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October 3, 2009. What were you doing?

SSG Romesha was earning a Medal of Honor. 

SSG Romesha, Medal of Honor.

On October 3, 2009, Former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha displayed extraordinary heroism through a day-long engagement with the enemy at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan. During the fight, Staff Sgt. Romesha killed multiple enemy fighters, recovered fallen Soldiers and led multiple recovery, resupply, and counter attack operations. Visit this site to learn more about Staff Sgt. Romesha and to view the “battlescape” recreation of his heroic actions.

Me? It was a Saturday. I was probably sleeping in.  Regardless, it was another unremarkable day among a string of unremarkable days.  But late Saturday, the emails started about something big going on in the 'Stan. 

Indeed.

18 Comments

The U.S. Army was one of the casualties of this action.  The Brigade Commander, COL Randy George had taken steps to close the outpost down because it was basically indefensible.  But, he was ordered to keep it open despite the hazards, and a long term schedule for closure was adopted. The attack came before the schedule could be implemented. George was reprimanded and the Army deprived of a great soldier and great leader.  The Army is seriously wounded by failing to keep warriors like COL George and SSG Romesha in their ranks as their places are taken by those only too willing to put personal advancement ahead of everything else.
 
Greetings:

And it only took those well-paid brainiacs in the Pentagon a little over three years to get the award approved.  You go guys, and gals, and whatever. 
 
HERO, for sure!  I salute him, and his comrades in arms who fought with him. 

And, the scapegoated COL Randy George as well.

Now, bring every last one of our troops home from that worthless region which has already cost more blood and treasure than it deserves.  The threat is neutralized, and attempting to convert the heathens to any form of civilized lifestyle or culture is a fool's errand.  Let them fight each other as long as they like.  Their problems, not ours.
 
lvn -

Keating was kept open because there weren't enough lift assets available at the time to pull equipment out at the time.  You can't get heavy trucks up there, and the Chinooks were busy supporting another operation - one that neither COL George nor MG Scaparotti liked much, but that GEN McChrystal insisted (because it was important to Karzai.  I forget the name of the place, up in northwest Nuristan.

And honestly, probably the most culpable individual was the cav troop commander on the ground at Keating, who had gotten complacent and let the "this place is getting shut down soon" (scheduled for about a month after the attack happened) mentality go to his head.  And the squadron commander and COL George take the hits for failing to make sure that CPT was doing his job properly.

I go to class once a week with an O-6 who was part of the post-incident investigation.

And FWIW, on 3 OCT 2009, I was trying to make sense of the reports coming in on the computer, and watching the Pred feed, while I sat in the JOC at HQ ISAF
 
I wondered if you were going to weigh in, Heartless.
 
Heartless

Thanks for the insights.  Very similar to the facts surrounding the attack on Firebase Maryann back in 1971.  The brigade commander and division commander took the fall, and the company commander was killed.  The battalion commander, who was the weak link in the leadership chain, was badly wounded so he was never held to account although his run up the promotion ladder was ended.

The Brigade Commander, Bill Hathaway, did visit Maryann and tightened up both the battalion commander and the company commander; the company commander didn't need it, the battalion commander needed more.
 
 LIke you, JOhn, I was sleeping in. The action prolly took place before it was even close to time to wake up. I think they are either 8 or 9 hours ahead of us.

As for the rest, I would apply Bismarck's statement about the balkans (not worth teh bones of one Pommeranian Grenadier) to the Rock Pile. We reaaly should have been out 6 years ago, at the latest. JUst go in, find and kill the current leadership and hand the keys to teh next and tell him "don't make us come back."
 
 Greetings:

If I may take one more bite at this evolving apple.  My favorite Platoon Sergeant  taught me that there are two basic plays in the infantry game, "Find 'em, fix 'em, and finish 'em." and "Let them find you, fix 'em, and finish 'em.  

It seems to me that this isn't the first time that I've come across this kind of situation and the resultant breast-beating.  When did drawing several hundred bad guys out into the light of the "battlespace" become proscribed.  That sounds to me like something an infantryperson might want to do.  

The goal isn't to run patrols, it's to kill bad guys as the aforementioned used to say, "As many as you can, as often as you can, anywhere and any way you can.
 
11B40 - there's a reason guys like you and I weren't recalled.  We don't have a politically acceptable view of war and it's purpose.
 
Well, that and in my case the large shadow and other infirmities...
 
 I was in a clean room up on post doing a network rebuild that Netcom decided to contract out because it had to happen on a weekend!
 
Remembered the name of that other place - Barg-e Matal.  You can find a description of it in Bing West's The Wrong War.  No military significance, COIN or otherwise, but for whatever reason, it was important to Karzai, something to do with the elections, IIRC.  So McChrystal told RC-E to do it, and 4/4 ID owned the battlespace.

Because of the isolated location and high altitude, keeping the troops sent up there supplied chewed up a big chunk of CH-47 bladehours.

And 11B40, the problem wasn't that the bad guys came to us.  They'd been probing for a long time, measuring and watching responses.  The troop commander didn't take any normally prudent countermeasures - like sending out ambushes to known enemy OPs and firing points.  The TB had their firing points surveyed well enough that they could set up their guns and aim them in the dark and know where the rounds were going to go - right to where our guys were going to run when they started taking incoming.

And bringing the bad guys to you doesn't mean letting them set up heavy weapons - Dishkas and recoilless rifles - on high ground above your position.
 
I was in Basic Training, wondering what the hell I'd gotten myself into.

Once again, I'm happy to see another living MOH recipient.
 
 Saker, have you figgered out what you got yourself into yet?
 
Heartless,

Back when I was getting into gunfights, rifle companies mostly came in two varieties: hunters and the hunted, no matter the mission.  This Troop Commander seems to fit among the hunted. Being a hunter, in my experience, not only produced better results, but also lower friendly casualties. I think that the First Platoon preferred being hunters.
 
Quartermaster-

Yup. This Army thing is strangely addictive. Or maybe I just have an undiagnosed mental illness. One of the two.
 
Greetings:  especially "Heartless Libertarian"

At the risk of appearing contentious, I was trying to address more of a theoretical issue.  As to the specifics you seem to have much more information than I about the actual battle.

My main source of aggravation is that most people have very little idea about the dynamics of the infantry game and, in this age of the hollowing out of our military, successes are constantly undermined by somewhat vague references focusing on "command" failures or after-effects on participants.  I believe that to be, whether consciously or subconsciously, an effort to make military service appear as unpleasant an experience as is possible.  The paucity of heroes, the lack of "war-stories" other than near disasters, the tribulations of the damaged, these media foci are not without intent or purpose.  Specifically, I see the focus on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as very much a double-edged sword in which apparent concern for the afflicted covers what is really an attempt to dissuade others from soldiering.

As to the specific battle, I would offer this.  If one's unit is the lure, how militarily effective do you really want to appear?  (Which is not to say the unit's commanders didn't make mistakes.) A lot of my muddled theories of war came from the cowboy and Indian moves of my youth.  A personal favorite was loading up the covered Conestoga wagon with sharpshooters  and sending it off into the badlands looking as vulnerable as possible.  Would going out in an uncovered wagon aid or abet that tactic?

On the flip side is the "When to blow the ambush" question.  Are the bad guys five or five hundred?  Do you let the kill zone fill and then blow and go or let them go by?  I don't have any guaranteed right answers for those questions.  It's trust your luck and experience and do the best you can.  

And what my luck and experience tells me these days is that those in control of our government and media mostly see our soldiers as pawns to be used as they will.  The lack of personal honor so evident in those tells me that what they want you to think is going on is not at all what is really going on.  Or, as my mother used to say, "Consider the source."

 
 
I knew Gen. Scapparotti way back when he was a platoon leader and company commander.  The guy I kenw would not have left those guys out there on their own if there had been any way to do better for them.  Still doesn't excuse the "hunker down and hope nothing happens" attitude on the part of the commander on the scene.  Like Heartless pointed out, if you're stuck in a screwed-up location, you'd damned well better take aggressive measures to make sure the bad guys aren't able to sieze advantageous positions.

A though has just come to me:  has anyone ever counted to see how many awards of the MoH came from situations that amounted to "We are so fucked..."?  I suspect it's a lot of them.