Welcome home, 173rd Airborne: Company C was always on the move
May 2, 2006
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QALAT, Afghanistan — Whether it was conducting patrols on one of the country's best roads or flying into a firefight, the soldiers of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment didn't stay in one place for long.
"We've been in Kandahar and all over Zabul province," said Spc. Eric Jensen, a member of 3rd Platoon's 2nd Squad.
"Chosen" Company's sector was the middle of Zabul province. It centered on the provincial capital of Qalat and Highway 1 — one of the country's best roads, which runs between two mountain ranges, starting in Kandahar to the southwest and running into Kabul to the northeast.
Capt. Eric Gardner, the company commander, said that simply patrolling the relatively quiet central sector of Zabul and supervising a variety of ongoing projects could have kept his unit busy. And that's what most members of the company thought they'd be doing. After all, that's what had been going on previously in the province.
"We found out very early on that wasn't going to be the case and we had to play both roles," Gardner said.
The other role was effectively as the battalion's quick reaction force. Because Company C's soldiers were often the most readily available to climb onto Chinooks and fly into a fight, that's what they did.
"I'll definitely remember all the firefights we got into," said Sgt. Timothy Smith of 1st Platoon's 2nd Squad. "And our squad always seemed to get into the middle of everything."
His squad was fortunate. Its team leader got a tooth shot out, but there were no other injuries. That wasn't the case with the company in general. One soldier was killed. Others were severely wounded.
Jensen said one friend lost a leg in the first firefight. Another was shot and paralyzed.
"Guys came together," said Staff Sgt. David Dzwik, the 3rd Squad leader from 1st Platoon.
The battalion arrived at the end of one of the harshest winters the country had experienced in years. But the second winter was much milder.
"I was expecting a little more down time in the winter," Jensen said. "But it didn't snow much, so we had missions."
Just because it wasn't snowing didn't mean conditions were perfect.
"Sometimes, it [stinks] being out there," Jensen said. "But after you've done it, you're proud of it."
Gardner said he was proud of his company's effort throughout its tour.
"I've never seen a more capable unit as these guys here," he said.