Friday, September 29, 2017

Fullbore Friday

We really don't need fiction writers. There are exceptional stories all around us if we just take the time to look. 

Great reporting by Stephen Losey for a must-read FbF.

Oh, and read the last paragraph twice.
The team was sent to capture or kill Taliban leaders in the middle of the night in the Kunduz Province village ― a fairly standard mission, Hunter said.
When the helicopters dropped Hunter and his team off about a mile east of the village, he said, they realized the field was flooded. Maybe the Taliban knew they were coming, he said, or maybe it was standard irrigation, they never found out.

The field was so swamped that the helicopter sank about three feet into the mud, to the point where the back ramp couldn’t open and the team had to crawl out of a small hatch in the back and roll out.
They moved through a narrow alleyway, Hunter said, with multiple two-story buildings on either side with a “perfect line of sight down into this alleyway.”

Then the team ran into a 12-foot-tall metal gate that surveillance didn’t see earlier ― someone had apparently locked it after the noise of the initial firefight. The gunship was watching “nefarious activity” on the other side of the gate ― insurgents milling around, scoping out the Special Forces team, and running back to the other side of a building.

The team was bottlenecked in ― and at that point, the ambush was sprung.


One of the insurgents flung a grenade over the gate. The team heard a thud, Hunter said, and had maybe a second and a half to turn and see what it was before it exploded. Gunfire erupted from all around them — they were engulfed in a 360-degree firefight, taking machine gun fire and grenades thrown over the walls, layup-style, from all sides, injuring four.

They had to get out of “the fatal funnel,” as Hunter called it. While shielding the wounded with his own body, Hunter started calling in the insurgents’ fighting positions to the gunship, which then started targeting them with Spooky’s massive 105mm Howitzer.
They were leapfrogging, Hall said ― targeting insurgents as the team pulled back, and shooting so continuously that the cannon began overheating.
Spooky’s actions gave the team on the ground a chance to find cover from the nonstop fire. The smoke was so thick that the team was moving blind through the village, guided by directions the aircraft were relaying to Hunter.

“I could see about four feet in front of me,” Hunter said.

They advanced on one compound, but an insurgent “basically dumps an entire mag through the door as we’re stacked up on the outside,” fatally shooting his captain in the belly, Hunter said. They instead moved to another compound across the street, which they could tell was empty.

Spooky 43 was also steadily firing its 40mm cannon alongside the 105mm on insurgents fighting from the buildings, as well as running from tree lines ― but then the 40mm started to suffer multiple malfunctions.
After team members seized the compound, Hunter said he heard some commotion from outside that sounded like pleas for help. He looked over the wall and saw two teammates outside, pinned down and exposed.

One of them ― the assistant team leader for the Special Forces team ― had been shot six times. The other teammate was too busy shooting back at the enemy to save the wounded team warrant officer, so Hunter and another teammate ran out to bring him back.

Hunter grabbed the wounded soldier by his shoulder strap and began dragging him 30 meters to safety, all while radioing in more airstrikes to Spooky 43. That soldier survived and is now recovering at Walter Reed, Hunter said.

“We had to get him in there,” Hunter said. “He was going to die out there if we didn’t get him in there.”

Hunter then alerted Spooky 43 that they were taking fire from the east and the enemy was closing in.

Typically, the Spooky shoots the 105mm fragmentation airburst round in open terrain, hundreds of meters away from friendly forces. But that night, it fired a shell that cut down the Taliban about 9 or 10 meters from the ground team ― and knocked Hunter “stupid for about 30 seconds.”


Once the team on the ground took the compound, Hall said, the fire never stopped. They dragged three dead or dying teammates inside, as well as several others who were so badly wounded they couldn’t walk, and set up a casualty collection point.

“Picture this: A group of about 50 people, with [about] 50 percent of them attritted to injuries, and half of them not able to walk,” Hunter said. “So what are the other half doing? Dragging, carrying bodies. That’s what we were doing with them as we were bounding up this alleyway.”

They hunkered down and the gunship and the Apaches set up “a 360-degree field of death” between the team and the enemy, Hunter said. For the next few hours, he said, “if it moved, it died.”

Hill said that the heated engagements set off one secondary explosion after another, and the fires were raging so hard that his night-vision goggles were getting washed out.

When Spooky 43 was out of 105s, it began marking structures with the 40mm for the Apaches to hit with their Hellfire missiles, Hill said. The Hellfires were hitting so close to the team that the tail debris from one ripped into the compound, hit the wall two feet in front of Hunter ― “almost took my head off,” he said ― and ricocheted into the middle of the building, spinning on the ground as it came to rest.

Eventually, another gunship arrived, as did the quick reaction force Hunter had called.

“They basically showed up and everything was on fire,” Hunter said.

At about 5 a.m., Hunter and his team left the compound and made their way to an open field to be evacuated via helicopter ― but got ambushed yet again. As he helped load the wounded into the helicopters, Hunter continued to direct airstrikes to protect them and take out the enemy.

Their fight ended at about 7 a.m.

“I had these dudes [Spooky 43] overhead, and never at one point was I worried about my team getting annihilated, because these guys were overhead,” Hunter said. “I learned that dudes got your back, no matter what. We found out how much we care about each other, because we got real down and dirty, and we figured a lot of stuff out about a lot of people.”

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