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Another Air Assault Launched in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2003 -- Coalition forces conducted another air assault in the Sami Ghar Mountains of Afghanistan today, Combined Joint Task Force-180 officials said.

Officials would not give the size of the assault. They did say fewer than 1,000 forces are assigned to Operation Valiant Strike.

The assault troops used U.S. Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters. They immediately found a large weapons cache that included rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank mines, mortar rounds and other weapons.

Since the operation began on March 20, there has been no enemy contact, said Army Capt. Alayne Cramer, a CJTF-180 spokeswoman. Troops have detained four Afghans and uncovered several large weapons caches.

Officials said it is hard to put precise numbers on the number of active Taliban in the area. The most common number they cite is between 50 and 100.

The majority of the troops involved in the operation come from the 82nd Airborne Division. However, there is support from a Romanian mortar platoon and special operations forces.

Cramer said the operation is proceeding smoothly, and coalition forces are searching villages and cave complexes.

U.S. service members patrolling near Shkin encountered enemy personnel. A firefight ensued, and the enemy broke contact.

At Bagram Air Base, U.S. personnel held a short memorial service for the six airmen killed in the crash of a Pave Hawk helicopter on March 23. After the short service, Bagram Air Base shut down for "a minute" as service members lined the route to the runway and paid their final respects to their comrades, Cramer said.


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