More comments from grunts in the infamous Ganjgal ambush

Cpl. Dakota Meyer, third from right, charged into a kill zone to save his buddies in Ganjgal, Afghanistan, including (from left to right) Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 1st Lt. Michael Johnson and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton. Meyer found all three of them dead, along with Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson and an Afghan soldier. (Photo courtesy Brent Layton)

Cpl. Dakota Meyer, third from right, charged into a kill zone on foot to save his buddies in Ganjgal, Afghanistan, including (from left to right) Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 1st Lt. Michael Johnson and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton. Meyer found all three of them dead, along with Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson and an Afghan soldier. (Photo courtesy Brent Layton)

Today, Marine Corps Times published online my story outlining the heroism of Cpl. Dakota Meyer, a rifleman and scout sniper who found himself in the middle of horrific ambush in eastern Afghanistan last year that ultimately claimed the life of five U.S. troops.

To get that story, I relied heavily on more than 300 pages of sworn witness statements and other documents compiled by Combined Joint Task Force 82, which conducted the investigation in Afghanistan in the days following the Sept. 8, 2009, attack in Ganjgal, a remote village in Kunar province. Even though the documents were already redacted when I received them from an outside source, the military has repeatedly declined to release them despite a Freedom of Information Act request that has been pending for months.

The statements of Meyer and a few other troops made it into the story, but given the gravity of the situation, it seemed relevant to share additional comments from some of the other troops who survived here. All names were redacted from the documents I obtained. The statements here are published with acronyms spelled out in brackets on first reference for our civilian readers. I’ve left spelling and punctuation as it was in the reports.

From an Army sergeant sniper with 10th Mountain Division who watched the ambush from an observation position above the valley:

… Multiple requests for air [support]were made and it kept getting pushed back. We were told multiple times through an hour that air will be there in [redacted]min. Fire missions were repeatedly called up by ground troops and ourselves and many were denied… Repeatedly assets were requested for support but no asset urgency was shown.

From an Army staff sergeant scout squad leader with 10th Mountain Division, on how officers back at the tactical operations center responded to repeated requests for support from artillery, helicopters or a ground quick reaction force:

They ask for indirect [fire]and in return get 20 questions. The people in the TOC need to let the [redacted]do his thing and trust what he is asking for. Also when [redacted]asked for help to retrieve bodies nobody helped. They called [redacted]. Why should you have to call [redacted]in a situation like that. It should be just go. There was U.S. out there. It doesn’t matter if its [redacted]or Marine. … Also, they wanted a plan of action to find the missing Marines. Well, they were looking for them. That’s all you can do. All in all just butt out and the information will get passed up when it does. So many times [redacted]asked crazy questions. The fight was long and heavy and I assure anyone, he was doing everything he could. My feeling is that the Marines and [redacted], [Afghan National Army], [Afghan Border Police] were left out to dry. It’s a horrible feeling but that’s how I feel about it. QRF? Air? Nothing but endless questions.

From an intelligence officer with the Marine training team, on the carnage he saw:

I don’t think [personal protective equipment]really matter around there because everybody was getting shot. It had to be at least an hour since they were missing, since we lost them on the radio… Everything was soaked, my book was soaked in blood. Like my notepad that I was writing stuff on everything would fallout of my pockets. I had magazines in my cargo pocket, like empty magazines. I had to grab magazines from the [major]so I could get more ammo.

Compare the details in those remarks to the five-page summary report released in February by the International Security Assistance Force on behalf of Combined Joint Task Force 82 in February. A bit sanitized, perhaps?


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. Negligence beyond measure. This story really hit home when I saw these Marines were from my old unit (3/3). Whoever withheld the requested support and played 20 questions on comm needs to go before a courtmartial and spend some time in the Brig. Letters of reprimand are absolutely ridiculous, and I sure hope this didnt stem from Army/Marine branch rivaly. When everybody is in the same fight, that crap needs to go out of the window.

  2. What kind of idiot plays 20 questions on comm when reveiving requests for fire support?? Someone has blood on their hands, and needs to be striped of everything and tossed away. Whoever it is, they are a disgrace to the uniform. God bless them, and thank God for Marines like Cpl. Meyer.

  3. 1/3bravorct6oef6 on

    when we were in afghan in 2006 january we hit two ieds small arms and we were told to stay off line cause army 10 mount div was in trouble i say army has favor over marine but its ok we do more work than them with smaller units and fewer men semper those guys should spend time in the brig you dont play goes in country you just dont

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  5. I was with these men in the days before and after. I have been an NCO in the Army and the Corps. This was just a bad situation, no service preference was involved here. Anyone who thinks different has never been under fire. Period. I was personally involved, and if you think the Army didn,t help because they were Marines, then you are a jackass.

  6. You need to be there before you start spouting off, I have served with 1/6 and 2/4 and 3/8 and 48th Infantry and what happened that day sucks. It is what it is, and if you don,t know, then just leave it alone.

  7. That is bullshit. It sounds like several people need to be up on General Courtmarshal charges for negligence of duty. I am pissed that these Marines couldnt get the help they needed. This would have never happened a few years ago. I am going to call both of my Senators. I want someone ass hanging from a yardarm

  8. I’m slightly familiar with that situation. It wasn’t an Army/usmc thing…that distracts from the real problem. It was a US/Afghan Army disconnect. Most of the US Army Bn’s out there were more interested in killing bad guys than partnering with their Afghan Army counterparts. We tried to help break that paradigm to little effect. And who is caught in the middle…the US military/NATO Afghan Army trainers.

  9. This whole thing is BS. My brother in law was left alone, outnumbered and outgunned. to have to hear these accounts is troubling. if this was deliberate, like many reports have mentioned,like “the marine who knew too much” heads need to roll…. F that.
    RIP Gunny Kenefick

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