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Photo gallery: Afghan terrain tests soldiers' hiking skills

By LES NEUHAUS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 30, 2007

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U.S. Army Capt. Louis Frketic, 29, of Jacksonville, Fla., (right, no sunglasses) listens as an Afghan man talks about the hardships of living in the mountainous terrain of Kunar province in northeast Afghanistan.

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U.S. Army Capt. Louis Frketic, 29, of Jacksonville, Fla., (right) and others speak with an Afghan man. Frketic is commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.

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Troops of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade got an eyeful of scenery walking down a mountain in Afghanistan's Kunar province. Many of the men ran out of the water along the way and began cramping up.

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Staff Sgt. Brian Mading, 29, of Bonita Springs, Fla., and fellow paratroops negotiate rough terrain down a mountain in east Afghanistan, taking 10 hours to descend it.

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A soldier at right braces himself on a rock while descending a mountain in northeast Afghanistan on Thursday. Troops' hike that day began at 4:30 a.m. Most troops ran out of water by the time the grueling trip ended.

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A member of the Afghan National Police rests next to a trail in the Pech River Valley in northeastern Afghanistan's Kunar province on Thursday. Several elements of U.S. soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade descended the mountain after a six-day operation. The men from Company A came across the Afghan security teams on the trail down.

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Two radio men from Company A rest, heading a succession of troops who descended a 7,600-foot mountaintop in Afghanistan's restive northeast. The U.S. troops were wrapping up a six-day mission that left three of their own dead.

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At some points of the trail, bottle-necking was inevitable.

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Some portions of the descent were craggy with rocks. Troops walked cautiously to avoid twisted ankles and other injuries.

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Troops descending from a mountain in eastern Afghanistan encountered goat herders toward the end of the trail. The soldiers would usually stop and talk the civilians, asking them questions about Taliban activity in the area.

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U.S. servicemen traverse a mountain trail on Thursday. The march took 10 hours for the men of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne's 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment to complete. Most of the leadership ranks are Rangers as well.

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A U.S. soldier steps down a steep section of the trail in northeastern Afghanistan on Thursday.

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A member of the Afghan National Police pauses for a moment on a trail in Afghanistan's northeastern mountains on Thursday.

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An Afghan policeman rests at a mountain pass in Kunar province, which borders Pakistan.

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An Afghan girl holds her sibling in a village at the bottom of the mountain the U.S. soldiers descended on Thursday.

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Soldiers of Company A take a rest along the trail as they descended a mountain in eastern Afghanistan.

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An elderly man gestures while sitting next to a policeman in the mountains of Afghanistan's Kunar province.

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Young boys pose bashfully for the camera in eastern Afghanistan.

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A baby in a village sits on a trail. Afghanistan is a poor country; the U.N. Development Program's most recent Human Development Index ranks Afghanistan at 173 out of 178 countries around the world.


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