RANGERS IN COMBAT - Excerpt

CHAPTER 18

BROTHERHOOD

 

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me, Shall be my brother.

William Shakespeare, King Henry V, Act 4. Scene III,

(English writer and playwright, 1564 – 1616)

DATE: 4 March 2002

LOCATION: Takur Ghar Mountain, Afghanistan (also referenced as “The Battle of Shah-I-Kot”)

MISSION: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) - a 23-member Army Ranger Quick Reaction Force (QRF) is deployed to rescue a Special Operations Forces (SOF) reconnaissance team trapped on a mountaintop under heavy enemy fire.

 

BACKGROUND:

 

For nearly two months, the United States had monitored major activity of al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Shah-e-Kot valley, just southeast of Gardez, Afghanistan.  To eliminate this enemy concentration, an operation codenamed ‘Anaconda’ was planned.  In support of Anaconda, several Special Operations Forces (SOF) reconnaissance teams were inserted to establish observation posts (OPs) at key tactical locations along a mountain range to observe and direct air strikes against enemy forces.  One such team was inserted near Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ) Ginger, a point just below the Takur Ghar Mountain ridge from which it could observe the southern tip of the valley.

 

A dominating piece of terrain, Takur Ghar rose to a height of 10,200 feet.  From its peak, a 360 degree view provided an unobstructed view on clear days for fifteen miles.  The ridge was sporadically covered with foliage, and the ground was white, covered by three feet of snow.  To the mountain’s east and west, there were almost sheer drop-offs.  Despite the mountain’s size, however, there was only one small landing zone to offload a helicopter within thousands of feet of the ridgeline.

 

The plan called for two reconnaissance teams to be inserted the night of 3 March by two MH-47E Chinook helicopters from the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR)—the “Night Stalkers”...also referred to as ‘Task Force 160’ or TF 160.  The MH-47E code named “Razor 04” would insert its team to the north, while the other Chinook, “Razor 03,” would insert its team on Takur Ghar.

 

Operational and maintenance problems delayed the mission, forcing the Razor 03 SOF team of seven—six SEALs (Navy Sea, Air, and Land) and one Air Force Special Operations combat control team member (CCT)—to be flown directly to the Takur Ghar summit in the early hours of 4 March to enhance speed at the cost of a stealthier ground approach from another point of insertion.  This risk seemed acceptable at the time for Takur Ghar was thought to be uninhabited.