Sunday, September 27, 2020

Battle of Shok Valley, Afghan: "We should not have lived"

                                                     Absorb the Gallantry and Courage

This is about a combined US-Afghan attack in the Shok Valley, Afghanistan. The mission was to take out or capture high-value targets from the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) enemy group located in that region. The Shok Valley is in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province in the northeast, in what is known as the Hindu Kush of the western Himalayas. The attacking force expected to experience the same environmental conditions as faced by Alexander the Great.

The Allied attack occurred on April 6, 2006. The operation was named “Commando Wrath.” It lasted over six hours.

The two main military outfits involved were US Special Forces ODA 3336 and the Afghan 1st Company, 201st Kandak Commandos. ODA 3336 translates to Detachment 6, Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), 3rd SFG (A), US Army (USA). 

ODA 3336 for this mission was an experienced combat unit. Eighty percent of its men were combat veterans. Their main challenge was these men had not been in the Shok Valley before. Up until this battle, no US forces known to the public domain had ever been there. Experts believe even the Soviets stayed out of here.

USAF combat controllers with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron were also on the ground integrated with ODA 3336. Their job was to provide and direct air cover.

ODA 3336 had trained their 201st Kandak compatriots, men they knew very well, men they admired. It was the country’s first commando unit. At the time, it usually fought with US special forces embedded. Their American counterparts bragged that the enemy called these Afghan Commandos, "The Wolves," a marvelous compliment.

There are many renditions of the battle available on the internet. This report drew mainly from two:"Cliffhanger, fierce battle in the Shok Valley tests SF team's mettle," by Janice Burton, associate editor Special Warfare, and "Ten Silver Stars for ODA 3336" by The Mikkelsen Family.

This Google Earth aerial is tough to read, but it shows the area of the Shok Valley in the context of other areas with which you might be more familiar. Kabul is in the lower left quadrant, marked by the red star. The Valley, highlighted by the white arrow, is to the north of Jalalabad and northwest of Wama, Nangalam and Asadabad. It is in the western sector of Mandol District of Nuristan Province. You can see the Pakistan border to the east.

The region is rugged, rugged, rugged.

This is a graphic view of the valley's location in the Mandol District. The Shok Valley sits on a tributary of the Alingar River.  

Six CH-47 Chinook helicopters inserted the men in the objective area in the morning.

Blackfive provided some 3rd SFG (A) raw footage that reflects the ingress of the “Commando Wrath” team. The following presents few video grabs. The attack force departed from an airfield at Jalalabad in the early morning hours of April 6, 2008. The force was brought in by CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. 

 
This is actual video footage of the Shok Valley from an inbound helicopter as the force approached the objective area. Other attack aircraft, fixed wing USAF aircraft and Army helicopters for close air support were tasked for this mission as well. They would play a big role in supporting the ground force.

This is a video grab of the objective for insertion of the force, again taken from a helicopter. You will recall from the earlier graphic of the district that the valley was on a river that flowed westward into the Alingar. There's that tributary.

 
On the upper right of the video grab, you see a CH-47. His engines were running during the insertion. This CH-47 looks like it was on the ground on a spot on the river bed. To the left and center you can make out soldiers moving away from the insertion helicopter.


These video grabs is from footage shot from the valley stream bed. They give you a look at the terrain, and a part of the lower end of the village. 

 
These two video grabs show forces on the ground, at the base of the hill in the landing zone area.

So, the battle is about to begin. It would last almost seven hours. What you are about to read is astounding, overwhelming. The mettle, the backbone, the daring and steel of the US forces involved are beyond what most minds can take on board.  The men involved and those who serve like they did may comprehend what will follow in this story. But those outside that realm, well, they may find it very hard to grasp and imagine.

The attack proceeds, Operation “Commando Wrath,” the Shok Valley, Afghanistan.

Capt. Kyle M. Walton, 29, was in command. He said many of the men were carrying 60 lb packs and "they jumped off (the helicopter) into jagged rocks, running water, and 40 degree temperatures at approximately 10,000 ft. elevation.”

Since they were at the base of the valley, their plan was to get to a village perched strategically above the valley on top of a mountain, so right away they had to climb.

The team separated into three groups, six Afghan commandos and an interpreter with each element:

  • Lead Group
  • Command and Control (C2) Group
  • Third Group

The plan was to get to the village up the mountain, enter the village by surprise, take on any insurgents in the village, and then fight their way downhill to the target. Walton has said:

 

"We didn't want to fight uphill."



While they hoped for the element of surprise, most of them knew that the helicopter insertion force was going to make a lot of noise while weaving its way in through the valleys. At best, however, their hope was that the the enemy would not be fully prepared for the attack and would have to jump through hoops to respond. Any element of surprise obtainable is better than none.



This is an example of a Nuristani village of Waigal in the Waigal Valley. This was the kind of village the team was going to attack. This village is about 31 miles to the east southeast of the village objective of ODA 3336, but in similar terrain. The village targeted by ODA 3336 was like the one shown here, with buildings built one on top the other. 


 
These two video grabs from an Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter show the actual village to be attacked.
 
Some of the assault force did not want to tackle the jagged rock climb. Instead they used "switchbacks," the terraces formed by the irrigation landscaping, to go up the hill, such as shown here.

SSgt John Walding (left) and SSgt David Sanders (right) led the way in with about 10 Afghan commandos.

Sanders also had Senior Airman (SrA) Zachary J. Rhyner (shown here), USAF, with them as a combat air controller, formally known as the Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC). Rhyner was pay grade E-4. One JTAC was assigned to each team as they went into the valley and up the cliffs. They are known as “battlefield airmen,” trained to operate with the Army special forces mostly on covert missions in hostile territory. Bruce Rolfsen, reporting for the Air Force Times, has said:

"The 'battlefield airmen' can parachute or infiltrate into enemy territory to set up drop zones, do air-traffic control or call in aircraft to shoot or drop bombs on the enemy. They often work on an Army Special Forces or Navy SEAL team and fight alongside soldiers and sailors while summoning Air Force firepower from overhead. The aircraft often are firing near 'friendly' forces on the ground."

The USAF aircraft under the control of these JTACs are flown by officers. They depend on these young enlisted controllers on the ground to pin-point their targets and keep the choreography in the air such that aircraft are not smashing into each other. SrA Rhyner described the battle area as "busy," so everyone had their hands full.

Rhyner also described the climb up:

“Initial infiltration began ... with snow on the ground, jagged rocks, a fast-moving river and a cliff. There was a 5-foot wall you had to pull yourself up. The ridge-line trail was out of control.”

As they climbed up about 1,000 ft, they could see enemy scurrying about to get into position. It is believed that the sound of the incoming helicopters had alerted them. MSgt. Scott Ford has said from the time they were inserted until the first shots were fired spanned about 30 minutes.

As this lead element approached some of the buildings on the outskirts of the village, SSgt Luis Morales, shown here, spotted an enemy and killed him.

Little did Morales know that there were an estimated 200 enemy waiting for them, positioned for a well-planned defense of the village. This is one of the problems associated with going after high value targets --- they are well protected.

The enemy immediately opened fire with machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). The enemy was shooting down at the Allied force as it came up. The enemy immediately had the attack force surrounded. The enemy was well concealed in thick-walled buildings marked with occasional holes from which to fire.

SSgt Rob Gutierrez, USAF, a JTAC with one of the groups, said this:

“We were caught off guard as 200 enemy fighters approached. Within 10 minutes, we were ambushed with heavy fire from 50 meters. The teams were split by a river 100 to 200 meters apart, north to south.”

Gutierrez was assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Group at RAF Mildenhall, England.

Capt. Walton was behind the lead group with the command and control (C2) element. His group immediately came under heavy fire from multiple enemy positions on the mountain, and for the moment it was pinned down.

Walton said:

"We were completely surrounded on 360 degrees and were taking heavy enemy sniper, machine gun and RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) fire from all around us."

Walton's interpreter, "CK," 23 years old, was killed almost immediately. "CK," an orphan, had hoped to one day come to and live in America. The Americans gave their interpreter a special place on their team. Morales said:

"They are just like a member of the team. One of our interpreters has seen as much combat as any of us. He has six years of combat experience. He's been with six SF teams and been in hundreds of firefights - but he doesn't get the six-month break."

Sanders, in the lead group, said:

"I had approximately 10 commandos with me, and we got into the village before we started receiving fire. We couldn't move any farther forward. Through the radio traffic, we heard some of the team had gotten shot, so we started trying to identify the buildings where the fire was coming from. We hoped to neutralize the threat." 

SSgt Seth E. Howard, shown here, was with a group of 201st Commandos. Once the initial contact was made, his group too was pinned down by heavy sniper, RPG, small arms and machine gun fire.

He directed his Afghan commandos to take the enemy on while he employed his sniper rifle and 84 mm recoilless rifle against enemy positions. This fire enabled Capt. Walton's C2 group to move to covered positions.

Walton and Spc. Michael Carter, a combat cameraman in the C2 group, dove into a cave.

The battle was underway, the Allied force was vastly outnumbered, some were already in the village, others were climbing up a mountain and being attacked from above, all exactly what our guys did not want. Men started getting wounded one after the other. So they now had two huge jobs on their hands. First, return fire and kill as many enemy as they could, wounded or not. Second, provide suppressive fire so those among them could go after their wounded, treat them, and drag them to safety.

SSgt Dillon Behr, center in the photo, the communications sergeant, couldn’t fit in the cave with Walton and Carter, so he stayed outside and commenced firing.

Behr was hit in the leg-hip area that led to nerve damage in the right leg. He was also hit in theright bicep and his his intestine was torn.,  Nonethgeless, he stayed in the fight to enable others to move the wounded. He lost the strength needed to hold his weapon. Morales ran over to shield him and himself was hit.

In here somewhere, perhaps early in the fight, Capt. Walton realized that he's greatly outnumbered, he had no element of surprise, many of his men are fighting uphill, they are surrounded by a well dug-in, well armed, and well trained enemy, and concluded he's going to need air power to lay waste to the enemy so his guys can get their wounded to safety, get better positioned to kill more enemy, protect themselves, and figure out a way to get the hell out of there. All the while, Walton has to defend himself, defend his men, help with the wounded, and kill enemy as well. So here's a young officer with a full plate to be sure.

Spc. Michael Carter, shown here, was one among many to dash out into the open to get to the wounded. He charged some 15 ft. into enemy fire to recover the wounded Behr. Capt. Walton provided suppressive.

It seems like the enemy may have been startled to see this young American soldier charge right at their fire, undaunted by that fire. Not only did he do that, but he recovered the wounded Behr, administered first aid and at the same time maintained fire against an enemy trying to advance on his position. In the mean time, Walton got over to help Morales who had been shielding Behr and was himself wounded. Among them all, they got Behr and themselves to safety.

Once in a safer position, Morales started treating Behr even though he himself had been shot in the thigh. Morales would be hit again in the ankle, but kept treating Behr. Behr was badly wounded.

Carter is quite a story. For starters, he was not a SF soldier, but rather a combat cameraman assigned to the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) and attached to ODA 3336 to document the fight with camera and video. Set all that aside. He most certainly conducted himself like a card-carrying special forces soldier. He maintained heavy fire on enemy locations, several times exposing himself to intense fire. On one occasion his suppressive fire enabled Capt. Walton to retrieve his dead interpreter's body, "CK." At another point, Carter popped out again to retrieve a satellite phone. There was one occasion where an enemy force came within 40 ft. of Carter's position, so Carter again jumped out into the open and provided the needed fire to disrupt the advance.

SSgt Howard was with the third element and heard that the C2 and their two wounded ODA 3336 comrades were in danger of being overrun, so he jumped out from his position as well, fought across a 60 ft cliff, and made it to the C2 group. His presence was sorely needed, and he placed himself between the wounded and the enemy and put down some heavy fire against advancing enemy. Like Carter, he would emerge into the open and engage the enemy.

Howard was a trained sniper. He used his skills to pick off enemy one by one. He directed his Afghan commandos to lay down some heavy fire on the enemy so he could get into place to work his sniper and recoilless rifle. He would say the trained enemy snipers had been doing their thing and it was now time for him to do his. He said the enemy was well trained and disciplined, and therefore hard to find and target. Nonetheless, Howard and his team became fully engaged..

Carter's actions enabled Walton to establish communications and call his headquarters to get approval to use his air support. He got the A-OK right away.

Sanders and SrA Rhyner had gotten to a place where they could talk, and Rhyner called in the close air support. He had F-15E "Strike Eagles, A-10 Warthogs, and AH-64 Apaches all in the air and waiting for their instructions. Each of these aircraft were well equipped to support troops on the ground. The F-15s and AH-64s were there as the assault began, and that the A-10s came in about one hour later to augment the force and apply its special design for close air support to the battle.

Rhyner was hit by enemy fire within 15 minutes of the attack, along with three team members. He said:

“I was pulling security when I got shot in the leg. The rounds hit my left thigh and went through my leg and hit another guy in the foot ... There was nowhere to go. I grabbed the wounded guys, but we were trapped by the enemy. I was calling in air strikes and firing, while moving the wounded down (the cliff).”

Capt. Walton treated Rhyner while Rhyner called in the air. Rhyner ended up as the air controller in charge. He was closest to the fight and could see the enemy best of all, better than even the pilots whom he was directing in. Remember, he was an E-4 Senior Airman.

Two USAF F-15 "Eagles" from the 335th Fighter Squadron were orbiting above waiting for such a call, and rolled in on the targets right away. The call was for "danger-close air," which means the pilots were going to strike very close to the friendly force, close enough to potentially cause friendly casualties.

Sanders was worried the attacks were coming in too close, and called over to Walton to see if this was a problem. Walton's response was:

"Bring it in anyway."

Sanders remained concerned the F-15 attacks were too close, and Walton told him:

"Hit them again."

Capt. Prichard Keely, USAF, was a weapons system officer (WSO - "Whiz-oh") aboard one of the Eagles, responsible for firing the weapons. He was the lead WSO, and was responsible for finding and verifying targets and determining which weapons were needed for each situation.

Keely's role is very interesting. He maintained constant communication from his F-15E "back-seat" with the assault force on the ground while the pilot in the front seat flew the aircraft. The ground force moved up the stream bed assessing how best to get up to the village. The F-15E carries high-fidelity targeting pods which enabled Keely to see enemy movements on the ground. Keely said:

"I could see people with weapons moving around on top of the houses ... They asked me to get them the best route of ingress from the riverbed to the village itself ... I chose the terrain that was least exposed to enemy gunfire and the easiest point of ingress, while avoiding the most mountain climbing."

His assistant director for operations at the time, Lt. Col. David Castillo, has said this about Keely's job:

"It was extremely important that Prichard (Keely) stay focused and deliver the weapons with extreme accuracy. He was dropping weapons close enough to where 'friendlies' were within lethal radius. He had to be extremely precise. It is a testament to his skill as a tactical aviator and as a person."

Keely's later comment was:

"It was a great feeling. Those guys were in the heat of it. It was least we could do."

Rhyner initially focused on directing the F-15s which brought in a tremendous amount of fire power and conducted strafing and bombing runs. SSgt Rob Gutierrez seemed to have been focused initially on the Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters which were armed with cannons, rockets and Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, and USAF A-10 Warthogs, also heavily and similarly armed.

Orchestration with such fast moving and lethal air power is essential. As Rhyner was putting down bombs on specific coordinates, Gutierrez would keep his Apaches and Warthogs out of the way. As the fight went on, the combat air controllers kept working their air assets against the enemy, throughout directing different aircraft types. Somewhere in the mix were UH-60 Blackhawks, two for medevac and others for extraction, as well as CH-47s for extraction.

The air-ground thing is a giant ballet, between the controllers and their special forces colleagues on the ground, the pilots in the air, and the main command and control organization to the rear, the latter of which must worry about whether more aircraft will be needed and help solve issues that arise on the battlefield that the combatants don't have time or authority to resolve. This is not easy work.

One of the F-15’s bombs completely leveled a building, and created huge clouds of smoke, and a great deal of flying debris. The explosions and implosions were substantial enough to get everyone’s attention, friend and foe. This kind of bombing would go on throughout the fight.


Following the initial phases of the battle, the attack aircraft would unleash a torrent of cannon, rocket, and missile fire and conduct numerous bombing and strafing runs. Capt. Walton was very sensitive to how close the "danger air support" attacks would be, but nonetheless his air controller called this kind of air in 70 times. 

All together during the battle, Rhyner is said to have brought in 4,570 rounds of cannon fire, nine Hellfire missiles, 162 rockets, twelve 500-lb. bombs and a 2,000 pounder.

These air attacks enabled the combined Allied team to brave enemy fire and retrieve wounded. Some men were injured by flying debris from the air attacks. Walton said a 2,000 pounder hit perilously close to his position. Walton said this:

“They dropped a 2,000-lb. bomb right on top of our position. Because of the elevation, the bomb blew upward rather than down. It just didn’t seem like we had much of a decision. Our guys were wounded, and we couldn’t go back the way we came.” 

The photo is a video grab if a 2,000 lb bombn dropped by a F-15E on a Taliban target elsewhere in Afghanistan.

While the air was coming and going, the men on the ground remained in intense combat. Most agree that the air was what enabled the men on the ground to regain the initiative and eventually get out. 

Amidst all this, concerns grew that cloud cover was moving in and there was some chance they would have to spend the night. As a result, they had to be careful not to run out of ammunition.

There were all kinds of issues associated with staying the night. Ammo was one. They did not know whether they might get weathered in the next day, deprived of air and stuck in place with a superior sized force. Furthermore, the pilots reported about 200 more enemy coming, about 10 kms away, armed with rockets and missiles.

Everyone on Walton's team was hurt or wounded, four critically. He felt he was in a mass casualty situation. Capt. Walton decided they had to get out of there. His higher command agreed they had to get out right away. However, they could not exit the way they entered. But, they had to get going before the weather and darkness worked against them. Bad weather could leave them there for days, surrounded by overwhelming force. 

There was only one way out, and that was down a steep cliff, not an easy chore given they would receive fire on the way out and they had to move a lot wounded, whom they refused to leave behind. Walton raced through the options for getting his men down the cliff, which included rolling them over the edge, something he dismissed. He would say later:  

"We couldn't leave the casualties. We were prepared to sit there and die with them." 

SSgt Sanders went down the cliff to assess the "doability" of it as an exit. He came back up with SSgt. Matthew Williams and told Walton it would not be easy, but it could be done.



Williams,had spent much of his day not only fighting enemy and climbing cliffs, but going after the wounded under intense enemy fire. 

He fought up a mountain for over an hour to get to several wounded men. His team sergeant was wounded and he ran through a hail of fire to get him, and help him down the hill to safety. Following that is when he went back up the hill with Sanders to help the rest of the men down.

MSgt. Scott Ford, the team sergeant, organized the medevac. He had earlier organized a counter-assault to reinforce his teammates. Now, he organized the medevac where the less seriously injured-wounded would carry the more serious down the cliff to the casualty collection point. As he was getting this set up, he was hit by an enemy sniper in the chest plate. He nonetheless returned fire. Then the sniper got him again, this time in the upper arm, nearly knocking it off. All that notwithstanding, Ford led the group down.

Morales led the way down with wounded while Sanders, Carter and Williams went up to get the badly wounded Behr, then back to rescue the also badly wounded Walding.

Earlier in the battle, MSgt Ford (left) and SSgt John Walding (right) were engaging the enemy. Walding was hit below his right knee as he headed toward the edge of the cliff, hit so hard that Ford described it this way:

"(The bullet) basically amputated his right leg right there on the battlefield."

Capt. Walton dragged him to the cliff's edge. Walding's top priority was to stop or at least slow down his loss of blood. He got a tourniquet and tightened it until the bleeding stopped.

SSgt Walding described how his leg was basically amputated at the knee and how he pulled it up into his groin where he tied it to his thigh. Walding said: 

"I literally grabbed my boot and put it (his leg below the knee) in my crotch, then got the boot laces and tied it to my thigh, so it would not flop around. There was about two inches of meat holding my leg on." 

He also said:  

"(This way) I could scoot on my hands and buttocks down the mountain."  

Having tied himself up with a tourniquet, Walding then attempted to inject himself with morphine, but accidentally stuck himself in the thumb. Legend has it that when he stuck his thumb by mistake, his comrades around him started laughing, laughing out loud. An author said this: 

"But he shot the morphine in his thumb not his thigh and in the midst of one of the deadliest battles of the war, with the glory of Valorous actions all around, the team laughed. The enemy had found themselves in a terrible situation, they had surrounded a Special Forces team in difficult terrain and when the enemy managed to shoot the leg out from under this out gunned, outnumbered team, the team burst out in laughter!" 

During an interview on Fox News with , Walding was asked:

"And SSgt Walding over here, as it all begins, all of a sudden you get injured very badly."

Walding replied:

"It was a little scratch."

While on the subject of laughter during the heat of battle, SSgt Gutierrez has commented that it took him three hours to link up with his fellow JTAC Rhyner. Rhyner commented on the link-up.

“Sergeant Gutierrez and I met on the cliff during the battle briefly. We shared a laugh, but it was a busy, bleak situation.”

During the withdrawal down the cliff, Walding carried his leg with him. Capt. Walton commented about him this way:

"At one point we had ah, ah soldier missing his leg continuing to apply pressure to one of his comrade's wounds, not concerned about himself. During the daring rescue that some of the soldiers conducted to get these guys off the mountain. John Wayne Walding (real full name) carried his own leg down the mountain."

Capt. Walton, Howard and Carter stayed behind to cover the withdrawal. They also spent time retrieving weapons they had left behind, not wanting them to fall into enemy hands. Carter ran out in the open under fire grabbing equipment and throwing it off the cliff while Howard provided him cover, picking off the enemy with his sniper skills. Thankfully, an element of soldiers came up as reinforcement.

Carter described one of several trips he made down the cliff:

"We had to Spiderman down the cliff to find ways. There were 20 foot down straight drops. It was just a bad place to be at ... I took one (of the wounded soldiers) down, the one who was able to walk. He wasn’t as bad off. He was still conscious. I’d climb down first, and there were parts where he couldn’t hold (on to the cliff face), so I’d let him drop on me so I could catch him and continue taking him down.”

Sit for a moment and imagine the intensity of the fighting, the rescuing of wounded by men themselves wounded, and the climb down the 60 ft. cliff by the wounded and badly wounded, all the time with fighting continuing and air attacks occurring all around them.

Now for the extraction.

A medevac helicopter swooped in but his rotors were hit by enemy fire. He could not land, and barely had enough time to enable a medic to jump off to care for the men. The UH-60 medevac then had to fly away. A second medevac followed in and landed in the midst of an icy stream that was moving along at a good pace. MSgt. Ford said:

"It took two to three guys to carry each casualty through the river. It was a mad dash to the medevac."

They made a "mad dash" into the helicopter, hearing bullets ping off the sides of the aircraft, with one hitting the pilot. But out they went. This photo is from the cockpit on the way out.

Meet SSgt. Ronald Schurer, the medic, one each very busy medic. Schurer was a graduate of Washington State University and was working his way toward a master's degree in economics, when the Afghan war began following 911. He felt obliged to serve. He enlisted, completed basic training, then started training with the special forces to be a medic, took language classes and trained to work directly with local Afghans. During his first tour with ODA 3336, he did a lot of training for the Afghans and helped local Afghans and lead local clinics.

Fourteen minutes into this mission he received the call, "Medic," and went to the aid of an Afghan commando hit in the inner thigh. He then moved back to his position in the river bed, and as the teams went up the cliffs, the calls rang out again. One of his colleagues was hit in the neck. Under heavy fire, he went to his aid, treated him, and pulled him to safety.

Then two more calls as the enemy attack became more intense. He ran up and found one of his teammates shot in the pelvis and arm, with another shot twice in the right leg. He carried both to safety even though he himself had been shot in the helmet and the right arm. Two more colleagues were found and carried to safety, one critically wounded in the right leg, the other hit in the arm.

Schurer was the only medic there. Everyone was running low on ammunition, and he was running low on medical supplies. Nonetheless, he treated four soldiers for more than five hours until medevac helicopters arrived to get them out. He is credited with saving the four and treating more than 10 Afghan commandos.

SSgt. Schurer later received the Medal of Honor. President Donald Trump said this:

"Ron, our hearts are filled with gratitude and joy as we prepare to engrave your name alongside the names of America’s greatest heroes. It is my honor and privilege, along with all of these incredible warriors in front of me, to present you with the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

Schurer later joined the Secret Service. 

The President also awarded the Medal of Honor to MSgt. Matthew O. Williams, USA.  Williams learned the lead element had sustained casualties and was in danger of being overrun. He and his Afghan commandos fought their way up the terraced mountainside and provided suppressive fire which held the attackers back. He braved enemy fire to get a casualty to the casualty collection point, fought and climbed his way back up the mountainside to help defend the lead assault element, exposed himself to enemy fire in order to reestablish the team's critical satellite radio communications, and helped move the wounded down the mountainside. He carried and loaded the wounded on to the medevac helicopters under hostile fire. 

SrA Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross, the Air Force's second highest medal for valor in combat. The records show eight other Special third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat is the third highest decoration for valor in combat. 

Then there is SSgt. Daniel Plants, shown here. This was his first firefight as a special forces soldier. He called it his "Baptism by fire." Plants has recalled hearing the request go out for a bomb run. He said:

"I was staring at it and saw the building go up. I remember looking up, and then all of this stuff starting coming down. All I could do was roll up tight and hug the cliff wall."

When it was over, the Green Berets and 201s Afghan commandos suffered 15 wounded, with two Afghans killed in action.

How do the men view this? Walding's perspective says it well:

"We should not have lived."

All but two lived, a living testament to the power and training of the combined US-Afghan and air-ground team. The estimate is they killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-200 enemy.

Capt. Walton highlighted an even more important point:

“We think we sent a pretty big message to the insurgents. We let them know that we could penetrate their comfort zone. We told them there’s nowhere you are safe that we aren’t willing to come in after you."

He also said:

"This battle to me is about the Brotherhood, the camaraderie. Personally I'm just honored to be in the same room as these guys." 

The video grab above shows a group of the men from ODA3336 who fought this battle in Afghaniostan's Shok Valley walking together, Capt. Walton in the center.

Walding, operating with a prosthetic leg, remained on active duty and hoped to redeploy with his Green Berets. He said:

"Sir, you can take my leg, but you can't take my heart and you can't take my soul. I'm a Green Beret."

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