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Spanish army
Ministry of Defence
Spanish army

Ejército de Tierra

Mision: Collecting the body of a fallen comrade

Captain Miguel Ángel Fresneda

Lieutenant Alberto Martín

Special Operations Command

 


After many missions in Afghanistan - since 30 June 2009 in the area of operations - and many hours of combat, the Liaison and Observation Unit (LOU) XIII, from the Spanish army’s Special Operations Command (SOC), is assigned a different mission: they must support the Afghan police, who are going to collect the body of a colleague who was murdered in an insurgency attack that same morning in Gueira Shuri. They know that it is Ramadan and, for that reason, the body should be collected as soon as possible. They know that death lives close by, but also that those fallen in combat have loved ones waiting to pray to them and mourn over their bodies, to touch their cold skin for the last time and cry for them.

 

Misión: recoger el cuerpo de un compañero caído 

It is 5 September of the same year and around eight o'clock in the morning the LOU is alerted of the new mission, after two days of combat. At half past ten the movement begins in a line cmade up of 4 vehicles of the Afghan Police, 10 vehicles of the Afghan Army and 11 vehicles of the Spanish Army’s Provincial Reconstruction Team, where the LOU is integrated. Cordobite, head of LOU XIII, knows that the mission will not be easy. They don't need to wait long to realize that the insurgency is concentrating between the towns of Mamaka and Buluda. For them, the most important verb that exists at that moment is 'to know'. To know the past, in its history; the present, in its customs and traditions that so forge stance and thought; and the future, in the actions that can happen by the movements of allies and strangers. They know, because they have been informed, that the insurgency is preparing an ambush and laying mines at the entrance to the Gueira Shuri valley, on the planned route.

Around twelve o'clock in the morning, the Spaniards enter the town of Sang Atesh-Mamaka, and the Afghan police inform them that 15 minutes ago they received rocket fire. The sky, with the heat, seems to be moving, the mountains make their torrid land known and the roads close on the horizon due to lime; everything disappears and the Spanish soldiers only have the mission in mind: to collect the body of a fallen Afghan comrade. At that moment, the LOU deploys in the anterior area to cross the ford that separates the towns of Sang Atesh-Mamaka and Sang Atesh-Buluda (Ludina) to try to locate the insurgency.

Misión: recoger el cuerpo de un compañero caído

At 12.15 the Operations Centre reports that the insurgency may have laid two mines in the vicinity of the first checkpoint of the Afghan Police. No more than 15 minutes later, an explosion is heard at that location and a column of smoke is seen in the area. They live on signs, in the wind, on the ground or in the valley. They live on signs that suddenly appear and suddenly vanish into thin air. They live from the senses and from understanding, before the enemy does, which are the paths of the zone of death or of life. They know that the insurgency does not ignore that a convoy of the Spanish Provincial Reconstruction Team is going to Gueira Shuri to collect the body of the Afghan policeman. No one is ever abandoned, neither here nor anywhere.

During all this time, Candado, Quinn and Friki, the shooters, watch as up to eight motorcycles enter from the Gueira Shuri area towards Buluda and three other motorcycles arrive at Ludina, where only the wind rises, from the northwest. They also see several women and children running out of the town. The insurgency is already there, suffocating the civilians, and as always, carrying a fear that lingers in the air as a companion. It can be observed soon enough that time has stopped in the village, that there is no more movement, that only the air walks through its dirt roads and that a tense wait sounds in silence. Cuervo, the precision shooter, has located a house with about 10 people inside and has seen an armed man who seemed to be giving orders through a walkie-talkie, as well as movement from motorcycles at other coordinates..

Meanwhile, Cordobite explains to the Afghan Army and Police chiefs the maneuver that will be carried out with his support. It will consist of attempting to go along the main road of the Lithium route, establishing a protection to the west of the road in the direction of the town of Ludina, where insurgents are concentrating, and thus lock the enemy down in Ludina or attract possible troops to that position. This will make them retreat from other ambushes further north, allowing the Spanish Task Force "Lince", together with the Afghan Police, to take the alternative road parallel to the Lithium to carry out the main mission of going to Check Point No. 2 in search of the fallen policeman. His lifeless body waits to be rescued soon so that it can be mourned over by his relatives. Someone who has given his life for freedom deserves that and much more..

 

Misión: recoger el cuerpo de un compañero caído 

 

Any rumor seems to have been extinguished and to flow only through the subsoil, under the boots of those soldiers who know that, to carry out a mission, sooner or later it is necessary to step on the field. At 13.45, Afghan Army units are ordered to occupy supporting positions as planned, deploying to Sang Atesh-Buluda. The Afghan Police is at the forefront and, protecting it, the Spanish "Lince" Task Force. Once the river has been crossed and the road headed down, the Afghan Army is ordered to retreat and go after the Spaniards through the alternative route to Command Post 2, to attract the attention of the insurgency..

 

No one is ever abandoned,

neither here nor anywhere

 

Within 30 minutes of starting to move, a radio announcement tells that Afghan soldiers are receiving rifle and rocket fire from around the village of Ludina. They must immediately retreat, and the last vehicles of the "Lince" Task Force report the haste with which they move, even with the overturning of one of their vehicles carrying an anti-aircraft cannon, in the middle of the exposed esplanade. At that moment, the Spaniards have to start moving to occupy support positions for the Afghan soldiers, who are in a very compromised situation and who already have one wounded. Shots can be heard from the north, which are answered harshly from WEU vehicles. It seems that all the spirits are concentrated in the valleys of Ludina, where only the wind can be seen rising. The insurgency already knows that the allies are determined to fulfill their mission. The whistles of the rockets and the bullets fill the air with a sonorous litany to which the combatants of the Special Operations Command are very accustomed. Due to the intensity of the attack, at 15.10 Bullfighter, the TACP in charge of aerotactic control, asks for air support and it is confirmed that the estimated time of arrival of two F-18s is 25 minutes.

Misión: recoger el cuerpo de un compañero caído

At 15.14, the column of the Spanish Task Force "Lince" enters position to cover the maneuvers of recovery of the vehicle by the Afghan Army. Once the Task Force is in position, it begins to be under fire from three points in the town of Buluda (from the East, from the town itself, and from the West), in what looks like a U-shaped ambush. Everyone is involved in the combat, it is a hard fight where movement and fire play in an imaginary chess game of valleys, hills, roads and rocks. Pollo and his UEO people respond to the fire and support the Afghan units. In the vicinity of Spanish vehicles, they receive between four and five rocket strikes. Mono informs Flako that he is around 350 meters ahead in the deployment to take positions, while Tete and Lirón adopt new support positions. Around them, four rockets fall again, filling the air with dust, sand and splinters. Another rocket flies over Candado, the shooter of the most advanced UEO vehicle, and sounds, when it passes, like a wave of light and wind. The protection of the shooters are filled with impacts by the concentration of fire on the armored vehicles. Through movement and fire, the UEO's most advanced vehicles break contact - engaged in hard and tenacious combat - to a position more to the rear, with the rest of the "Lynx" Task Force deployment, where the fire decreases.

 

The Afghan policemen

were able to collect the body of their colleague,

one of our own.

 

 

At that moment the rifle fire had three origin points in the same areas: one to the north -with respect to the town of Ludina-, another to the west -near the place where the firing support controller was - and another to the northeast of the deployment. This moment was used to change the 12.70 mm machine gun of one of the UEO vehicles - since during its continued use in combat the mounting lever had been broken - for a spare one. The experience of previous combats makes it pertinent to carry it close by. All carried out within the same deployment with great diligence and rejection of hostile fire. Between Pruden and Quinn they manage to change the heavy machine gun in record time, even exposing themselves to enemy fire.


Meanwhile, no one is given rest on those days, those hours, in that place. The vehicles of the Afghan Police were able to reach Check-Point No. 2 and collect their colleague’s body, one of ours. The lifeless body of the Afghan policeman leaves for Qala-i-Naw. There are three Spanish vehicles with them to protect them. The UEO, after fulfilling this mission, continues to fight in support of the Afghan Police and Army. 

Misión: recoger el cuerpo de un compañero caído

 

Nothing stops, because this film doesn't have a beginning and an end until the mission is accomplished. Many days of combat will continue. This warrior chess will not stop in these mountains of Afghanistan. Cordobite, Pollo, Mono, Pruden, Mani, Cuervo, Flako, Lirón, Tete, Quinn, Friki, Candado, Bullfighter, the EOR and the platoons of Soria Regiment nº 9, who sometimes accompany them, know that missions will continue to be fulfilled. And in a few hours they will again receive enemy fire, rifle fire and impacts of RPG, to respond with more fire and movement.

It begins to get dark and the "Lince" Task Force, which is going back to Qala-i-Naw, is still engaged in the fighting, but knows that the mission of collecting the body of a fallen Afghan comrade has been fulfilled. And now that it is Ramadan, his relatives, having his body - which will rest forever - can mourn his death. After several skirmishes and harassment, the Task Force enters the Qala-i-Naw base at 22:45. It's time for rest and remembering..