In September of 2009, several hundred Taliban ambushed a company of Afghan soldiers and their Marine advisors. The enemy had the company pinned down, with only one exposed road leading in and out of the village. Twenty-one-year-old Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer disobeyed his commanding officer...
SGT Kenneth Westbrook: Staff NCO under CPT Swenson and part of the Command Group. SGT Westbrook died during the Ganjigal battle.
Mike Meyer: Step dad to Cpl. Dakota Meyer. Briefly married to his mother. Major good influence on Cpl. Meyer. "I learned early on that just because you come from the same blood as someone doesn't mean they are family. Big Mike Meyer was my real dad as far as I was concerned."
CPT William Swenson: "He was the quiet, long-haired Border Police advisor I knew only by reputation...Swenson was on his third combat tour and had held over a hundred key leader engagements with mountain clans. He popped up in the strangest places...I was glad to see Swenson at the briefing. He was known for calling in artillery fire on the dot. Adjusting artillery in the mountains wasn't easy."
COL Daniel Yoo: Senior Marine advisor. Cpl. Meyer later prevailed on COL Yoo on CPT Swenson's behalf re: not receiving the MOH he was put in for through Army channels.
Lt Mike Johnson: Summer 2009, Cpl. Dakota Meyer's team leader along the Afghan-Pakistan border. "Lt. Johnson was a Virginian by birth...He was in tremendous shape and at sunset, would muster us out for a hundred push-ups, two hundred sit-ups, and ten laps around the perimeter."
SSG Jared Monti: Combat Outpost Monti named after him. Army SSG who, "..pretty much did a suicide run to get to a wounded private who was stuck in the kill zone. Monti kept getting pushed back, but then he would make another go. On his third try he got hit and didn't make it. But he called in the helicopters before he made his run. Four guys were killed. Monti got the Medal of Honor. That's why they named the place after him." "For the record, Jared Monti, Brian Bradbury, Patrick Lybert, and Heathe Craig were the brave guys who didn't come back from that one."
SSG Aaron Kenefick: Team NCO at age thirty. "I had sized him up as your typical platoon sergeant, serious, squared-away, and by-the-book. A true New Yorker, he loved his Yankees..." "...a personnel specialist with eight years' expertise in administration, so his job was to bring some order to the Afghan personnel procedures and pay records." SSG Kenefick died during the battle of Ganjigal.
Hospital Man 3rd Class James Layton: Team "Doc". Twenty-two-year-old 'boot' (on his first tour). "He kept his medical supplies in meticulous order, according to him anyway, and his mouth shut when he was around Marine veterans. Inside our little team, though, he was laid-back and droll, a classic California surfer dude."
Justin Hardin: Friend of Cpl. Meyer's in high school killed in a car crash, "..about three hours after we made our plans over the phone. His car slipped off a rain-slick road and hit a tree."
Gunny SGT Hector Soto-Rodriguez: Winter 2008, had watched Meyer after returning from deployment to Iraq. "Knock off the drinking, Meyer...you're a sniper, not a screw-off. It's time for you to step up and be a leader....he put me in charge of a team and challenged me to build us into a top-notch fighting unit. I had a job to do that mercifully took up all my time....Gunny Soto-Rodriguez sent me to the marksmanship coach course."
Hafez: Afghan lead interpreter..."and we quickly learned, our best warning system. A thirty-seven-year-old sergeant major retired from the Afghan Army, Hafez had served in Kunar for three years with advisor teams."
“The battle of Ganjigal resulted in the largest loss of American advisors, the highest number of distinguished awards for valor, and the most controversial investigations for dereliction of duty in the entire Afghanistan war. This is the story of a man who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in that battle.”
“The soldiers from Dog Company explained that the enemy was a collection of insurgent groups with different names, grievances, and ambitions. They were Taliban with a small 't.' Some were allied with Al Qaeda terrorists; others were warlords and smugglers. Some were die-hard Islamist mujahideen or holy warriors, dedicated to killing infidels; others were illiterate teenagers drawn by adventure and male bonding.”
“So what are you planning to do? he concluded, signaling he had given me enough of his time. "I don't know. Probably go to school. Play some college ball..."Yes, you do that, he said, because you'd never make it as a Marine. I knew he was baiting me." (Recruiter to a 17 year old Dakota Meyer)”
“We don't judge each other based on the number of kills, Staff Sgt. Skinta, my instructor, told me. "How many enemy you shoot depends on luck--on whether you're assigned to a hot or a cold battlefield. The most respected snipers are those who plan the most thorough mission." "Thirty-one of us began the eleven-week course; thirteen graduated....I took no pleasure in washing out most of the class, Skinta said. I can teach anybody to shoot. I can't teach personal discipline. The test of a sniper is his ability to convince a commander that every step in a mission has been thought through. A sniper is all about maturity."”
“After nineteen months in the Corps, I was beginning to put it together. I knew that having a combat action ribbon wasn't what made a good Marine. Instead, it was confidence based on good planning and execution, doing what was right time after time. I had learned from those who did it right, the Bradys, Kreitzers, and Skintas.”
“The Afghans have a saying: you can rent an Afghan but you can never guy one. Meaning they are going to support whoever gives them the most 'rent,' or money. That was apparent to us within the first week.”
“As a grunt, I was resigned about death. I don't go to church. To me, organized religions seem like bureaucracies. But I believed in God. Grunts see His acts on the battlefield. Guys beside you get shot or blown up. You don't. God has a plan that we won't understand until we cross to the other side. There's no sense obsessing about getting tagged. Either a bullet has your name on it or it doesn't. No need for philosophizing.”
“Before joining the Corps, I'd had three concussions, mononucleosis, and an operation on my right knee. When I mustered out four years later, Id added two operations on my right hand, a right rotator cuff operation, a fourth concussion from an RPG, a dislocated shoulder, and two herniated discs from clumsily lifting the dead and wounded. One vertebra had given way in Ganjigal when I picked up an Askar and slipped in the bloody mud under him. I have no idea when the second vertebra went out during the battle. I had that nick in my arm from a bullet or shrapnel, but that hadn't been anything. I was in decent shape for construction work, I figured.”
Ganjigal: One of the deadliest small-arms battles of the Afghanistan war. Five advisors were lost. In addition to Team Monti, Army SFC Westbrook died of his wounds. Eight Askars were killed and thirteen seriously wounded by rifle, machine-gun, and RPG fire. Enemy losses to small arms were probably of a similar number. There were no IEDs, no bombs, and very few artillery shells. Bullets caused most of the casualties.
Lt. Mike Johnson, our team leader, leaned his head way back next to my knees and shouted up the turret hole to me: 'We're gonna love it here! Look at those mountains, Meyer! Heavy stuff! Let's go hiking!"
Introduction: Along the Afghan-Pakistan Border 1. Finish the Game 2. The Marine Years 3. Monti 4. Advising 5. Coming Together 6. Out of the Smoke 7. Ganjigal 8. Into the Valley 9. Paralysis 10. Lost 11. Into the Fire 12. Into the Wash 13. Primal 14. Team Monti 15. Dab Khar 16. Cheerleaders 17. Old Haunts 18. All In Postscript: Swenson Epilogue by Bing West Acknowledgements Appendix 1: Ganjigal Timeline Appendix 2: Medal of Honor Citation for Cpl. Dakota L. Meyer, USMC
Hescos: Square burlap bags as tall and wide as a man, held together by a wire frame and filled with a ton of dirt: inexpensive shields against bullets, RPG rounds, and truck bombers. At the gates and corners of (Combat Outpost) Monti, two- and three-story concrete towers provided protection and some observation for the sentries.
MOS: Military Occupational Specialty. Cpl. Dakota Meyer is 0317--sniper.
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