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Many of the soldiers in Company C, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment went into their assigned territory in Afghanistan looking for a fight.

But in an area reputed to be a stronghold of the Taliban, they didn't see much of the enemy during their stint in southern Paktika province. Some of them still aren't sure why.

Staff Sgt. Sebastian Dus said that when his platoon set up operations at Tarwe, about four kilometers from the Pakistan border, they were told they would be seeing plenty of the enemy. After all, Special Forces troops had reported regular contact with the enemy.

That didn't happen, though. Dus thinks it might be because the company sent out patrols large enough to scare away any enemy in the area — and sent them out all the time.

So Charlie Company quickly turned to trying to win over the local population and curb whatever support enemy forces might have in the area.

And that's what Dus will remember the most.

"Being able to be there and see the difference we made going back from the first day we got there to the last day we were there," he said.

Among the differences soldiers cite: village bazaars that grew exponentially, a local tribal council that announced it would support the Afghan government and turn over those causing trouble, and the emergence of the Afghan national flag in places where it hadn't flown before.

The unit's bases improved gradually, as well. Spc. Michael Cody cited Whaza Kwah in particular.

"By the time we left, it was almost nicer than Orgun-E," he said. The Orgun-E base, headquarters of the battalion, was north of Company C's sector. It really wasn't far away via helicopter, but by Humvee, it seemed like forever.

"Traveling 30 to 40 kilometers in the terrain over there takes an entire day," Dus said.

And that brings up a few more memories.

"Being stuck in the mud for hours and hours," he said.

"We became experts in vehicle recovery," Cody said.

They didn't become experts in the local language, though.

"The frustrating and most annoying thing was the language barrier," Cody said. "We didn't have very good [interpreters]."

Sgt. Cheyenne Smithey said he'd remember some of the patrols that took several days to complete. And spending a lot of time with other soldiers in the unit. Enough time that it might have been too much for some.

"You would think that it would be," he said. "But not really. I think it's because the conditions we shared. The patrols we went on. It brought us closer together."

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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