them. It is 10:40. The air is filled with sounds, whistles of bullets, orders, noise from helicopters... and explosions,  many explosions.

 

The captain remembers what happened and thinks: 'If they ever tell my story, I want them to say that I walked among giants.'

 

After the explosions, some of them less than 1,000 away from their positions, only silence is heard. It is 11:00. Fraile is evacuated, he will get well. The Captain remebers what happened and thinks: 'If they ever tell my story, I want them to say that I walked among giants.' Then, the order comes:  'Krusty, for the whole group, we start the way back.' Mission accomplished. Not only the wind goes up to Ludina now.

For this combat action, the following merits were awarded:

  • 6 Red Crosses of the Military Merit (in upcoming issues.)
  • 4 Invitations to the General Order.
  • 17 Bravery Certificates.
  • 25 Feats of Arms.