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Battle of Ganjgal Lessons Learned Video

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Gold Star mom says military may be complicit in Taliban ambush

Susan Price, the mother of fallen Marine Gunnery Sergeant Aaron Kenefick, said on the Tom Bauerle radio show that military commanders may have been complicit in the ambush that killed her son and four other soldiers and Marines.

The action she describes is the infamous Battle of Ganjgal, where Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor and former Army Captain Will Swenson has reportedly been nominated for the Medal of Honor as well.

Her son was a Recon Marine and was “Marine of the Year” twice in ten years.

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Men of Valor

An Air Force Combat Controller will be awarded the Air Force Cross – the service’s second-highest decoration for valor – for actions during a 2009 firefight in Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters had ambushed TSgt Robert Gutierrez and a team of Army Special Forces soldiers from 7th Special Forces Group, pinning them down in a building with no escape route. Gutierrez had been shot, had a collapsed lung, and broken ribs. Despite his injuries, he refused to set down his M4 rifle or stop using his radio to call in deadly air strikes against the enemy – even while the team’s medic was treating his injuries.

Gutierrez called for three A-10s strafing runs on the Taliban, directing the deadly fire as close as 30 feet from the Americans.

Gutierrez’ air support destroyed the Taliban fighters and allowed the unit to get out alive.

“It never is about oneself; it is always about the others first, then you last,” said Gutierrez, who at the time was assigned to Pope Air Force Base’s 21st Special Tactics Squadron. “I had a second to think about not making it. After that, I told myself that I was going to get up and fight. I had an unborn child to see and my wife and family to come home to.”

And reports that another veteran of the Battle of Ganjgal, Capt. William Swenson, has been nominated for the Medal of Honor. Former Marine Dakota Meyer also participated in the battle and was awarded the Medal of Honor this month at the White House and his citation can be read here.

It was rumored that Swenson would not be considered for the Medal due to his criticism of the rules of engagement that played a role in denying artillery support from the ambushed unit. Five American troops, eight Afghan soldiers, and their interpreter were killed in the fighting, and 20 were wounded.

Meyer says it is “ridiculous” that Swenson hasn’t been recognized yet: “I’ll put it this way,” Meyer said in an interview. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive today.”

Two other Marines were awarded the Navy Cross for their role in the engagement.

Read more about the Battle of Ganjgal here.

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Who is the bigger threat: the Taliban, or our own strategy?

“We are pinned down. We are running low on ammo. We have no air. We’ve lost today,” Marine Maj. Kevin Williams told his Afghan translator as Afghan soldiers repeatedly asked for helicopter support. American military trainers and the Afghan soldiers they were working with had been pinned down by intense machine gun, rocket-propelled grenade, and mortar fire for several hours, and the artillery support they had been promised was being withheld by commanders at a nearby forward operating base.

The combined force of 60 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, 20 Afghan border police, and 13 U.S. trainers set out before dawn on Sept. 8, 2009 to search the rugged Afghan village of Ganjgal in eastern Kunar province for weapons and to conduct a meeting with local officials. The town had just recently rejected the Taliban’s authority in favor of the Afghan government. The village elders had requested that Afghan troops would conduct the sweep, and the embedded American trainers were present in case air or artillery support was required.

As the unit approached the village, situated in a valley encircled by craggy mountains, the town’s lights suddenly turned off – a likely sign that the mission has been compromised. Minutes later, the first shots were fired at the column, and the force was quickly enveloped with heavy machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The Americans and Afghans took cover behind rock walls, and the enemy began an attempt to flank the pinned-down unit.

As a force of about 100-150 enemy fighters maneuvered to flank the unit, the American commander called for the helicopter and artillery support that had been assured before the men set out. Although the unit was informed that helicopter support would arrive within five minutes, a reporter who had embedded with the unit stated that helicopters didn’t arrive for 80 minutes after the call – the helicopters were fighting another battle in the nearby Shuryak Valley, and two pilots had reportedly been shot.

The unit was taking heavy casualties, surrounded on three sides, their radio only working intermittently, when they learned that the artillery support they had been promised earlier was not coming. Despite assurances that the requested targets were not near the village, officers at the nearby forward operating base came back on the radio and informed the Americans that new rules of engagement prevented them from allowing any artillery near the village in order to prevent civilian casualties. When the team requested smoke rounds be fired to hide their retreat, the fire base did send white phosphorous rounds – 50 minutes later. Reports also state that commanders did not comply with repeated requests for reinforcements via the on-call quick reaction force.

Continue reading “Who is the bigger threat: the Taliban, or our own strategy?”

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Reading on the Battle of Ganjgal

On Sept. 8, 2009, three U.S. Marines, their Navy corpsman, and a soldier were killed as U.S. commanders withheld artillery support. As I write an article on the matter, I wanted to post my sources so others may read about this battle. If there can be a bright spot from this, the military is reportedly going through the process of determining whether former Cpl. Dakota Meyer of Kentucky is to receive the Medal of Honor. If confirmed, Meyer would be the second recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor since the Vietnam War.

Rep. wants answers on Ganjgal ambush probe
Heroism in ambush may yield top valor awards
Ambush survivor up for Medal of Honor
Report: Army denied aid to team under fire
Deadly Afghan ambush shows perils of ill-supplied deployment
‘We’re pinned down:’ 4 U.S. Marines die in Afghan ambush

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5th soldier dies following Afghan ambush

Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook became the fifth U.S. soldier to die as a result of an ambush last month in Afghanistan. Despite assurances that air support was only five minutes away, the team had to wait over an hour, and despite repeated calls for artillery support (and assurances that the enemy wasn’t near the village), commanders withheld artillery support – thanks to new emasculated rules of engagement.

The 41-year-old native of Colorado Springs, Colo. was on his last tour before his retirement. Westbrook’s brother died in Iraq in 2007 while serving in the National Guard.

In addition to the five U.S. deaths, nine Afghans died and 20 U.S. and Afghan soldiers were wounded.

The names of the other fallen Americans:
Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James R. Layton, 22, Riverbank, Calif.
Marine 1st Lt. Michael E. Johnson, 25, Virginia Beach, Va.
Gunnery Sgt. Aaron M. Kenefick, 30, Roswell, Ga.
Gunnery Sgt. Edwin W. Johnson, Jr., 31, Columbus, Ga.

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More on the Marines killed by their ROE

Here’s the McClatchy story on the Sept. 8 firefight in which three U.S. Marines and a Navy corpsman killed in a seven-hour firefight with the Taliban.

According to an interview with the story’s author, Jonathan S. Landy, the helicopter air support that was supposedly 5 minutes away finally arrived 80 minutes after the request, but the helicopters were purportedly involved in another attack. Commanders however did decline to allow artillery support, citing the new rules of engagement designed to minimize civilian casualties (and eliminate the possibility of victory).

Continue reading “More on the Marines killed by their ROE”

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Rules of Engagement kill 4 Marines in Afghanistan

Four U.S. Marines were killed in action following implementation of new politically-correct rules of engagement in Afghanistan. Despite assurances from Gen. McChrystal and top military officials that air and artillery support would be used when U.S. troops were threatened, commanders denied repeated calls for support from the unit. Eight Afghan soldiers and police and an interpreter were also killed in the firefight.

From the Straits Times (Singapore):

A team of Marines made repeated appeals for air and artillery support after coming under fire in the village of Ganjgal in eastern Kunar province on Tuesday, McClatchy newspapers reported.

US commanders declined the request for artillery fire, citing new rules that seek to minimize civilian casualties, a McClatchy journalist accompanying the American unit reported.

Air power, in the form of helicopters, only arrived after more than an hour ‘despite earlier assurances that air cover would be five minutes away,’ McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay wrote.

Once again we see that politicians in Washington have become a bigger obstacle to victory than the actual enemies themselves.  This is no way to conduct a war.