Captain Chainsaw


16 September 2011
Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
4-4 Cav, Task Force Spartan

The enemy has figured out the strategy here in Zhari but they have been unable to stop it.  Day by day, Task Force Spartan is constricting the Taliban battlespace.  It has become clear, at least in this small area of Afghanistan, that the Taliban are being strangled.  The enemy remains strong but their legs are weakening.  Nobody can discount the enemy’s courage or willingness to fight, or that they are being defeated.  Task Force Spartan has been building combat outposts in the heart of enemy territory while conducting myriad other operations to kill the enemy, sap their willingness or desire to fight, and bring some order to this chaos.

Part of building new roads and outposts includes cutting down trees.  Explosives are the chainsaw of war, and so naturally the troops have been cutting down trees with plastic explosives and detonation cord which thunder daily here.  One might think that the fastest way to cut down a bunch of trees is to blow them up, but that’s not always true.  Often the chainsaw is the tool of choice.  The chainsaw method can be lighter and faster than using explosives.  Importantly, when using explosives the civilians must be cleared out, but this is not so with a chainsaw.  Importantly, too, before explosives can be used the troops must clear what they call a “BiP RAS.”  (Blow in Place Restricted Air Space.)  Our helicopters often fly so low that they can accidentally be blown out of the sky, or at least fragged, and obviously that is to be avoided.  But the BiP RAS and other formalities also can take time, meaning our troops must stay in danger longer.  On the other hand, our helicopter pilots don’t have to be warned about chainsaws.

Captain Doug Serota has been using chainsaws since he was a boy growing up in Alabama.  When Captain Serota got his hands on a chainsaw, he stopped wasting time with explosives when possible.  This reduces risks to his men, and frees time for other work.  But like most everything, the chainsaw versus explosives question remains open.  For instance, one of my tent mates, Sergeant Edward Wooden, has had to cross water here at night with explosives to blow down a tree.  He stripped off his body armor, got across the water, quietly placed the explosives and slipped away.  BOOM.  Tree gone.  The tree was large and would have required some time and much noise with a chainsaw, not to mention lights.  In this neck of the woods a chainsaw is pretty much good for one thing: trees.  Explosives, however, can be used for all sorts of tasks.  In any case, the chainsaw in Captain Serota’s hands and the explosives in Sergeant Wooden’s hands have been knocking down a lot of trees.  The Taliban are not happy to see their hiding places disappear.


# Travis 2011-09-16 18:55
Orange? They need to give that saw a camo paint job! Interesting story Michael!
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# Travis 2011-09-16 18:58
Orange? They need to paint that thing camo! :D Nice quick story Michael!
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# Travis 2011-09-16 19:00
Sorry I posted twice. oops!!
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# Jim Rotramel 2011-09-16 19:01
It would seem that using the chain saw would make it easier for the locals to harvest the trees as firewood instead of toothpicks...
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# KAL 2011-09-16 19:15
Don't tell the "greenies" they'll have a fit of apoplexy! But either one is safer than "Agent Orange" (no pun intended) for all involved.

Could be useful in interrogation as well for those "weak legs"!
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# Victoria 2011-09-16 19:16
All these soldiers you post photos of look so handsome. Every darn one, even the female pilots.
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# Hal Bullock 2011-09-16 19:47
When I was in Afghanistan, I found that many locals had difficulty heating their homes during the winter, and endured significant misery as a result. If we could somehow make the wood available to the locals in a usable form (perhaps cut into manageable lenghts), it would be a good way to earn additional good will.
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# Eric 2011-09-16 20:16
Tell him to name his chainsaw "Agent Orange" :-)
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# Sgt Sandbag 2011-09-16 20:18
They should show free movies in Talaban villages... "Texas Chainsaw Masacre"

THEN send our guys in with a couple of Stihls...

That'll sap the fight right out of them.
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-16 22:34
America and American soldiers are proud to cut down trees in a Afghanistan land which is the property of Afghan people.

Than again what is a tree while American solders have demolished houses in Afghanistan full of women and children inside.

All the American destruction of human life and property will be part of Afghan history which work as a reminder to Afghan people how to deal with Americans now and as well as in the future.
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# Trying-to-see-realit 2011-09-17 00:41
Gosh, given the atrocities committed by the Taliban against their own people, you must *really* hate them.
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# Melissa 2011-09-17 03:00
Civilized man can say that as he sits on the couch with a remote control in HIS hand...and probably a strawberry wine cooler in the other! ....while flipping between The Daily Show, CNN, and Chris Matthews.
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-17 08:13
As a human being I hate anyone who kills innocent people for their self interests whether it is Taliban or American soldiers.Taliba n are the same people that past American administration supported them against Soviets invasion of Afghanistan. At that time Americans called themas freedom fighters. It is not an excuse to bombard villages, take down trees and destroy farms just because Americans want to exact revenge on Taliban. After ten years Americans have not succeeded in defeating Taliban. Just on the anniversary of September 11 when Americans were paying respect for the 3000 Americans killed on that day, Taliban commemorated the occasion by attacking USA embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul for 20hours. This shows that most people of Afghanistan is supporting Taliban because of American disregard for human life and property in their fight with Taliban. American invasion has caused more than 100,000 civilian lives and severe damage to Afghanistan economy
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-17 08:27
Dear Mlissa
I do not drink alcohol. Also I do not get my information from TV. I have been in Afghanistan several times and seen American behavior there. Also Just go and check you tube and Google videos and you will see for yourself how much destruction is going on by NATO and American forces in Afghanistan in the name of 911 and Taliban. Afghans and stone aged Taliban had no role in 9/11. It was all Saudi nationals which American administration has very good relation with up until now.
America is in Afghanistan for their own go-political-ec onomical reasons in strategic Afghan land. If American administration cares so much than why it does not stop Israel for committing crimes against Gaza people and the rest of Palestinian people or help the anger in Africa. My criticism is against American Administration not against American people. There are a lot of good people in America who does not support American administration illegal actions in world.
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# Singadick 2011-09-17 09:41
And just how do you know so much about Civilized Man? Of anything at all?
Those unable to discuss an issue attack the source. You've shown us all how shallow your thinking is.
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# Violette 2011-09-17 10:58
when in the US, was like the one on the pic...just not with a Ranger with a chainsaw guarding it tough ! Sometimes would be useful.
It's mystery behind every closed doors,I like them .
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# susan 2011-09-17 11:00
As the Marines say, Ooraah!!! Great job.....taking care of business by whatever means are necessary.....t hanks, Michael, for another enlightening view of the workings of our troops over there...slants on the daily life we would never know if you were not there!
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# Trying-to-see-realit 2011-09-17 13:28
Quoting Civilized_man:
This shows that most people of Afghanistan is supporting Taliban because of American disregard for human life and property in their fight with Taliban.

No, it does not. At most it shows that somebody was able to come up with a plan and bribe the right people in order to make it happen. And the execution of the plan shows the disregard they have for the people of Afghanistan.

The Taliban are murderers and hypocrites. They abuse the people they want to rule. For all their claims of serving Allah, they are really serving the interests of their own leaders. Their leaders are willing to manipulate and sacrifice not only their followers, but also the peoples of Afghanistan and the people of Pakistan.
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# Lennon 2011-09-17 13:47
Oh no.... now that you have given away this vital work Obama will pass a new law to protect the trees.... :lol:
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# Leyla Najma 2011-09-17 16:28
This is definitely apart of troop life that we don't read about in the papers or see on TV. Captain Doug Serota could give Captain American a run for his money!!
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# Frank 2011-09-17 21:39
As regards the "hiding places disappear" - the Soviets cut down thousands of trees in Kandahar province back in 80s. It won´t help out.
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# Wayne Philpot 2011-09-17 22:04
Mr. Civilized Man, maybe your heartfelt emotion that you've shown for the poor Afghan trees can be better applied by personally traveling to this lovely spot of the globe and doing something... Maybe talk to the noble taliban and their offspring and convince them with your infinite wisdom how they can save their trees? Shame on you, sir.
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# Wayne Philpot 2011-09-17 22:09
If a single American warrior's life is saved by mowing down every tree in that God-forsake piece of this good earth, then I suggest putting away every stick, twig, and stump into firewood. Another nugget to add to the growing list: ladders, britches, water filters, and quality chainsaws... Thank you, Mr. Yon, and as always, please keep your head down.
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# Wayne Philpot 2011-09-17 22:16
Mr. Civilized Man, you sound amazingly similar to a haji sympathiser. That's fine, but let's just call things as they are. Thank God that fine Americans are fighting for your right to speak such guff, that is if you're an American. President George W. Bush said it best when he stated that you're either with us, or you're with the terrorists. Looks like you've made your choice, and you'd better pray to whatever deity you aim such things at and hope that none of the awesome individuals featured in Mr. Yon's articles find you in their cross hairs.
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# Wayne Philpot 2011-09-17 22:25
It sounds like you and Mr. Civilized Man just left the mosque together, bud. Reading between the lines on your and Mr. Civilized Man's comments, it appears that your loyalty may not necessarily lie with the American military efforts in Afghanistan, so your stance may draw criticism from good Americans. Shame on both of you.
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# brenner 2011-09-18 16:31
During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and in the years that followed the Soviets napalmed all of the forests in Afghanistan which prevented the locals from even building a home or a mud hut. The Soviets would bomb a village, move forward with BDU's move the women and children to the mosque and kill every boy and man. When they were finished and before leaving the soldiers would burn the burn the Mosque with all still inside. If the Americans want to cut down a few trees it just fine with me.

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# Frank 2011-09-19 06:50
@ Brenner and Wayne Philpot - I am not saing it is wrong, I am fine with it. As a BTDT I say there are places which need to be deforested with the rain of MOABs, not just by chainsaw. I am trying to say it is not just about the trees. God bless the guys on the ground and you all.
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# Violette 2011-09-19 08:15
AGREE's a bad jock only ! !

I can recognize door's nationalities though: gates,front door's,doors are the mirror of the status,life,the "frame of mind" of the personliving behind .I like them,they can be simple, beautiful,welco ming or the contrary "beware of dog" mentality.
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# 4-4 Chaplain 2011-09-19 15:46
Nothing of the sort has occured in our area of opeation. Only abandoned buildings used by the Taliban, trees used by the Taliban against Coalition forces, and property purchased through the local Afghan Government are demolished. The Taliban have abused, maimed and murdered the many of the local population. The afghan people are very glad to have us here.
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# BlogDog 2011-09-20 16:08
First time I've heard of a soldier Stihl-ing a march on his enemy!
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# John Stephens 2011-09-20 17:13
"And this is my BOOMSTICK!"
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# Jim 2011-09-20 17:51
that could be my son, the seargent
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# Dr. Kenneth Noisewat 2011-09-20 19:00
The military could use these:
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-20 22:29
Dear sir, I am myself an Afghan and I live and travel here freely all over Afghanistan. Taliban may look very awful to Americans and other foreign soldiers but not to most Afghan people. During my several trips across Afghanistan I found out that Afghans were harassed by US backed Afghan soldiers for bribes and "gifts". I also witnessed bottles of water being thrown at and name callings and threats by American soldier from top of their Humvees at local civilians. Taliban have also stopped the bus we were traveling several times and all they cared for was if anyone was involved with the " crusaders". Taliban never asked any passengers for money or harassed us in any way or thrown bottles of water or insulted anyone. By posting this comment I am hoping that my comments are not going to get removed from this" democratic" forum.
@ Mr.Philpot By the way "infinite wisdom" is not just the property of a certain race.
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# GringoSalado 2011-09-20 22:32
Somebody get the Capt. a real saw.
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-20 22:39
Mr. Philpot. Just try to have a logical debate regarding the truth on this matter instead of believing in what you have seen on CNN, FOX and other western medias with agendas of their own and their backers behind the scene, guiding public like you.
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-20 22:42
You got it right Mr. Frank
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-20 22:48
And what happened to the Soviets after what they did in Afghanistan? What about the great British empire's fate in Afghanistan in 1839-1842, 1878-79 and finally 1919 for their misadventure in Afghanistan?
these countries were all superpowers in their times like what American are now.
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-20 22:53
Mr. Philpot. Why going to mosque is something bad in America? If so I really feel sorry for the American Muslims to be such a target of hate by non-Muslim Americans.
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# Austen 2011-09-20 23:03
I suspect that you are who you say and that perhaps 'some' Americans may do what you say they do..... what they do is wrong.... but have you ever thought why they may do what they do... what horrors they may have faced to insult you by throwing water.... I doubt your comments about Americans taking money.... The Taliban may not throw water at you..... but that is because they would slit your throat before they would waste water. If you think the Taliban are good then you demonstrate that you do not possess "infinite wisdom" Try insulting a Taliban and see what they would do to you.... I doubt they would throw water at you.
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-20 23:14
And Mr. Wayne Philpot, why is that going to a mosque to you mean something very bad?
I know there are Muslims and mosques in America as well. Is this how American Muslims and mosques in America are viewed by American government and non-Muslim Americans? If so I am glad I am not in America and I really feel very sorry for all those poor American Muslims living under such a huge pressure and defamation. But than again I think there all those educated good Americans who view Muslims with respect and understand that 1/3 the world is full of Muslim whom they have to live with peacefully.
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-20 23:23
I did not say American troop taking bribes but US-backed Afghan police and soldiers.
I did not say whether the Taliban are good or bad but just stated the fact on the ground. Also There been several reports where local Afghans (interpreters) working for US troops have been shot dead because the local Afghans seemingly insulted the US soldiers.
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-20 23:33
I said US backed Afghan soldiers taking bribes not American soldiers. There have also reports where local Afghans working (interpreters)f or US soldiers have been shot dead by US soldiers because the local Afghans allegedly insulted their US employers.
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# Civilized_man 2011-09-20 23:48
Mr Phipot. For your information , American soldiers are not able to mingle with Afghan public. Their bases are surrounded with huge sand walls and barb wires. When they venture out they come out in Humvees, sometime with copter above and with a sign to stay 150 meter away from them. Now tell me how could they get close to a ordinary person like me inside a city among the common people whom awesome American soldiers are extremely frightened from?
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# Melissa 2011-09-21 00:50
Sigh....Civiliz ed man you are filling up my inbox with your drivel. Look around man. We visit Mr. Yon's sight because we are proud AMERICANS who are proud of our fighting men and women. We don't come here to read your crap. There are thousands of blogs where people would be more than happy to read your blathering on and on and on.....GO THERE! Your political opinions are simply put....irreleva nt. Thank you.
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+1 # Webmaster 2011-09-21 02:03
Hello, Michael freely allows and encourages people to leave comments about his work in Afghanistan and around the world. However; this is not an open public forum. Please keep the comments related to the article. Michael very rarely bans users from commenting, most of the time when this occurs it is due to hate posts, or other threads where readers refuse to stay on topic. There are plenty of open forums where those views and arguments are welcome please keep the comments on topic.

Thank You
Michael's Webmaster
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# civilized_man 2011-09-21 09:52
Everything I said in this blog was relevant to the start attacking me with anger because you can not logically debate the issue with me.

You just have to upgrade your mental picture of Afghan people and Afghanistan otherwise you will go in shock as you are now.
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# brenner 2011-09-21 14:16
To all

The more we comment on the words of civilized man the more he/she will continue to comment. I believe and I am only one that we should stop this chatter with the person and he/she will go away.

My final comment, Afghanistan is a wonderful country filled with people who only want to be left alone and for some reason no one want's to do that.

bye bye Mr. Afghan.
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+2 # Joshua 2011-09-21 16:23
Personally, I've always gotten on fine with any Muslims I've met here in America. Better to be a Muslim in America than a Christian in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Iraq. No one in America is being jailed or executed for his or her beliefs. There are no blasphemy laws. It's not illegal to convert one way or the other. No mosques are being firebombed here. The contrast is startling.
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# Joshua 2011-09-21 16:28
Really? You have no recollection of the Taliban using soccer stadiums to conduct mass executions? Throwing acid on little girls going to school? Repressing traditional Afghan music and culture? Defacing archeological treasures? If you really long for the Taliban maybe these are just more proof of a people getting the government they deserve?
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-1 # Civilized_man 2011-09-21 17:46
Debate happens when opposite opinions are discussed otherwise there is no debate at all. I think Mr. Brenner have realized that no one has been able to answer to my comments satisfactorily. My comments also have exposed some of the cracks and fault lines in your American mentality and that is why Mr. Brenner does not have the stomach to handle me being here.

bye bye Mr. American
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-1 # Civilized_man 2011-09-21 18:07
I agree with most of what you said about past Taliban actions. Taliban have made huge national and international mistakes for which they are not viewed favorably even among Afghans. But they are still better than opium daring warlords currently in power.
Taliban must reform to a better image if they hope to get any sympathy from Afghan public. Taliban can not rule Afghanistan if Afghan people do not want them. Taliban are not as powerful as the 48 foreign coalition stuck in mud in Afghanistan.
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# Lennon 2011-09-21 18:11
Michael Yon's web master wants this debate to stop.... it is not a forum.....
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# idiotproof53 2011-09-21 18:55
:oops: psssst...Wayne, he lives there. "Oh no, Mr Bill..." Thank you Wayne for that, though. I really love my America and I thank you and ALL our Band of Bothers for your service. I'm Scott, USN (Retired). Michael Yon is a real patriot, too, for his service and for writing these blogs. Semper Fi.
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# scotch7 2011-09-28 15:21
Folks, I don't even know if this is true, but I hope it brings a smile:

Dana Perrino (Fox News) describing an interview she recently had with a Navy SEAL. After discussing all the countries he had been sent to, she asked if they had to learn several languages?

His reply: "Oh no ma'am, we don't go there to talk."
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