Battle of Wanat 10 years later

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Battle of Wanat 10 years later

Friday was the 10 year anniversary of the Battle of Wanat, one of the signature battles of the war in Afghanistan.  The 173rd Airborne was attacked by waves of anti-coalition forces, which almost broke through the line completely.  During their deployment in 2007 that included the Battle of Wanat, the toll of awards for the 173rd would be astonishing:

  • Presidential Unit Citation
  • Valorous Unit Award
  • Three Medals of Honor
  • Two Distinguished Service Crosses
  • 26 Silver Star Medals
  • 169 Purple Hearts 

The Army Times looks at the battle 10 years later, and the effect it has had on Training and Doctrine:

The attack began with a single burst of machine gun fire, followed by a score of rocket-propelled grenades. For the next 90 minutes, a platoon of U.S. soldiers and a handful of reinforcements would fight off a wave of more than 100 Taliban fighters.

A decade ago, the men of Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade came under attack near the end of a brutal and demanding deployment in the Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan.

When the guns finally went silent at Wanat, nine U.S. soldiers had been killed, 27 were wounded, and at least dozens of Taliban fighters lay dead. The fight and the preceding deployment resulted in the battalion being the most decorated to date in the Global War on Terror.

In the years since the July 13, 2008, battle has seeped into Army DNA as scores of young officers and NCOs are taught the lessons learned from a simultaneously tragic and triumphant up-close battle in a remote outpost. The Battle of Wanat is the most requested virtual staff ride by ROTC units, and it has been part of the core curriculum for students at West Point and Command and General Staff College.

The battle, despite tactical success, was the source of Armywide controversy for years following the deployment.

Go and read the Army Times to get a feel for why the battle was important, but to read about the battle itself, you should read this piece in Vanity Fair by Mark Bowden, the author of other works like Blackhawk Down:

Stafford crawled back up to Topside’s southernmost fighting position, where he found Sergeant Ryan Pitts, the platoon’s forward observer, severely wounded in the arms and legs. Alongside, Specialist Jason Bogar and Corporal Jonathan Ayers were putting up a heroic fight. Bogar had his Squad Automatic Weapon on cyclic, just loading and spraying, loading and spraying, until it jammed. The barrel was white-hot. Ayers worked an M240 machine gun from the terrace overhead until he ran out of ammo. He and Specialist Chris McKaig were also struggling to put out a fire inside their small fighting position. When Ayers’s ammo was gone, they fought back with their M4s, popping up at intervals to shoot short bursts until Ayers was shot and killed...

The remaining soldiers at Topside, wounded, fought on. Eventually all but one, Sergeant Pitts, managed to tumble and crawl their way back downhill. Despite severe wounds to his legs and arms, Pitts managed to hurl grenade after grenade into the dead space alongside the perimeter, and stayed in radio contact with the command post until reinforcements finally came.

As I've said before, I met Ryan without knowing much about Wanat.  I knew he'd been involved, and I knew it was a heck of a fight, but when I went on a horseback excursion with Pitts and Silver Star recipient Mike Denton we never really discussed it.  It wouldn't be for a few years when Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony where I was a guest that I would hear the full story from him and others who fought that day.

Go and read both articles if you get the chance today.

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As a Marine combat vet I salute these brave solders and pray for those that did not survive as well as those that made it out of there safely. Sometimes the folks making it out of these skirmishes need more help than most. I hope they get it and with the current President things are happening to enhance the chances of getting the help they need. Just a shame the MoH was presented to this young man by an America hating marxist, that given the choice would have found for the enemy - his words not mine.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.