Sunday, February 21, 2010


Report Faults Officers' Absence in Afghan Ambush that Killed 5 U.S. Troops

McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - The absence of experienced senior leaders and inadequate action by officers in a tactical operations center, including a failure to provide effective artillery and air support, contributed to the deaths of five U.S. troops and nine Afghans in a Sept. 8 battle, an official investigation has found.

Jonathan Landy, embedded with Marines during the battle of Ganjgal Valley. Click the link below to read Jonathan Landay's report with photos from the battlefield:


I'm having difficulty finding the words to describe how utterly disgraceful was the conduct of these officers; they basically sent those Marines and soldiers toward certain danger, and then when the sh*t hit the fan, they left them hanging.

The comments below are those of a good friend of mine, a field grade US Army officer on his fifth deployment to either Iraq and/or Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010. - S.L.

Sean - I thought I'd share the article and my initial thoughts on this crucial matter because I know you are genuinely interested in the subject.

A few points jumped out at me:

1. What on Earth were these Majors thinking?

2. The staff officers of a BN will not get a "pass" as it relates to their awesome responsibility to do their jobs diligently and as if they themselves are out in that remote FOB. It is a tremendous responsibility, but the staff must feel their contributions will be accompanied with accountability.

3. I cannot help but wonder where the NCO Corps fits into both of these reports. Do we not have staff NCO's as well as a CO 1SG and a BN CSM in both of these scenarios? As a former NCO I am keenly aware of the changes within the NCO corps as of late and my opinion is that they are not all good; the one thing which frustrates me is the increasing frequency with which we are moving Garrison events / functions / titles forward into our combat zones. I believe this trend must be reversed. Let's save the Audie Murphy board, soldier of the quarter, etc . . . for our garrison Army - focus on the primary warfighting and advising tasks we are performing in both locations and get NCOs back into the line and leading soldiers.

Lastly, I appreciate you not attributing my contributions to me. Working
with my current chain of command has proved to be interesting and I
am surprised how "soft skinned" a few of them have proven to be. I am more than comfortable with contributing to the group without any spotlight on myself. I believe the stuff you post on the blog is fantastic and it is contributing to a better understanding of what we do as warriors. Thanks again for your efforts. I continue to share the site with any friend I believe worthy.

See you in the woodline . . . . . T.E.


McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - The absence of experienced senior leaders and inadequate action by officers in a tactical operations center, including a failure to provide effective artillery and air support, contributed to the deaths of five U.S. troops and nine Afghans in a Sept. 8 battle, an official investigation has found.

Three unidentified officers from the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., received official reprimands following the inquiry into the clash, which erupted after Afghan security forces and U.S. Army and Marine trainers were ambushed in the Ganjgal Valley, near the border with Pakistan in northeastern Kunar province.

"This event highlights the enduring importance of the inherent duties and responsibilities of command," said the executive summary of the investigation, which was obtained by McClatchy. "While authorities may be delegated, responsibility cannot."

The Army and Marine colonels who conducted the inquiry praised the "extreme heroism" of several U.S. troops, saying their actions "stand out as extraordinary examples worthy of the highest recognition."

The names of the colonels and the troops were redacted from the summary, which hasn't been released publicly.

A McClatchy correspondent was embedded with the U.S. trainers for the operation, which was launched after elders in the village of Ganjgal publicly disavowed the Taliban and agreed to accept the authority of local Afghan officials.

Some 90 Afghan troops and border police were to search the village, and then hold a meeting with the elders. About a dozen U.S. trainers accompanied them.

The contingent was ambushed as it moved up the valley just after dawn, pinned down by a withering storm of fire from insurgents in the village and the surrounding mountainsides armed with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, recoilless rifles and machine guns.

Eight Afghan troops and an Afghan translator also were killed. Two U.S. Marines and 19 Afghan troops and border police were wounded.

The investigation found that numerous oversights contributed to the deaths of the U.S. and Afghan forces. Most involved 10th Mountain Division officers assigned to Forward Operating Base Joyce, the U.S. outpost that had tactical control of the operation.

The base commander was on leave, his deputy was deployed elsewhere and the response to the ambush by the officers who manned the tactical operations center in their absence was "inadequate and ineffective, contributing directly to the loss of life," the report said.

Two majors, the senior officers there, "were not continually present" in the operations center. They left a captain who'd been on the overnight shift in charge of the center for more than four hours after the fighting began.

The officers' names were redacted from the report that McClatchy obtained.

"The absence of senior leaders in the operations center with troops in contact ... and their consequent lack of situational awareness and decisive action was a key failure," it said.

Another major factor, it said, was the operations center officers' failure to provide "effective" artillery fire on the insurgents, despite repeated requests from the battlefield.

The acting commander and "all commissioned staff officers" failed to "monitor a rapidly degenerating tactical situation," the report said. That mistake "prevented timely supporting fires in the critical early phases of the operation and ensured that higher headquarters did not grasp the tactical situation."

Only four artillery salvoes were fired in the first hour of the operation; three were ineffective and no more salvoes were authorized from 6:39 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., the report said.

One of the majors told the investigators that he denied further requests for fire support "for various reasons including: lack of situational awareness of locations of friendly elements; proximity to the village; garbled communications; or inaccurate or incomplete calls for fire."

The inquiry, however, found that too many calls over a radio network "may account for some confusion in the conduct of fires, but in our judgment is not an adequate explanation for the complete lack of fires from 0639 until 1615."

The report found that the failure to provide adequate artillery support wasn't due to a tactical directive issued by Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal that was designed to avert civilian casualties, as officers involved in the battle had believed.

"A second key failure was the lack of timely air support," the report said.

An unidentified officer denied requests from the battlefield to send a helicopter gunship that was minutes away because the requests weren't sent through his brigade headquarters and the aircraft was assigned to another operation, the report said.

The "probability is high" that Marine 1st Lt. Michael E. Johnson of Virginia Beach, Va.; Marine Gunnery Sgt. Edwin W. Johnson of Columbus, Ga.; Marine Staff Sgt. Aaron M. Kenefick of Roswell, Ga., and Navy Petty Officer James R. Layton of Riverbank, Calif., were killed during the more than an hour that it took for air support to be properly authorized and arrive on the scene, the report said.

Army Sgt. Kenneth W. Westbrook of Colorado Springs, Colo., was wounded at the same time and died in October at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"This decision, while technically correct on procedural grounds, was devastating in its consequences," the report said. "The correct tactical decision was clearly to divert (the helicopter). It was at this point in the fight that experienced, decisive senior leadership was most lacking."

A "third key failure" was a decision by the two majors not to send a relief force into the valley, said the report.


  1. Perhaps more aptly a fundamentally sophomoric mistake made by an officer corps replete with members who are ignorant of history and intrinsically hamstrung by micromanaging REMFs who can be absent from TOCs yet don't have enough balls to empower their juniors with necessary tactical authority and the will to back up the decisions that they make with that authority.

    Oh, but Wednesday is prime rib at the DFAC...

    God help us

    Where are the warriors?


  2. Does anyone field grade and up know what the fuck a war is, or care?

  3. How about some UCMJ for these guys? If PFC Smith screws the pooch, he gets hammered. If MAJ Smith screws up, he gets a bad OER. That ain't gonna cut it.

    And what the hell happened to "When in charge, take charge"? Haven' these so-called "officers" ever heard of "it's better to ask forgiveness than beg permission?"