That can now be said. From the very first day when media outlets were erroneously reporting that a US base in Afghanistan had been over run, the narrative on this battle has been wrong. It was portrayed as the Taliban almost wiping out a poor band of brothers set adrift by their command. Well the time has come to change that story and change it 180 degrees. If Wanat had happened in WWII, it would be a tale of paratroopers doing what they have always done since the first time a grunt put his knees in the breeze, holding their ground against a vastly superior force.
When the 2nd of the 503rd, 173rd Airborne got to Afghanistan they landed right in the path of a newly resurgent Taliban. They had taken advantage of treaties the Pakistanis signed over the previous years with their own Taliban to rest, recruit, refit and begin re-infiltrating Afghanistan. This caused these paratroopers to experience a level of combat unseen since Vietnam, Korea or WWII. This one Battalion "The Rock", around 1000 men, averaged more than three troops in contact actions every day for fifteen months. In 2007/8 more than 20% of all the combat in Afghanistan was happening in their area of operations. They did as much hearts and minds work as they could, but when you have a flood of enemy coming at you, you fight. And that is what they did.
By the end of their fifteen months, they were preparing to turn over the area to a new unit. The command did not want the new unit to have to close a combat outpost (COP) that was unable to be supported and open a new one. They understood that this would expose a unit that had no familiarity with the terrain or the enemy to considerable danger. So they set about planning to open a new COP at Wanat.Virtually anything you may have read about the planning and conduct of this mission is inaccurate. An initial investigation into the battle found no real problems with the actions of the command structure. But there were scores of articles talking about a lack of planning and
command failures that led to the deaths and injuries of the men who
fought at Wanat.These led to a number of the families who lost loved ones there to demand an additional investigation, and they were completely justified. They enlisted the help of Sen. Jim Webb who put political pressure on the Pentagon and a new look was taken.
After that report was finished a decision was made to issue letters of reprimand to the Company Commander CPT Matt Myer, the Battalion Commander then LTC Bill Ostlund, and the Brigade Commander COL William Preysler. These officers were then given the opportunity to review the almost 4,000 pages of documents and appeal this decision. They all did so vigorously and the result was an overwhelming amount of information detailing the fact that they had performed their duties diligently and properly and that the blame for the losses that day lay with the Taliban attackers not the chain of command. Here is the final conclusion of Gen. Campbell made while rescinding and annulling the letters of reprimand.
The reputations and careers of these officers have properly been restored. The sad thing is that the families of the fallen have been led astray by the media and by the incomplete and inaccurate nature of the report that led to the letters of reprimand being given.
Gen. Campbell's statement is the right answer. The command didn't fail these men, and even more importantly the men didn't fail to hold their ground. Now we can help regain their right to be proud of their actions, to note that their friends died heroically and will join the pantheon of paratroopers who gave their all. They can stand tall and say that the Battle of Wanat was a victory. This can't bring back their comrades, but they all deserve recognition for a hard fought win. Airborne!
Here are some of the previous pieces we have written about this battle.
Former Paratrooper and Army Officer, "Blackfive" started this blog upon learning of the valorous sacrifice of a friend that was not reported by the journalist whose life he saved. Email: blackfive AT gmail DOT com
Retired Special Operations Master Sergeant, Jim Hanson ("Uncle Jimbo") is now focused on writing about the military, politics, intelligence operations and foreign policy. Email: jimbo AT unclejimbo DOT com
Writer, photographer, and raconteur C. Blake Powers is the Laughing Wolf. He is independent in politics and covers topics including journalism, military, weapons, preparedness, space, science, cooking, food and wine, product and book reviews, and even spirituality. Email: wolf1 AT laughingwolf DOT net Laughing Wolf's Amazon Wish List
Bill Paisley, otherwise known as Pinch, is a 22 year (ongoing) active and
reserve naval aviator. He blogs over at www.instapinch.com on a veritable
cornucopia of various and sundry items and will bring a tactical naval
aviator's perspective to Blackfive. Readers be warned: any comments of or
about the F-14 Tomcat will be reverential and spoken in low, hushed tones.
Email: wpaisley AT comcast DOT net
Mr. Wolf has over 26 years in the Army, Army NG, and USAR. He’s Airborne with 5 years as an NCO, before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had 4 company commands. Signal Corp is his basic branch, and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, PA, and senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an IT executive. He is currently working on a book on media and the Iraq war. Functional gearhead.
In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
Email: TheDOTMrDOTWolfAT gmail DOT com
Deebow is a Staff Sergeant and a Military Police Squad Leader in the Army National Guard. In a previous life, he served in the US Navy. He has over 19 years of experience in both the Maritime and Land Warfare; including deployments to Southwest Asia, Thailand, the South Pacific, South America and Egypt. He has served as a Military Police Team Leader and Protective Services Team Leader and he has served on assignments with the US State Department, US Air Force Security Police, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He recently spent time in Afghanistan working with, training and fighting alongside Afghan Soldiers and is now focused on putting his 4 year Political Science degree to work by writing about foreign policy, military security policy and politics.
McQ has 28 years active and reserve service. Retired. Infantry officer. Airborne and Ranger. Consider my 3 years with the 82nd as the most fun I ever had with my clothes on. Interests include military issues and policy and veteran's affairs.
Email: mcq51 -at - bellsouth -dot- net
Tantor is a former USAF navigator/weapon system officer (WSO) in F-4E Phantoms who served in the US, Asia, and Europe. He is now a curmudgeonly computer geek in Washington, DC, picking the taxpayers pocket. His avocations are current events, aviation, history, and conservative politics.
Twenty-three years of Active and Reserve service in the US Army in SF (18B), Infantry and SOF Signal jobs with operational deployments to Bosnia and Africa. Since retiring he's worked as Senior Defense Analyst on SOF and Irregular Warfare projects and currently ensconced in the emerging world of Cyberspace.
Major Pain --
A Marine who began his blog in Iraq and reflects back on what he learned there and in Afghanistan. To the point opinions, ideas and thoughts on military, political and the media from One Marine’s View. Email: onemarinesview AT yahoo DOT com
Uber Pig was an Infantryman from late 1991 until early 1996, serving with Second Ranger Battalion, I Corps, and then 25th Infantry Division. At the time, the Army discriminated against enlisted soldiers who wanted use the "Green to Gold" program to become officers, so he left to attend Stanford University. There, he became expert in detecting, avoiding, and surviving L-shaped ambushes, before dropping out to be as entrepreneurial as he could be. He is now the founder of a software startup serving the insurance and construction industries, and splits time between Lake Tahoe, Boonville, and San Francisco, CA.
Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
COB6 spent 24 years in the active duty Army that included 5 combat tours with service in the 1st Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group . COB6 was enlisted (E-7) and took the OCS route to a commission. COB6 retired a few years back as a field grade Infantry officer.
Currently COB6 has a son in the 82nd Airborne that just returned from his third tour and has a newly commissioned daughter in the 4th Infantry Division.