Spera COP Sector Sketch

The Afghanistan memento that means the most to me is a sector sketch—the base defense plan—of Spera Combat Outpost.  It’s drawn on a cardboard box originally used to package individualized servings of Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, and Cocoa Krispies.  The person who gave me the plan taped a note on the backside of the sketch:

“Sir:  This sector sketch was one of the first (173rd ABN) for Spera COP…. Thought you would like to have it.  –Nick”

Nick wasn’t wrong.

I knew service in Afghanistan was going to be intense, but nothing prepared me for ownership of a tiny fortress on the Pakistan border manned by eight of my soldiers and a company of ANA.  Spera COP was so remote you couldn’t drive to it without going into Pakistan—which meant that all resupply was by helicopter.  It was almost out of reach by radio, too, so transmission of reports and requests for help were also fraught.  Knowing that the enemy used Pakistan as a safe haven and that the Pakistan military couldn’t be trusted made things even more precarious.

Worst of all, insurgents didn’t want us at Spera COP.  To find and exploit weaknesses, they attacked it almost daily.

In July 2008, insurgents overan a much larger COP at Wanat in Nuristan.  In October 2009, another American outpost in Nuristan was also overwhelmed.  It was never not on my mind that the same could happen at Spera COP.

At the end of my time in Khowst, Spera COP still stood.  No thanks to me, all praise goes to the hardcore soldiers who manned its defenses based on the plan drawn on the back of this piece of cardboard.

The US Army has now relinquished control of Spera COP to the ANA, but I’m still not comfortable publicly displaying the sector sketch.  I wish you could see it, though.  Crude yet eloquent, it is understandable even to laymen.  The area around the COP is broken into “engagement areas”–think “kill zones”–named Martina, Dee Dee, Katherine, and Destiny–funny/sad names that evoke  the tumult of desire, fear, connection, and loss in the hearts of stout Spera COP defenders.

NOTE:  “Nick” mentioned above is MAJ Nick Fleischmann.  He is featured in a TV documentary on Spera COP, link below.  It’s made by Aljazeera, so go figure.  It’s good, but 45 minutes long, so give yourself some time.


Also, a lot of chatter about Spera COP at the “Defenders of Spera COP” Facebook page:


An Afghan soldier and an American ETT in the hills around Spera COP.

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