Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Story Is About Honor & Valor, Not Victims (Updated)

1LT Johnathan Bostrom

Cpl Gunnar Zwilling

Cpl Jason Bogar

Cpl Jason Hovater

Spc Sergio Abad

Cpl Jonathan Ayers

Cpl Matthew Phillips

Cpl Pruitt Rainey

Sgt Israel Garcia

This was the report three days ago in the NYT:

9 Americans Die in Afghan Attack

Taliban insurgents carried out a bold assault on a remote base near the border with Pakistan on Sunday, NATO reported, and a senior American military official said nine American soldiers were killed.

The attack, the worst against Americans in Afghanistan in three years, illustrated the growing threat of Taliban militants and their associates, who in recent months have made Afghanistan a far deadlier war zone for American-led forces than Iraq.

The assault on the American base in Kunar Province was one of the fiercest by insurgents since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan routed the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in late 2001. . . .

The article was long, but shed no further light on the facts. Nor did the remainder of the article provide any differing emphasis beyond the portrayal of the Taliban and al Qaeda as growing in strength and aggressiveness. In other words, the storyline from the NYT is that we face an ever stronger enemy and that nine Americans fell victim to it.

This is pure bull! It is a complete distortion of reality. There is a story here. That is not it.

The real story here is one with countless antecedents in our military's history.

Acts of incredible bravery and an unyielding determination to win mark the greatest and most honorable deeds of our military. Such acts reappear with amazing regularity throughout our history. And to put in perspective what happened a few days ago in Afghanistan, it is worth pondering for a moment some of the more famous of these antecedents.

In the Civil War, out of ammunition and about to be overrun by advancing Confederate troops, the 20th Maine affixed bayonets and charged down Little Round Top. Their act of incredible bravery that day at Gettysburg marked the turning point of the war.

Tasked with destroying the enemy gun emplacements that defended the Normandy Beaches, the 2nd Ranger Battalion, under fire, scaled the 100 ft. cliffs at Pointe du Hoc They suffered the loss of 60% of their men. That was not the story. The story was that, despite those losses, they accomplished their mission, insuring the success of the D-Day Invasion.

The soldiers of the 23 Infantry Regiment spent Feb. 13, 1951 in a fight for their lives. They were massively outnumbered at Chipyong ni by an assaulting force of five Chinese divisions. When the smoke cleared, all that surrounded the surviving U.S. soldiers were the bodies of 5,000 Chinese dead and dying. These few men who refused to yield that day changed the course of the Korean War.

The bravery of these men, their valor, their utter determination to succeed against impossible odds, and the sacrifice of those who fell in the attempt, should literally bring tears to the eyes of every American - tears of intense pride in our country; tears of respect for the valor and sacrifice of these soldiers. They mark the very best of what is the finest and most professional military force ever to grace this earth.

Another thing to note is that each of the above incidents became famous and were lauded in the press of the day. These were the stories that instilled pride and stirred patriotism.

I recount all this because it appears that this recent battle on a lonely outpost in the Afghanistan should be counted among their number. The story the MSM should be reporting has nothing in common with the NYT article. The story is how a reinforced platoon size element of soldiers, vastly outnumbered, defeated a joint Taliban and al Qaeda attack on their position. The nine men who died at that Combat Outpost were not nine victims. They were nine soldiers who paid the ultimate price for their bravery. Their bravery and valor and that of every man on that mountain is the story.

This from Jeff Emanuel provides the entire story:

. . . Three days before the attack, 45 U.S. paratroopers from the 173d Airborne, accompanied by 25 Afghan soldiers, made their way to Kunar province, a remote area in the northeastern Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, and established the beginnings of a small Combat Outpost (COP). Their movement into the area was noticed, and their tiny numbers and incomplete fortifications were quickly taken advantage of.

A combined force of up to 500 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters quickly moved into the nearby village of Wanat and prepared for their assault by evicting unallied residents and according to an anonymous senior Afghan defense ministry official, "us[ing] their houses to attack us."

Tribesmen in the town stayed behind "and helped the insurgents during the fight," General Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh, the provincial police chief, told The Associated Press. Dug-in mortar firing positions were created, and with that indirect fire, as well as heavy machine gun and RPG fire from fixed positions, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters rushed the COP from three sides.

The attackers quickly breached the outer perimeter, and, under a withering barrage of supporting fire, a contingent of a mere 70 U.S. and Afghan soldiers combined were forced to fight for survival on their own outpost against the all-out assault from nearly 100 assailants.

The overwhelmingly outnumbered U.S. troops called in artillery, as well as fixed and rotary-wing air support, to help the repulse the attacking forces.
As recounted by the AP and other media outlets, nine U.S. paratroopers lost their lives -- a full fifth of the American contingent.

Further, fifteen U.S. and four Afghan soldiers were also wounded in the attack, meaning that, against an assault and support force of nearly 500 militant fighters, only 21 U.S. and 21 Afghan soldiers were able to fight at full strength -- and they succeeded not only in killing dozens of attackers, but in repelling the onslaught completely.

. . . Perhaps the most important takeaway from that encounter, though, is the one that the mainstream media couldn't be bothered to pay attention long enough to learn: that, not for the first time, a contingent of American soldiers that was outnumbered by up to a twenty-to-one ratio soundly and completely repulsed a complex, pre-planned assault by those dedicated enough to their cause to kill themselves in its pursuit.

That kind of heroism and against-all-odds success is and has been a hallmark of America's fighting men and women, and it is one that is worthy of all attention we can possibly give it.

Read the entire article. I could not agree more with his conclusion. This is a story of heroism, valor and bravery that needs to be honored - and told by our MSM. If there is a shred of intellectual honesty and journalist ethics in our MSM, then this is a story that should be told with at least the amount of space and intensity given to Abu Ghraib. Our soldiers are doing their job. Will the MSM do theirs?

(H/T Joshua Pundit)

UPDATE: Here is at least part of the story as told by two soldiers, Sgt. Jacob Walker and Spc. Tyler Stafford, who were wounded in the battle and medevaced to Germany. This from the Stars & Stripes:

Everything was on fire. The trucks. The bazaar. The grass.

It looked surreal. It looked like a movie.

That was what Spc. Tyler Stafford remembered thinking as he stepped onto the medical evacuation helicopter. The 23-year-old soldier would have been loaded onto the bird, but the poncho that was hastily employed as his stretcher broke. His body speckled with grenade and RPG shrapnel, the Vicenza, Italy, infantryman walked the last few feet to the waiting Black Hawk.

That was Sunday morning in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province. At a forward operating base — maybe as big as a football field — established just a few days prior.

Outnumbered but not outgunned, a platoon-plus element of soldiers with 2nd Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team accompanied by Afghan soldiers engaged in a fistfight of a firefight.

After maybe two hours of intense combat, some of the soldiers’ guns seized up because they expelled so many rounds so quickly. Insurgent bullets and dozens of rocket-propelled grenades filled the air. So many RPGs were fired at the soldiers that they wondered how the insurgents had so many.

That was July 13. That was when Stafford was blown out of a fighting position by an RPG, survived a grenade blast and had the tail of an RPG strike his helmet.

That was the day nine Chosen Company soldiers died.

. . . The first RPG and machine gun fire came at dawn, strategically striking the forward operating base’s mortar pit. The insurgents next sighted their RPGs on the tow truck inside the combat outpost, taking it out. That was around 4:30 a.m.

This was not a haphazard attack. The reportedly 200 insurgents fought from several positions. They aimed to overrun the new base. The U.S. soldiers knew it and fought like hell. They knew their lives were on the line.

"I just hope these guys’ wives and their children understand how courageous their husbands and dads were," said Sgt. Jacob Walker. "They fought like warriors."

The next target was the FOB’s observation post, where nine soldiers were positioned on a tiny hill about 50 to 75 meters from the base. Of those nine, five died, and at least three others — Stafford among them — were wounded.

When the attack began, Stafford grabbed his M-240 machine gun off a north-facing sandbag wall and moved it to an east-facing sandbag wall. Moments later, RPGs struck the north-facing wall, knocking Stafford out of the fighting position and wounding another soldier.

Stafford thought he was on fire so he rolled around, regaining his senses. Nearby, Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling, who later died in the fight, had a stunned look on his face.

Immediately, a grenade exploded by Stafford, blowing him down to a lower terrace at the observation post and knocking his helmet off. Stafford put his helmet back on and noticed how badly he was bleeding.

Cpl. Matthew Phillips was close by, so Stafford called to him for help. Phillips was preparing to throw a grenade and shot a look at Stafford that said, "Give me a second. I gotta go kill these guys first."

This was only about 30 to 60 seconds into the attack.

Kneeling behind a sandbag wall, Phillips pulled the grenade pin, but just after he threw it an RPG exploded at his position. The tail of the RPG smacked Stafford’s helmet. The dust cleared. Phillips was slumped over, his chest on his knees and his hands by his side. Stafford called out to his buddy three or four times, but Phillips never answered or moved.

"When I saw Phillips die, I looked down and was bleeding pretty good, that’s probably the most scared I was at any point," Stafford said. "Then I kinda had to calm myself down and be like, ‘All right, I gotta go try to do my job.’ "

The soldier from Parker, Colo., loaded his 9 mm handgun, crawled up to their fighting position, stuck the pistol over the sandbags and fired.

Stafford saw Zwilling’s M-4 rifle nearby so he loaded it, put it on top of the sandbag and fired. Another couple RPGs struck the sandbag wall Stafford used as cover. Shrapnel pierced his hands.

Stafford low-crawled to another fighting position where Cpl. Jason Bogar, Sgt. Matthew Gobble and Sgt. Ryan Pitts were located. Stafford told Pitts that the insurgents were within grenade-tossing range. That got Pitts’ attention.

With blood running down his face, Pitts threw a grenade and then crawled to the position from where Stafford had just come. Pitts started hucking more grenades.

The firefight intensified. Bullets cut down tree limbs that fell on the soldiers. RPGs constantly exploded.

Back at Stafford’s position, so many bullets were coming in that the soldiers could not poke their heads over their sandbag wall. Bogar stuck an M-249 machine gun above the wall and squeezed off rounds to keep fire on the insurgents. In about five minutes, Bogar fired about 600 rounds, causing the M-249 to seize up from heat.

At another spot on the observation post, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers laid down continuous fire from an M-240 machine gun, despite drawing small-arms and RPG fire from the enemy. Ayers kept firing until he was shot and killed. Cpl. Pruitt Rainey radioed the FOB with a casualty report, calling for help. Of the nine soldiers at the observation post, Ayers and Phillips were dead, Zwilling was unaccounted for, and three were wounded. Additionally, several of the soldiers’ machine guns couldn’t fire because of damage. And they needed more ammo.

Rainey, Bogar and another soldier jumped out of their fighting position with the third soldier of the group launching a shoulder-fired missile.

All this happened within the first 20 minutes of the fight.

Platoon leader 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom and Cpl. Jason Hovater arrived at the observation post to reinforce the soldiers. By that time, the insurgents had breached the perimeter of the observation post. Gunfire rang out, and Rainey shouted, "He’s right behind the sandbag."

Brostrom could be heard shouting about the insurgent as well.

More gunfire and grenade explosions ensued. Back in the fighting position, Gobble fired a few quick rounds. Gobble then looked to where the soldiers were fighting and told Stafford the soldiers were dead. Of the nine soldiers who died in the battle, at least seven fell in fighting at the observation post.

The insurgents then started chucking rocks at Gobble and Stafford’s fighting position, hoping that the soldiers might think the rocks were grenades, causing them to jump from the safety of their fighting hole. One rock hit a tree behind Stafford and landed directly between his legs. He braced himself for an explosion. He then realized it was a rock.

Stafford didn’t have a weapon, and Gobble was low on ammo. Gobble told Stafford they had to get back to the FOB. They didn’t realize that Pitts was still alive in another fighting position at the observation post. Gobble and Stafford crawled out of their fighting hole. Gobble looked again to where the soldiers had been fighting and reconfirmed to Stafford that Brostrom, Rainey, Bogar and others were dead.

Gobble and Stafford low-crawled and ran back to the FOB. Coming into the FOB, Stafford was asked by a sergeant what was going on at the observation post. Stafford told him all the soldiers there were dead. Stafford lay against a wall, and his fellow soldiers put a tourniquet on him.

From the OP, Pitts got on the radio and told his comrades he was alone. At least three soldiers went to the OP to rescue Pitts, but they suffered wounds after encountering RPG and small-arms fire.

At that time, air support arrived in the form of Apache helicopters, A-10s and F-15s, performing bombing and strafing runs.

When the attack began, Walker was on the FOB. He grabbed an M-249 and started shooting toward a mountain spur where he could see some muzzle flashes. Walker put down 600 to 800 rounds of ammunition.

He got down behind the wall he was shooting from to load more ammo and was told they were taking fire from the southwest. He threw the bipod legs of his machine gun on the hood of a nearby Humvee. A 7.62-millimeter caliber bullet struck Walker’s left wrist, knocking him to the ground. A soldier applied a tourniquet to Walker and bandaged him.

Walker and two other wounded soldiers distributed their ammo and grenades and passed messages.

The whole FOB was covered in dust and smoke, looking like something out of an old Western movie.

"I’ve never seen the enemy do anything like that," said Walker, who was medically evacuated off the FOB in one of the first helicopters to arrive. "It’s usually three RPGs, some sporadic fire and then they’re gone … I don’t where they got all those RPGs. That was crazy."

Two hours after the first shots were fired, Stafford made his way — with help — to the medevac helicopter that arrived.

"It was some of the bravest stuff I’ve ever seen in my life, and I will never see it again because those guys," Stafford said, then paused. "Normal humans wouldn’t do that. You’re not supposed to do that — getting up and firing back when everything around you is popping and whizzing and trees, branches coming down and sandbags exploding and RPGs coming in over your head … It was a fistfight then, and those guys held ’ em off." . . .

You can find the article here and a video of the interviews of Sgt. Walker and Spc. Stafford here. To reiterate what Sgt Walker said of the men who fell that day:

"I just hope these guys’ wives and their children understand how courageous their husbands and dads were. . . . They fought like warriors."

I say again, there were no victims in Afghanistan on July 13. Just U.S. soldiers whose story deserves to be told. If the MSM won't tell, please make sure this Stars and Stripes article gets passed around.

Update: The pictures above taken from the site Civilian Irregular Information Defense Group. That blogger also has several updates on battle. See here. And Strategy Page has a post on how the military is upset with the media portrayal of this battle.


vinny said...

You seem to believe the job of the American MSM is to support United States of America. This is not the case. NBC, ABC, and CBS see their role is to aid the democratic party win the election and defeat the evil republican administration. The fact that such thinking is delusional, is not important. I have essentially given up looking at such sources for worthwhile news, for the above reason, as well as, being tired of hearing all the latest gossip about airheaded celebrities. My primary source of news has become the blogosphere. Eventually, NBC, CBS, and ABC may become no more relevant than the national enquirer.

Belisarius said...

First, to Vinny:

the MSM is different from the ragsheets? Really?

I am glad to see someone finally found the true story of what happened at this outpost. I just wish the Army had kept the base as a symbol of resistance. F the jihadis!

MK said...

Thanks for letting us know, i had a feeling this wasn't the way they reported it.

"Our soldiers are doing their job. Will the MSM do theirs?"

Their job description as they see it is very different from the way we see it. They abandoned right & wrong, loyalty, patriotism, country and all that old fashioned stuff years ago. Now they switch between indifference and outright treachery.