Jul 31 at 3:03pm by David Tate
This is kind of neat and thought I should share. During ”All Things Considered” on June 22, a discussion was under way regarding the ethics of the mass media keeping quiet regarding the abduction of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, David Rohde. David was kidnapped last November after trying to get a face-to-face interview with Taliban members south of Kabul.
I reported on the story in February after learning about the situation while in Kabul. David has since escaped and we now learn that dozens of mass media outlets collectively stiffled the story for Rohde’s safety. I have since written about that decision, which ended up being quoted on NPR. Take a listen, it’s only a few minutes long.
Jul 31 at 2:02pm by David Tate
The next year will entail most of my energy being spent on looking for sponsorship. The fact is, begging for money from readers doesn’t work and waiting for the money tree to bear fruit seems… well, fruitless.
What I will be looking for is a company, or companies, interested in attaching their name to my work forever. I have some cleaver ideas that I believe would make any company proud and very happy to be involved.
While I will not go into too many specifics in this forum, here are some general numbers to help you understand my situation, if you find yourself interested in teaming up.
1. I need a hand up, not a hand out. My work already generates income, which can only increase as the time I spend dedicated to the project increases. Because I am royalty based, the greater the archive, the greater the royalty (in theory). I expect to be completely self sufficient within two years of going back full time.
2. My sponsor will always be attached to my work, even after paid relationship ends. That means any projects, whether books, television or blogs, you will always be considered a primary sponsor as a gesture of appreciation for stepping up in the riskier time, investment-wise, in this project’s life.
3. July 31 officially ends the business year for “A Battlefield Tourist”. It was two years ago tomorrow that this updated site was launched. From July 31, 2008 – July 31, 2009, “A Battlefield Tourist” has recieved 151,300 visitors as of 1409 EST. This year includes just 21 days spent in a conflict zone during that year (not including Detroit). I can only give an educated guess that visitors, p/year, could easily top a million if the amount of time spent with units abroad significantly increased.
4. While I have learned some lessons regarding what I should blog about when I’m with units abroad, I am absolutely convinced that most families and their soldiers/Marines GREATLY appreciate my sacrifice. There’s no doubt I am a link between families at home with those in harm’s way. This is an INCREDIBLE opportunity to be a part of that patriotic spirit. To old to serve? Here’s your chance for “sacrifice”.
5. Current bare minimum yearly operating cost is $80,000 and is an average of a three year plan. 25% of that cost is currently covered by projected royalties based on past/current performance. That number is expected to increase at least 20% p/year, for the next two years, if left as is with no further action.
For those that have been on board since 2003, it sure has been a ride. For those who have come along since: This blog started as a way to keep in touch with family while overseas and to show interested folks the ups and downs of an independent journalist. I want to not only tell you the story, but show you how I got there. That is what this blog is. I hope you enjoy it.
Jul 30 at 12:12pm by David Tate
By far, the most comprhensive report regarding the Battle of Wanat (Want) is now available here . It is a rough draft.
You may be interested to know that I am cited in this report because of this exclusive article:
Americans Knew Attack Imminent
With that said, I hope the quickest recovery for the men wounded at this fight and I desperately hope for peace for the families of those that died that day.
Jul 26 at 6:06pm by David Tate
It’s hard to belive that the Battle at Wanat (Nuristan) happened a year ago. Time does fly. While this has been over some time, it isn’t truly over. Virginia’s senior Senator, Jim Webb, is pressing for more answers and he’s citing a compiled report put together by the Combat Studies Institute based out of Ft. Leavenworth.
While I do not have the full report, below is one of many interviews conducted by historian Matt Matthews that make up the report.
This interview with Specialist Tyler Hanson who, at the time of the battle, was a soldier in 2nd Platoon, “Chosen” Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne) – part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, stationed in Vicenza, Italy.
Hanson recounts the battle from his perspective, first discussing the mood upon being given the mission to go to Wanat to establish a vehicle patrol base and an observation post. He then talks about the night before the attack; the attack itself which saw some 200 Taliban fighters assaulting less than 50 US troops; his own actions during the fighting; casualties taken on the American side (including nine KIAs) and those inflicted on the enemy; the arrival of MEDEVAC assets, as well as accounts of the heroics of individual soldiers in protecting their comrades and repulsing the Taliban.
Operational Leadership Experiences Project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Interview with SPC Tyler Hanson
19 November 2008
MM: My name is Matt Matthews (MM) and I’m an historian with the Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I’m interviewing Specialist Tyler Hanson (TH) and this is an unclassified interview. If I stray off into any classified areas, just tell me you can’t answer.
Today’s date is 19 November 2008. I’d like to start off with some background information on where you grew up, where you went to school, when you joined the Army and the circumstances.
My name’s Tyler Hanson. I pretty much grew up in Sunnyvale, California. I was born around there, lived around there my whole life. I went to school at Homestead High School and when I was 18, I joined the Army. I was shipped off to basic on 13 September 2005. I don’t know, I think I just wanted to jump out of planes and blow people up or something like that. That was the motivation back then.
MM: Could you talk me through when you first arrived at your unit? Was that in Italy?
TH: Yes. I had totally failed out of the Ranger training because I had wanted to go do that. Then we were sitting around, we got our orders and, “Hey, we’re going to Italy.” Everyone else was going to Fort Lewis or something, so that was kind of a surprise. They flew us out here. I got here and the unit was still gone. They were still in Afghanistan but they came back probably a month after I got here, which was at the end of February. I totally sucked when they all came back because I was a horrible soldier and I pretty much got smoked every day. Then we deployed.
MM: What were some of the missions and actions that you were involved in up until July 2008?
TH: We did a lot of standard patrols, driving, walking everywhere, anywhere to talk to every single village elder who has ever existed in Afghanistan. That was a lot of fun. We did all sorts of traffic control points, little stuff, just setting up little checkpoints and that sort of thing. Those were pretty low-key. Nobody shot at us or anything blew up. Then there were some ones that sucked more, I guess. We had some of the higher profile CONOPs and everything, just a lot of people. I can’t even think of the names now. We had Rock Tempest and Destined Strike, all these different ones that stuff kicked off in. Some of the worst stuff was on 9 November after 1st Platoon got hit and we had to go out there for the quick reaction force and to retrieve the bodies. On 26 January when Sergeant Kahler got hit up at Speed Bump, that was another bad one. I was part of the guys who went there to recover him. Then obviously the stuff that went down at Wanat.
MM: Were you operating in between FOB Bella and Camp Blessing in that area?
TH: Yes, I was at Blessing for a while, then after Ranch House got hit we went out as part of the relief force for them, and we were there for probably five or six weeks. Then we came back from there and only a couple weeks after that, they got hit at Bella and we went out to relieve them until I went on leave. When I came back, we were back at Blessing again. We were in the Korengal for about a week just to relieve back to Blessing and then went to Wanat.
MM: When did you first find out there was going to be some sort of mission in Wanat?
TH: That had been in the air pretty much since we’d gotten there. I remember just a couple weeks saying to pack for Wanat and get ready for Wanat. It never materialized and I was hoping that was the condition of it for the remainder of the time. So when they said, “We’re going to Wanat,” I almost blew it off. Then when it became more and more and more likely that we were going to Wanat, I really wasn’t happy about it because we were really close to coming home. I was less worried about the shit that’d possibly go down and more worried about the fact that I’d have to spend my last two weeks in a dirt hole.
MM: Did you guys think that something might happen up there?
TH: Our thought was, we were going to be out in the open, we were going to be a way’s away in Indian Territory just setting up something. It was expected that they’d harass us or something like that, but I’d say the majority of people’s beliefs, including my own, was that, yes, we’re going to get harassed, but the big stuff wouldn’t come until we’d been relieved by 1-26.
MM: What took place in the days prior to the attack? How did you guys get up to Wanat? What sort of positions did you start creating?
TH: The bulk of the platoon drove up the night before, but I got scratched from that so I flewthe next morning, came in on a Chinook and immediately sank into the mud when I jumped off the bird because it’d been raining the entire night before. So, nobody was really happy to see me all high and dry when they’d been slogging through that. But we got up there, I got attached and my squad leader, Sergeant Samaroo, had set up the traffic control point at the south end of the vehicle patrol base. Sergeant Hissong was there along with a medic, a guy from 2nd Squad, a guy from 3rd Squad and Denton from my squad. We turned what was some bushes and aterrace wall into triple-stacked sandbags so you could crouch behind some HESCOs, camo netting, that sort of thing, with basic drainage. We had the truck parked on the road with the .50 cal. We didn’t really have any sort of fallback position or anything like that, but the position we did have was pretty well set up. They were saying it could take some serious fire without there being any trouble. The only problem was that we hadn’t set up interlock too well with the OP, so we had a sector that was uncovered that they could’ve come down on us from. That was a big concern.
MM: What direction was that from?
TH: That was more from the southeast. The OP could see it but we couldn’t, so we didn’t really know what the hell was going on there.
MM: Who exactly was in your squad?
TH: In my squad, we had Alpha Team which was Sergeant Gobble, who was my team leader. It also was me and Phillips. Then in Bravo Team it was Bogar, Denton and Lister. Lister wasn’tthere. He was at FOB Michigan pulling security there.
MM: What happened the night before the attack in as much detail as possible? What was going on? What were you guys talking about? Who was on guard, that sort of thing?
TH: Honestly, as far as the night before, I read that all sorts of craziness went down like canals being open, but I didn’t notice anything different that night. As far as when things kicked off, I woke up that morning to stand to just like everybody else. Hamby was on guard at that point and he was in the turret of the .50 cal truck pointing down the road. Everybody was up, everyone was pulling guard and ready to go. That’s when the first shots cracked off.
MM: Can you describe that to me?
TH: The first thing I heard was just a burst of machine gun fire, and everyone there had heard it a hundred times. “Okay, we’re going to throw a few potshots at you and then run away.” I’m like, “All right, cool, somebody’s about to be hit with a 120 millimeter mortar. This is going to be pretty neat.” Then it went from one burst to two bursts and then about a thousand RPGs at once. That’s when I knew it was really bad because I’d never heard that before.
MM: Can you describe what was happening from your position? Was the fire coming in from every direction?
TH: Yes. We were taking fire from the south and from the west, from across the FOB, so they were shooting over the FOB at us, and from the south down the road. Apparently there was at least a PKM and an RPG guy. There was, I’d say, half a dozen rockets that barely missed the truck. Tracers were just pinging off the windshield. Hamby had tracers going around him and slamming into the back shield, so how he’s still alive is kind of amazing. But we immediately took cover, everyone started popping off shots as best we could, and honestly at first it was hard to tell where they were coming from. Sergeant Hissong’s first response was that it was the ANA shooting at us. He was like, “Get down, get down! Hamby watch out!” He was freaking out about that and then we realized it wasn’t ANA because they were running. Hamby threw down probably four cans of .50 cal fire before the gun was disabled and everybody else was just burning through mags, trying to put down as much suppressive as possible until we could figure out what the hell was going on.
MM: So what happened to the .50? He’s firing the .50 and it was hit by an RPG?
TH: He was firing the .50 and he went to reload. He had his head down real low and reloaded the weapon properly, cocked it back and it didn’t fire. He cocked it back again, it didn’t fire, but he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. When we later inspected it, there was a bullet hole through the feeding tray. So when he was reloading it, one missed him by just a couple inches and took the .50 out. They also shot his rifle to pieces.
MM: Where was his rifle located?
TH: It was right behind him in the turret. After that, we saw Hamby go down in the turret and the gun wasn’t firing any more. We thought he was dead and we started yelling, “Hamby! Hamby!” trying to get his attention, but there was nothing. Then we saw the truck start to back up and everyone was pretty stoked about that, to see that he was still alive. He backed it up probably 10 to 15 meters and went up to where there was a covered position leading up to ours. He ran up from there and just dove straight into our position. He said, “I don’t think my rifle works.” We were like, “Yeah, okay, it’s been shot to pieces, we get it.” He had a shotgun and everybody else was still with their stuff trying to shoot. We then got the radio call about Sergeant Pitts. Well, I don’t remember if we were going after Sergeant Pitts at that point or just trying to relieve the OP. We’d noticed the volume of fire had gone down. But regardless, it was myself, Sergeant Samaroo and Hamby, and we all got together and started to run up to the OP. We probably got about halfway up, right to where the C-wire was, and that’s when we encountered McKaig, Sergeant Gobble and Stafford. They were assisting Stafford down. Sergeant Gobble was hurt, I could tell, and Stafford was pretty badly hit. We got them through the C-wire and we dragged them back down to the TCP, because we only had two guys with rifles and a guy with a shotgun: we weren’t going to do much at that point. It was a priority to get the wounded guys out because we could get them right then and there, and we were taking real heavy fire. We took them down and I immediately treated Sergeant Gobble. I got bandages around the majority of his big wounds and then went to work on Stafford. Stafford just had a bunch of shrapnel everywhere. I’ve been to EMT school and all the RFR stuff and everything like that, but there was no way I could patch this guy up. He had shrapnel everywhere and he had a tourniquet on him, I remember that. He kept asking me to take it off because it wasn’t doing anything. I kept telling him I couldn’t because it was against our training. He was begging me, “Dude, it hurts so bad!” “I can’t take it off.” So finally he yelled for Sergeant Hissong to take the tourniquet off. “No, man, you can’t do that!” Then when Sergeant Hissong went back to shoot, Stafford whispered to me, “Hanson, he’s not looking, get the tourniquet off.” He was just getting delirious about that. Ultimately, I tried but I really couldn’t give him any effective treatment. My nerves were shot at that point and I wasn’t thinking. So after that, we were running low on ammo and we needed to get ammo. So myself and McKaig ran down from the position and we got into the back of the truck. The ammo was buried under all the rucksacks and all the shit that we brought out there for the mission since we were going to be staying for so long. So we threw all that out there, McKaig was covering one way and I really wanted him to be covering the other way, even though we were being shot at from everywhere. I was getting really mad at him and yelling at him while rounds are just pinging off the truck at us. We finally got the ammo, pulled that out, I fell on my ass, spilled ammo everywhere, we grabbed what we could, ran back up to the position and Sergeant Gobble, since he was hit, started loading magazines for us. Sergeant Hissong, about that point, jumped out of the position, shot a rocket up at one of the houses that we were taking a lot of fire from and then combat rolled back into the position. That was kind of cool. Then we got reinforcements from the ETTs and some of the headquarters guys.
MM: These ETTs, I take it there were a couple of Marine guys?
TH: Yes. Two of them came up there and I took one of their weapons because it had a grenade launcher on it. I fired across the river a couple of rounds and I’m pretty sure one of them got a guy. I almost slammed Sergeant Gobble in the head with one, too, so he was mildly upset with me.
MM: At this time, were the MEDEVACs coming in?
TH: Yes, I believe that’s how Sergeant Aass and them arrived, on the first MEDEVAC bird, where they jumped off and started picking up guys. Honestly, the timeline gets a little murkyhere because I know we dragged Stafford out for a MEDEVAC. I couldn’t really tell you which happened first, but after we got the ammo, after the rocket got fired, after Sergeant Aass and all the ETT guys got there, myself … Scantlin had come back. He was down at the main FOB because he was about to go out on a mission. Grapes was there. I know Grapes came up. Scantlin, Grapes, myself and Sergeant Gobble all rolled Stafford into a poncho and used it as a makeshift stretcher, carried him down the terraces down to our TOC position where we got him to the CCP and then later MEDEVAC’d him. We got Sergeant Gobble on, too, because I knew he wasn’t going to leave on his own, but I figured if we could convince him to drag Stafford down, we could get him close to the bird for MEDEVAC. He was being really stubborn.
MM: Can you describe what the entire vehicle patrol base looked like?
TH: Shit was on fire everywhere. We had the diesel bladder get hit and we had the TOW truck blow up and spray anti-tank missiles everywhere. That was really festive. I know 2-3’s Mk-19 was down, 2-2’s Mk-19 was not able to aim, our .50 cal was down and the TOW truck was obviously blown to pieces. So that left the headquarters .50 cal as the only heavy weapon firing, and rockets were still pouring in. It was just chaos right there.
MM: After you got most of these guys out on the MEDEVACs, what do you recall?
TH: After we got Stafford off, I ran over to the gate, because at that point they just pulled out Hewitt, Walker and Taev (ph), one of the engineers. So that left two engineers over there – Sergeant Hodges and … I don’t know his full name but his nickname was Butters – and Sergeant Meyer was in the truck adjacent to the position, manning the Mk-19. Those were the only guys there. The SAW was broken at that point. There were a bunch of SAW pieces on the ground, like two or three weapons had gone down, so we put a new SAW together and got Butters firing again. Then Sergeant Meyer, up in the truck, said he needed more ammo. So myself and Sergeant Hodges ran across the field there from that truck over to the other Mk-19 truck and got more ammo. We ran back, dropped that off, realized that was a horrible idea and then did it again. It was dumb.
MM: Anytime during the fight, do you recall seeing your platoon leader anywhere?
TH: No, I was up at the TCP when he moved out and then he got killed.
MM: Is there anything else you’d like to leave me with about this fight?
TH: When I ran up to the OP, Scantlin was up there. Scantlin was pretty much everywhere and
that guy was crazy. Hayes was running around with just a nine mil. He was doing a really crazy job. That’s really about all.
MM: Okay, thanks.
Jul 6 at 9:09pm by David Tate
Well… I have to admit, it has taken two months longer to complete this project than originally projected, embarrassing actually. I mean seriously, I’ve been home from Afghanistan four months and I still have yet to get my clips to Getty Images and it’s stressing me out; until July 4. It’s on that day I finally finished. It took ten times more time than I expected. Not to mention the myriad of personal problems; I’ll tell you the last six months has been crazy.
Who is This Guy?
For those unfamiliar with my work, here’s the skinny:
Since 2003, I’ve been taking time off, sometimes months at a time, to venture the world building a video archive of mostly US troops in action. It is a passion of mine that I want to do on my own terms, so it is taking a while to do it full time. That means I have to somehow juggle a “real job”, with a family and a passion for video, history and adventure; plus the overwhelming challenges of funding, dedication and proper equipment. I still can’t believe I’ve been doing this seven years now, six with A Battlefield Tourist. That’s a long time in “milblog” terms. In fact, considering inception came in January 2003, I may actually be the oldest milblog out there. I was a milblog before there was such a term!
Five times since 2003, I’ve kissed the wife good bye, wrote “the note” and took off for a conflict zone; either Iraq or Afghanistan. I always pick critical times so I know my video will be used forever: Pre-invasion Iraq, Operation Mountain Storm, the first Afghan presidential election, the “surge” in Iraq and now finally, the escalation in Afghanistan. These are moments in the history of these conflicts that will always be drawn on by filmakers of the future and is the formula to achieving my dream of being one of those people that contribute those images. Then, when I hooked up with Getty Images in 2005, the dream was realized.
In February, I spent three weeks in Afghanistan’s Regional Command-South, trying t get imagery that would tell the story of the US escalation in the Afghan War. The surge force in this conflict RIP’d out in November 2008, paving the way for the start of the escalation in force with the formation of the Special Purpose Marine Air/Ground Task Force that replaced it at the beginning of the year. That is what I went to cover.
The units covered in this submission are: 3rd Battalion, Eigth Marine Regiment in Musa Qala, Helmand Province and Bakwa, Farah Province. While there I also managed to get video of 1st Bn. The Rifles (UK), Royal Ghurkas (UK) and the Afghan National Army. Extras included good imagery of Kabul and Kandahar Air Field.
In all I spent more than 300 hours putting this submission together. When you have an 18 month old daughter, lose your job, get a new job, and you’re suffering through a recession in other ways – this is a monumental effort for one guy, to be honest. A little here, a little there…
Regardless, it is done and in the mail; 405 High Definition video clips of all of the above. This is VERY exciting for me and my family. With this submission, we hope to start realizing royalties that will help pay back the $15,000 it took to get here (not to mention the guy that loaned us $5,000 as well).
This will also give me an indication of the market for military stock footage in High Def. If the demand is there, which is determined by royalties, I hope to go back into this profession fulltime by 2012. Right now, I am under a local three year contract, which runs through April of that year. When that contract is up, we’ll see where we’re at and make decisions at that time.