Feb 11 at 10:10am by David Tate
Time is almost up for the defenders of Marjah, Helmand Province. One thing, as sure as the air we need to breathe, Marjah will be taken.
My Connection to Marjah
For several months now, British forces have been clearing, pushing and holding areas around Marjah preparing for this attack. For at least the past two weeks, allied special forces teams have been infiltrating the town of 80,000 and taking out key enemy leaders.
However, this battle really started last May when reports started coming out of Marjah that Taliban fighters, including foreigners (particularly from Baluchistan, Pakistan) were beginning to mass as the Taliban retreated from a series of offensives British and American forces conducted in the Helmand River Valley and the area around Now Zad (which, btw, were the first major combat orders handed down by Obama – not the current situation in Marjah, which is widely being reported. Maybe they mean the first major action since Obama’s escalation was ordered?).
Dubbed the Taliban’s “logistic” base, it began gaining major importance to the Taliban after Garmsir fell to US Marines in May 2008. Coincidentally or not, 1st Battalion, Sixth Marines (1/6) led that attack and will be one of at least two Marine battalions pushing into Marjah.
Another battalion, 3rd Battalion, Sixth Marines (3/6), is also on the forward line of enemy territory (FLET). Coincidentally or not, that battalion is led by Lt. Col. Brian Christmas. Colonel Christmas was a former officer with BLT 1/6 when they deployed to Oruzgan in 2004. That deployment was hailed as the “most successful” in the history of the war, at that time, but was marred by the removal of its very intense battalion commander, Lt. Col. Asad Khan. Colonel Christmas is also the son of Gen. George R. Christmas who won the Navy Cross in the Battle of Hue in 1968.
The coincidences relate to me because I have embedded with both units, including time with then Captain Christmas in Oruzgan. It has been very interesting to follow the lineage of the units I have a tie with, and for the sake of the people in Marjah, I wish you all the best of luck.
Key to the battle: The people. This will be the first major attempt to win reconciliation with the Taliban in this fashion. This is true. More recent reports suggest the enemy is a local force more so than a foreign force, which poses a serious dilemma.
So what does reconciliation mean? Fact is, many of the Pashtun Afghan Taliban are young men fighting for a way of life – for their culture. They believe their way of life and culture is being forcibly changed – that is why they fight and they aren’t necessarily “terrorists”. These are the people that need to be pulled away from the islamists. That is what this attack, and subsequent government/humanitarian effort, will aim to do.
Will it work? It is a tall order and will take TIME. Reporters going there six months after the attack and reporting that “nothing is being done”, will be missing the story. Marjah can be evaluated in 5-10 years for accuracy.
The key to a successful outcome will require some serious discipline. If the Marines turn this city into rubble, the battle will already be lost. You can bet that the Taliban will try to create a mass civilian casualty event which will forever prevent the government from having a cooperating population. If the Taliban are preventing people from leaving and allied forces call in close air support on every house they take fire from, the allies will lose this battle.
Oct 11 at 10:10am by David Tate
Survivor of the Battle for COP Keating in the mountains of Nuristan.
I just received a note from the mother of a survivor from Keating and it seems there’s a concern that the sacrifice will be for nothing. While I cannot change the world, I certainly can do my part to prevent that fear from becoming reality. Here’s the note:
Since I found out about this attack I have been glued to the internet looking for any piece of info- perhaps so it will start making more sense. My heart really aches for these guys. People have been so kind and supportive and I think that is the only way their mental anguish will began to heal.
I believe that one of their biggest needs is to know that the fight and loss of life will not be forgotten and was not done without a purpose. This unit that lost 8 men only had 30 guys to start with, so as you can well imagine, they were a tight knit group. They have to be asking themselves “why?” I sure wish I could ease some pain for them. Sleep for my son, and I am sure for most of them, has not come easily since the battle. I can not to begin to imagine what it must be like to try to close your eyes and relax after what they have been through. I could go on and on…..
I have attached a picture of some of the soldiers from KEATING. They were only eating once a day so I shipped $500.00 worth of groceries to them and the picture was in response to that. ( 2 of the men in the picture were KIA).
When *** ( my son) first got there he asked for blankets because what they had were not sufficient. So I had sent 30 blankets, 100s of batteries, 60 DVDs abd countless baby wipes. Not sure why I am telling you all that, but to let you know their life has not been easy since they landed there.
Thank you for your concern and prayers, it means so much to me.
Sgt. Joshua Hardt
Sgt. Justin Gallegos
SSgt. Vernon Martin
Spc. Christopher Griffin
Sgt. Michael Susca
Sgt. Joshua Kirk
Spc. Stephen Mace
PFC Kevin Thomson
Oct 9 at 8:08am by David Tate
Here’s an account of the fight last week in Kamdesh, Nuristan, Afghanistan where 8 men from 4th ID made the ultimate sacrifice. I cannot confirm this as authentic, however, I am convinced that this account is as real as they come. The below was NOT written by myself, I am only sharing this with you so you understand what transpired that day.
Battle for COP Keating
I don’t know ALL the facts, only what I overheard on the satellite radio. COP Keating was (past tense) located on low ground, near a river, surrounded by mountains – a poor place to have to defend to begin with. The village of Kamdesh was nearby, as was a mosque. About two platoons and a cavalry troop headquarters occupied the COP – Combat Outpost. If you Google COP Keating, you will find a Washington Times article describing the austere conditions there, written earlier this year. I was on duty from 0600-1800 (6 a.m. until 6 p.m.) on Saturday, 03 OCT 09, and heard, first-hand, the events I am about to recount transpire.
I took notes as the battle unfolded. Things were relatively quiet when I came on shift at 0600. Not too long afterward, I heard a call sign describing taking small arms fire at his position. (That in itself is not alarming – I hear that frequently because I hear satellite radio transmissions from all sorts of units who operate in Nangahar, Kunar, Laghman and in Nuristan Provinces, where this happened.) The situation, then began to deteriorate. The Troop Commander – urgently – requested rotary wing gunships to support him. He was told they were 45 minutes away, and that he should use his 120 mm mortars. He replied that the mortar pit was pinned down, and that the could not employ his 120 mm mortars. I did not know until I saw an aerial photo later that day, after I got off shift, that the COP was located in a “bowl,” surrounded on nearly all sides by high ground. The insurgents were shooting down into the mortar pit from above. The 120 mm mortars from OP Fritshe, a few kilometers away were able to help a little, but it was not enough.
Not too long after the fight started, the Troop Commander said that he had a KIA, and several wounded. Uh-Oh – now this is getting serious. Not too much longer after that, the Troop Commander, in a voice that was not panic’d, but which had a sense of urgency said, “We’ve got people inside our wire!!!” He said that he had lost communications with some of his elements at different places on the COP. He had had to abandon his Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and all the various means of redundant communications there (MIRC Chat, Blue Force Tracker, tactical FM radios, etc.) His only means of communication was the satellite radio he was using. He said he urgently needed air support. The number of KIA began to climb.
He kept asking about the helicopters – his higher headquarters said they were “30 minutes out…” He said that if he did not get help soon, they were going to be overrun. He had consolidated the Soldiers he had, to include dead and wounded, in a tight perimeter on part of his COP. He advised that the Afghan National Army (ANA) side of the COP was completely overrun and was on fire. The insurgents had gotten into his perimeter where the ANA latrine bordered his perimeter, after they had overrun the ANA camp. His Entry Control Point (ECP) where some Afghan Security Guards (ASG) had been had been overrun. The ANP Police Checkpoint had been overrun and he was taking a heavy volume of fire from that. He was taking a lot of RPG fire from the mosque. His Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) was under insurgent control. He kept asking about the helicopters. He was told, “Passing Checkpoint 12…” He said, “I’m telling you that if they don’t get here f***in’ soon, we’re all going to f***in’ die!!!” Shortly after that, his Squadron Commander came up on the radio and told him that he was going to be OK, that help was on the way. The SCO said that he needed to come up on FM and talk to the helicopters, who should be ariving very soon.
The Troop Commander said that the Harris was all he had at the moment, and asked that the Squadron relay. It was, obviously, a very anxious time. I was afraid that at any moment, the Troop commander would just stop transmitting, and that would mean that they were likely all dead and dying. Someone asked the Troop commander what his target priorities were, and he said that “anything outside the wire” was controlled by bad guys. He mentioned that he needed gun runs at a particular wall, and mentioned certain Target Reference Points (TRP’s) such as “the putting green” and “the diving board.” Finally, the helicopters arrived and began killing insurgents. It became clear, however, that it was such a target-rich environment that much more air support was needed. The helicopters gave the defenders enough breathing room to better position themselves, reload, etc.
Under the umbrella of the gunships, the Troop Commander said that he was going to try to re-take some of his camp. The SCO calmly encouraged him to “fire and maneuver.” As they regained some lost ground, the Troop Commander said that he was finding some of his unaccounted for Soldiers, and that they were KIA. He gave their battle roster numbers. Things were looking better, but it was still a fierce fight. I could hear a cacophony of machine gun fire when the Troop Commander keyed that microphone to talk. The mortars were still pinned won, with one KIA and wounded in the mortar pit. After only a short time, gunships had to leave to rearm and refuel, heading to FOB Bostic. (FOB Bostic was hit with indirect fire, also, throughout the day.)
The weather in the high passes interfered with the helicopters. Close Air Support in the form of jets were on the way, and the Troop Commander was asked to provide Target Numbers, which he did. He was still being pressed on all sides, still taking a heavy volume of small arms fire and RPG’s. He had regained some buildings, but had not been able to re-capture all his perimeter. He found at least one MBITR and was able to communicate with aircraft a little better.
Once the jets arrived overhead, they began to drop bombs on the masses, the swarms of insurgents. Usually, the insurgents conduct a raid at dawn, do their damage, and flee. Not this day. I looked at my watch, and it was after 1000 and the insurgents were still attacking, even though it should have become clear to them after the close air arrived that they could no longer hope to completely overrun the camp. The Close Air was on station continuously after that, and as soon as one plane dropped its bombs and strafed, another came down to hit targets – some very close to camp. The mosque was hit by a Hellfire, and open source now reports that a high profile insurgent named Dost Mohammad was killed there. A target described as a “switchback” was bombed repeatedly and the insurgents seemed to simply re-occupy it only to be bombed out of it again. (Several pieces of weapons and equipment has since been found there.) The “North Face” was also repeatedly bombed and strafed. A plan was developed to get reinforcements to COP Keating.
Because it was still “too hot” to land helicopters, they were flown to OP Fritshe and had to walk to COP Keating. Asked about his ammunition (Class 5) at about 1300, the Troop commander said that he was “red” on 7.62 link and MK19 ammunition. Not too long after that, he stated that he was “black” (supply exhausted) on 7.62, but still had a lot of .50 caliber. More KIA were found, and the Troop Commander said that they were missing their sensitive items (weapons, night vision, MBITR radios – things like that.) The KIA number rose to 5. There were constant updates on a particular wounded Soldier who had a broken leg and a crushed pelvis. They said that he had lost a lot of blood, but was on an IV, and was “hanging in there.” The Troop Commander said that he had two ANA KIA, and several wounded, still with him. He said that a lot of the ANA – about 12 – had broken and run when the COP began to be overrun. (Some of their bodies were found nearby the next day, along with some ASG who were wounded.) The Troop Commander said that the insurgents had made off with the ANA’s B-10 Rocket Launcher.
Throughout the day, the air support targeted a B-10 launch site, but it was unclear if it was the same system that the ANA had lost of not. The SCO got on the net and said that there was a plan to bring in a CH-47 Chinook as soon as it got dark, with attack helicopters overhead, and that they would bring in ammo and Soldiers and evacuate the wounded and dead. The SCO said that he would fly in, also. During the battle, the SCO always seemed calm and gave a lot of encouragement to the Troop Commander on the ground. He asked for updates (Situation Reports – “SITREPS”) but he did not nag the Troop Commander for it every 5 minutes. He let the Troop Commander fight the fight, frequently asking him what he needed and asking him how he and his Soldiers were doing, offering encouragement, but not micromanaging.
The fighting continued all day, even though it was not as intense as it had been in the early morning. As the relief column approached from OP Fritshe, it got into a brief fight, quickly killing two insurgents and capturing their ICOM radios and RPG’s. Then, they continued on toward COP Keating. The fire that had completely leveled the ANA side of the COP was spreading from building to building, and was setting the COP on fire. The Troop Commander and his Soldiers had to evacuate their TOC again, because it caught on fire. Many of the barracks buildings caught on fire and burned, taking the Soldiers’ possessions with them. Only one or two buildings were left by the time it was over.
As night approached, the Troop Commander told someone (S-3? FSO?) that if the air cover were lost, and if they were attacked again, they were “done.” The Troop Commander was assured that he would have adequate air support. The CSM came up on the net and asked the Troop Commander to try to expand his perimeter in order to try to get accountability of everyone. The Troop Commander said that he “just can’t do it, I just don’t have enough people. I have too many wounded.” The CSM said that he understood, but that he was looking at a cold body on the Predator feed near the maintenance building, and thought that that might be the final missing soldier. (It was later determined that that was not him.) The Troop Commander said that there were “a lot” of dead insurgents lying dead inside his perimeter, and he could be seeing one of those.
I went off shift at 1800. At that time, there were 6 US KIA, and one missing, later found and determined to be KIA. I do not know where the 8th KIA came from: either one of the wounded died, or earlier there was a mistake in regard to accountability.
The next day (Sunday, 4 OCT) when I came to work, I learned that they had found the unaccounted-for Soldier(s) and had made it through the night. During the late morning, the SCO came up on the net and briefed someone about the situation. He said that of five (5) HMMWV’s, only one was still running. They had counted eight (8) RPG impacts on one HMMWV alone. He said that the HMMWV’s were shot all to pieces. The camp Bobcat had a window shot out, but was still running, and they were still using it to move things.
There was a lot of UXO’s (unexploded ordnance) that made the area hazardous, such as unexploded US mortar rounds that had been scattered, as well as AT-4′s and Javelin’s. Most of the Soldiers on the COP had lost all their possessions except for what they were wearing. A plan was already being developed to get them new TA-50, uniforms, boots, toiletries, etc. once they were extracted. There were a lot of sensitive items that needed to be lifted out, because they are serial numbered items that needed to be accounted for, but most everything was ruined. They discussed whether to insert engineers with a lot of explosive to blow everything up, or whether to call in air strikes after everyone was evacuated and try to destroy what was left that way. Even at this point, they were still taking the occasional odd, angry shot or rocket fire.
As I type this, I am still listening to the folks who are left at COP Keating, figuring out what to destroy, how best to destroy it (demo vs. aerial bombs or rockets) what to fly out, and making a plan on how best to get that done so they can abandon and close the COP.
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.
Jun 20 at 11:11pm by David Tate
I originally reported on this back in February and took a lot of flak in doing so for obvious reasons.
However, I still stand by my decision because it is just dangerous ground when journalists get into self serving censorship. I say self-serving, because just a month prior to Mr. Rohde going missing, the NYT wrote this article: Times’ Article
This man is still missing, btw.
The fact is, the NYT has published MANY articles that have put people’s lives at risk, either directly or indirectly (the above link would be an example, if you use the NYT’ logic).
Don’t get me wrong: I do not disagree with the NYT publishing sensitive stories, I just think their integrity slips and ethics are pushed when they bend the rules for one of their own.
That said, I am elated that Mr. Rohde is free and escaped getting there. My main concern was the millions of dollars that one day may be needed buying his freedom; money for IEDs, enevitably used in the killing of countless coalition soldiers and Afghan civilians and police.
I’m sure David has thought of that as well and he should get to sleep better at night because of it. Now let’s hope the remaining captive, Assadullah Mangal, is not harmed. Not sure that’s plausible.
Edited for clarity 6/22 1802 -
I have also retracted this statement, “Particularly when they were outting agents and leaking other state secrets.” While I believe the NYT has written MANY stories, good or bad, that have led to harm befalling others, intentional or not, I would not call the NYT treasonous; therefore “state secrets” needs to go. I also made a flat out error linking Valarie Plame (Novak/WSJ) to the Times. Sorry.
I stand by the rest. Good journalism leads to great stories and often times a consequence of such journalism are peoples’ lives. My only point in making this statement in the first place is to show that a story is a story; they all affect lives and they should all be treated the same. A military operation was launched in November to find Rohde and that’s a story. Rohde was one on a long list of abducted foreigners in 2008 and that’s a story; the others we heard about. Why is that?
A Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, normally employed by the New York Times is missing in Afghanistan while trying to interview the Taliban. That is a story no matter how you slice it. I’ll be reading the book.
May 19 at 8:08pm by David Tate
Listen, it’s time to coin a proper term to get the press, and public, in line with the facts. It is time to officially coronate the enemies of the Afghan government, and ultimately coalition forces, as Anti Government Forces or AGF for short.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, because frankly, I have none. However, I do want to post two challenges in regards to my newly coined acronym. The fact is, the coalition are fighting two distinct insurgencies in Afghanistan. The first, that keeps those in Regional Command South busy, is certainly a primarily Pashtun-led insurgency that is nationalist and religiously based to an extreme. However, there are also drug dealers, foreigners and criminals also well represented.
In Regional Command East, not only are you dealing with Pashtun nationalists, but wahabbi extremists, islamic revolutionaries, timber barons, drug smuglers, al Qaeda operatives, nationalists, opportunists and, of course, Taliban.
Point is, there are dozens of groups with dozens of issues loosely operating together in a fluidity of rivalry, opportunity and convenience and they are NOT all Taliban. They ARE all AGF.
Challenges: The press needs to call it as it is… AGF. Second, someone with more time than me please write an article about all the AGF! I’ll publish it!
May 12 at 12:12pm by David Tate
A US statement just released points the blame at Taliban insurgents for the deaths and maiming of dozens of civilians with white phosphorus (WP) munitions. This is the latest in a PR blitz countering claims that the US military used WP against insurgents and civilians late last week.
KABUL, Afghanistan –An ongoing joint Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces investigation team found evidence Friday of non-combatant casualties caused by Taliban fighters’ actions in Farah province.
Investigators interviewed the Surgeon and staff of the Farah Hospital and the three doctors on duty on Tuesday. They treated 16 patients, five ANP and 11 civilians, for flash burns and small lacerations. Afghan doctors said injuries could have resulted from hand grenades or exploding propane tanks.
Local doctors also confirmed that the Taliban were fighting from the roof tops while forcing the locals to remain in their compounds. Locals receiving medical treatment repeated this information to the doctors several times. The doctors also received a call, while the investigators where present, indicating that the Taliban extremists had executed another civilian in the same village.
A large number of Taliban fighters, to include non-Afghans, consolidated on Ganj Abad and Grani villages Sunday, and demanded payments from villagers. The fighters executed three civilians to trigger a response from the Afghan Police that they could ambush.
“We regret the loss of any civilian life,” said Col. Greg Julian. “But we strongly condemn the brutality of the Taliban extremists deliberately targeting Afghan civilians and using them as human shields.”
At least nine children and one teacher at a girls’ school were injured when militants attacked an ISAF base in Kunar province yesterday morning with two rounds of indirect fire. A also killed 16 civilians and injured 31 others in Helmand late Friday.
May 11 at 9:09pm by David Tate
In response to international outrage over the US supposedly using White Phosphorus munitions in civilian areas, the Americans have released the following list of 44 insurgent attacks, or discovered caches, involving white phosphorus. The coalition denies using these munitions that cause severe, indiscriminate burns.
(U) Background: In response to claims that insurgents in Afghanistan are not using, nor have access to, white phosphorus (WP) munitions, ISAF RC-East conducted a summary database query, by which a total of 44 instances of reported enemy WP incidents were uncovered and declassified on 11 MAY 09. Thirty-eight of those occurred in RC-East and are released in this document. Our research also revealed six WP events that occurred in other ISAF regions; this list is available upon request from ISAF PAO press office at email@example.com.
(U) Discussion: Three means of white phosphorus use and access by insurgents can be identified: 1) improvised explosive devices, 2) indirect fire attacks, and 3) ordnance caches or UXO. It is notable that the enemy has stockpiled and used white phosphorus in attacks since 2003 and as recently as the week prior to this release. It should also be noted that these instances have occurred in nearly every province in RC-East, which demonstrates the wide availability of white phosphorus to insurgents. Finally, it is important to note that insurgent stockpiles do not necessarily derive from old Soviet-era left-behind stocks; the white phosphorus munitions found in these 38 events have their origins in a wide range of countries. Also, the vast majority of white phosphorus rounds found in listed caches were determined to be in serviceable condition.
1. Improvised Explosive Devices using White Phosphorus:
(U) 1.1 On 5 FEB 2009, an ISAF unit observed a white phosphorus detonation, determined to be a 107mm WP rocket IED, near a civilian district center in Sabari District, Khost province.
(U) 1.2 On 15 SEP 2008, an ISAF patrol conducting road clearance discovered an IED rigged with one 120mm white phosphorus round, in the Sabari District of Khost province.
(U) 1.3 In MAR 2008, an ISAF convoy in Mandozai District, Khost province, was struck by a vehicular suicide IED, wounding one service member and one local national. Investigators later determined that the IED charge contained both white phosphorus and high explosives.
(U) 1.4 On 9 FEB 2008, a white phosphorus round exploded in the vicinity of an ISAF forward operating base, in Behsood District, Nangarhar province.
(U) 1.5 On 10 JAN 2008, an ISAF EOD team destroyed a Russian 122mm white phosphorus round placed in the vicinity of an ISAF forward operating base in Nader Shah Kwot District, Khost province.
(U) 1.6 On 1 DEC 2007, Coalition forces on patrol discovered an 81mm white phosphorus mortar round set in the vicinity of a convoy in Waza Khwa District, Paktika province.
(U) 1.7 On 23 MAR 07, an ISAF EOD team discovered and defused a 122mm white phosphorus mortar round emplaced on the side of a road in Gardez District, Paktya province.
2. Indirect Fire Attacks using White Phosphorus:
(U) 2.1 On 7 MAY 2009, an ISAF outpost reported receiving two rounds of indirect white phosphorus fire, in Charkh District, Logar province.
(U) 2.2 On 11 AUG 2008, ISAF forces on patrol located a 107mm white phosphorus rocket tube that insurgents had prepositioned to fire in the direction of a nearby ISAF forward operating base in Goshta District, Nangarhar province.
(U) 2.3 On 28 JUN 2008, insurgents fired a white phosphorus rocket at an ISAF outpost in Bermel District, Paktika province.
(U) 2.4 On 4 JAN 2008, insurgents fired nine white phosphorus rounds at an ISAF forward operating base in Darreh-ye PichDistrict, Kunar province.
(U) 2.5 On 21 NOV 2007, insurgents fired at least one white phosphorus rocket at an ISAF forward operating base in Zadran District, Paktya province.
(U) 2.6 On 2 OCT 2007, insurgents fired two 107mm white phosphorus rockets at an ISAF forward operating base in Gelan District, Ghazni province.
(U) 2.7 On 4 AUG 2007, insurgents launched an indirect fire attack on an ISAF outpost, using HE and white phosphorus rounds in Dara Pech District, Kunar province.
(U) 2.8 On 25 MAY 2007, an insurgent mortar team fired two white phosphorus rounds at an ISAF bridge construction site in the Darreh-ye Pich District, Konar province.
(U) 2.9 On 25 MAY 2007, insurgents bombarded an ISAF outpost with 10 rounds of white phosphorus, in Darreh-ye Pich District, Kunar province.
(U) 2.10 On 13 MAY 2007, insurgents fired five white phosphorus mortar rounds at an ISAF outpost in Chawki District, Kunar province.
(U) 2.11 On 11 APR 2007, insurgents fired five white phosphorus mortar rounds at an Afghan National Army compound in Watah Pur District, Konar province.
(U) 2.12 On 26 MAR 2004, Afghan locals intercepted and drove off an insurgent mortar team setting up a group of rockets in the vicinity of an ISAF forward operating base. Coalition responders later destroyed the rockets, including one white phosphorus round, in Khost District of Khost province.
3. Insurgent Caches and UXO Finds of White Phosphorus:
(U) 3.1 On 20 JAN 2009, ISAF troops discovered a diverse weapons and ammunition cache that included three 82mm white phosphorus mortar rounds, in Chowreh District, Oruzgan province.
(U) 3.2 On 24 NOV 2008, an ISAF EOD team located and collected a weapons cache including two 107mm white phosphorus rockets, in Pol-e ‘alam District, Logar province.
(U) 3.3 On 06 JAN 07, an ISAF patrol detected and destroyed an unexploded ordnance find that included one 122mm white phosphorus round in Terezai District, Khost province.
(U) 3.4 On 27 OCT 2006, an ISAF EOD team found a major ordnance cache that included six 122mm white phosphorus rounds in Bagram District, Parwan province.
(U) 3.5 On 23 DEC 2005, a Coalition unit discovered a sizable cache of ammunition and ordnance, including six 82mm white phosphorus mortar rounds, in Kohe Safi District, Parwan province.
(U) 3.6 On 12 DEC 2005, Afghan National Police found a cached mortar assembly, including one white phosphorus round, in Jaguri District, Ghazni province.
(U) 3.7 On 9 JUL 2005, an ISAF unit discovered hundreds of rounds of cached ordnance, including 27 rounds of 82mm white phosphorus mortar ammunition, in Qalandar District, Khost province.
(U) 3.8 On 26 MAR 2005, an Afghan National Police patrol reported a cache of various munitions, which ISAF responders identified and removed, including one 82mm white phosphorus mortar round, in Jalrez District, Wardak province.
(U) 3.9 On 19 MAR 2005, an ISAF unit found a cache of ordnance and IED-making materials including five 82mm white phosphorus mortar rounds, in Sharana District, Paktika province.
(U) 3.10 On 13 MAR 2005, Coalition troops discovered a cache of various ordnance including one 82mm white phosphorus round in Shahid E-Hassas District, Oruzgan province.
(U) 3.11 On 12 MAR 2005, local nationals led an ISAF unit to a cache of ordnance, including eight 107mm white phosphorus rockets, in Mosa Khail District, Khost province.
(U) 3.12 On 19 FEB 2005, an ISAF unit received a tip of a weapons cache in Khogyani District, Nangarhar province. The search revealed IED-making materials as well as two 82mm white phosphorus rounds.
(U) 3.13 On 1 OCT 2004, an ISAF unit discovered an ordnance cache containing an 82mm white phosphorus mortar round and other munitions of Chinese, Russian, Iranian, British origin, in Waza Khwa District, Paktika province.
(U) 3.14 On 13 SEP 2004, an ISAF unit located a cache of ordnance and weapons of various origin, including one round of Russian white phosphorus mortar ammunition, in Orgun District, Paktika province.
(U) 3.15 On 24 MAY 2004, an ISAF unit discovered an ordnance cache that included one 81mm and two 122mm white phosphorus rounds, in Zarghunshahr District, Paktika province.
(U) 3.16 On 5 APR 2004, an ISAF EOD team destroyed multiple weapons caches that included four white phosphorus rounds of various national origin, in Sarowbi District, Kabul province.
(U) 3.17 On 15 MAR 2004, Afghan security forces led ISAF troops to a large cache containing several hundred rounds of ordnance, including six 107mm white phosphorus rounds, in Qareh Bagh District, Ghazni province.
(U) 3.18 On 22 APR 2003, Coalition personnel located an ordnance cache that included four 82mm white phosphorus mortar rounds in Khar Konar District, Konar province.
(U) 3.19 On 6 FEB 2003, ISAF units, following a local tip, destroyed a 107mm white phosphorus rocket found in Bermel District, Paktika province.
May 6 at 8:08am by David Tate
The body of a soldier missing since a May 1 attack in Kunar Province has been found. SSgt. William Vile of Philidelphia was killed with two other Americans and two Latvian soldiers when their small outpost was attacked by an overwhelming Taliban force in Nishagam, Ghaziabad district. Three Afghan soldiers also died and as many as 14 remain missing. The men were part of an international mentoring team assigned to train the Afghan National Army.