first published on February 20, 2018 by Sean
Exclusive, never before seen Korengal Valley helmet cam footage from US Marine embedded advisors operating in late 2008. While outbound advisors are giving the newbie’s the lay of land during a “Relief in Place” (RIP), a Taliban gunner targets the US and Afghan troops from a nearby village and provides an excellent first day lesson. “If they shoot at you from a house, you drop the house with a JDAM.” Since yours truly happened to be there that day, I can safely say, message was received…
US Marine Afghan National Army (ANA) advisors with Embedded Training Team’s (ETT) conduct a routine patrol to a vantage point at OP Dallas in the infamous Korengal Valley. Occurring during a RIP between incoming and outgoing advisor teams in late November 2008, the patrol was meant to familiarize the recent arrivals to the various routes, villages, and known enemy fighting positions throughout the southern Korengal. Additionally, we would provide overwatch and cover the withdrawal of a US Army platoon from the nearby village of Laui Kalay. The footage was captured on an early version helmet camera courtesy of then Corporal, Nate Cordero of ETT 5-3 and 3d MAR.
A RIP can be a tremendously stressful time for both the incoming and outgoing units. One side desperately itching to get home while the other is still incredible green. There’s never enough time and always too much critical information that needs to be exchanged during this brief overlap. In an extremely dangerous environment like the remote mountains of the Hindu Kush and adding the complexity of advising the ANA, the importance of this flow of knowledge increases immensely.
Having just arrived the afternoon before, the new team 5-4 (me included) is brought up to the OP to take advantage of its comprehensive panoramic view. The mixed unit of Marine and Afghan troops take cover behind the outpost’s hesco barriers along the narrow road, covering the Army’s return to base. OP Dallas was the southernmost friendly held position in the valley and just yesterday had taken a volley of around a half-dozen RPG’s during an enemy attack.
The video clip begins just as we were supposed to depart the overwatch position and return to Firebase Vimoto. Two gun-trucks pull up, previously providing cover in the 500 meters of open ground between Laui Kalay and OP Dallas with heavy machine guns – affectionately known as the “Dallas dash” because you often had to run the entire distance from truck to truck under heavy enemy fire. Several shots ring out, followed by several more that pass just over our heads and originate from the hilltop just across the valley named “1705”.
Redeploying along the hesco’s and reversing the 50. Cal equipped Humvee into a better position, we attempt to scan the unforgiving terrain for the enemy’s location. Concealed amongst the rocks and buildings, the Taliban shooter continues to engage with increasingly accurate fire. After an initial weapons malfunction, an ANA SAW gunner begins engaging suspected positions along the opposing ridge. This immediately draws the enemy’s attention, who zero’s in on the Afghan soldier and fires a round that misses him by mere inches. Bouncing off the Humvee’s armor with a loud and audible “ding!” much to the excitement of the ANA soldier (and myself).
After this incredible close-call, the volume of suppression immediately increases in a fury of automatic weapons fire and 40mm rounds. During this exchange the accurate enemy fire continues, but the ANA soldier’s luck continues as well. He fortunately spots the enemy location. Point of origin now established, the decision to destroy the house with a 500 lbs. GBU is made within a few minutes. While the Army begins coordinating the airstrike, the house is continuously suppressed to prevent the Taliban from escaping. The house is flattened to the noticeable enjoyment of the American-Afghan audience, eliciting big smiles all around as the smoke slowly rises from the fresh rubble.
With the abundance of media coverage surrounding and detailing the fighting in the Korengal between 2007 and 2010, it became one of the few battlefields in the Global War on Terrorism to find wide-spread notoriety amidst the general public. This deadly infamy would lead most people to believe that a Korengal veteran would loath or fear the idea of having to return there to fight. However, recently when I contacted my old friend Nate (the cameraman) about blogging this video, our brief reminisce suggests something a little different about many of the men who fought there.
“Just living a normal life as a civilian…” He said, “…wishing I was back in the Valley shooting s*** and blowing s*** up.”
That’s funny I thought. Those are my sentiments exactly…