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?