Subscribe
Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division's Battery B, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, fire their M-198 155mm medium howitzer at anti-coalition positions in northeastern Afghanistan. The artillery piece can send a shell 18 miles down range.

Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division's Battery B, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, fire their M-198 155mm medium howitzer at anti-coalition positions in northeastern Afghanistan. The artillery piece can send a shell 18 miles down range. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division's Battery B, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, fire their M-198 155mm medium howitzer at anti-coalition positions in northeastern Afghanistan. The artillery piece can send a shell 18 miles down range.

Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division's Battery B, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, fire their M-198 155mm medium howitzer at anti-coalition positions in northeastern Afghanistan. The artillery piece can send a shell 18 miles down range. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

Spc. Joseph Nygard carries a 100-pound white phosphorous marking round, as Battery B, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery, 10th Mountain Division, fires at anti-coalition positions in northeast Afghanistan.

Spc. Joseph Nygard carries a 100-pound white phosphorous marking round, as Battery B, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery, 10th Mountain Division, fires at anti-coalition positions in northeast Afghanistan. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division's Battery B, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, spin their M-198 155mm medium howitzer towards an anti-coalition position in northeastern Afghanistan.

Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division's Battery B, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, spin their M-198 155mm medium howitzer towards an anti-coalition position in northeastern Afghanistan. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

Sgt. Nicholas Harmon peers through the gunner sight of gun number one as the soldiers prepare to batter anti-coalition positions.

Sgt. Nicholas Harmon peers through the gunner sight of gun number one as the soldiers prepare to batter anti-coalition positions. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

King of Kings, a M-198 155mm medium howitzer.

King of Kings, a M-198 155mm medium howitzer. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

NANGALAM, Afghanistan — The heavy guns of Camp Blessing haven’t been this active in months.

Over the past few days, Capt. Joe Hansen and his men have blasted away with their M198 Medium Howitzers into the low hills and mountains near this outpost in the Pech River Valley. While the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, regularly employs disruption fire at known and suspected enemy locations, lately it has been in retaliation.

One of two rockets fired by militants last Friday landed inside the camp. No one was injured.

“That’s the closest we’ve ever had,” said Capt. Brad Garrison, the assistant operations officer.

The second shell landed in a local bazaar. Again, no one was injured.

But Monday afternoon, when a third enemy shell hit the nearby village of Manugay, at least one person, an elderly man, took shrapnel. He was injured in the right thigh but was alert and coherent at the aid station on base.

On Sunday, enemy combatants shot at Fire Base California, a small camp down the road from Nangalam.

“What we want to do is put a stop to it,” Hansen said Friday night as he watched a gun crew load another 155mm round into a howitzer called “The King of Kings.”

All of this rocketry comes as the 10th Mountain Division is preparing to leave Afghanistan after a 16-month deployment. Falling in behind them is the 173rd Airborne Brigade, headquartered in Vicenza, Italy.

“It’s pretty typical,” Garrison said of the recent spat of unfriendly activity. “The enemy has probably heard of the RIP (Relief in Place).”

Hansen suspects the recent activity against U.S. forces also may be in response to last month’s killing of Habib Jan, the leader of a militant cell operating in northern Konar Province. Several soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division said the four-month extension was worth it, if only because Habib Jan was taken down.

The 1st Battalion has been the hardest hit of the seven battalions that are either part of or attached to the brigade, Garrison said. Twenty soldiers in the battalion have died during the deployment, which accounts for about half of its combat losses.

Habib Jan “was the head muscle around these parts,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Bryant, a platoon leader in the battalion.

Bryant and others in the brigade perk up when told that some of their replacements have already arrived in theater. Talk usually turns to their post-deployment plans. There are family gatherings to attend, children to hug, spouses to love, friends to see and trips to take.

“We all are looking forward to going home,” said Sgt. Patrick Torres, a vehicle mechanic at Camp Blessing. “We’ve made it this far.”

Torres, Sgt. Walter Sims and Sgt. Justin McNamara were working on a Humvee in a cramped three-sided plywood shack that passes as a garage. The camp itself is probably no bigger than a retail store parking lot. It’ll be nice, they said, to have room to roam, clean air to breathe and all the creature comforts of America.

That and no one will be shooting at them.

“It’s starting to heat up,” McNamara said. “It’s a good time to go home.”

Michael Abrams contributed to this report.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up