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Old 12-17-2008, 10:39 AM   #1
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Outnumbered and Outgunned....US Marines

‘We drove them from the battlefield’
Marines overcome 8-to-1 odds during an 8-hour battle


By Dan Lamothe
[email protected]
The platoon was in a remote area of southwestern Afghanistan when it happened — the kind of massive ambush and firefight that is the stuff of Marine legend.
Patrolling the town of Shewan in Farah province, the troops from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, were attacked by a small group of in­surgents that eventually swelled to more than 250 fighters. They had enough rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun am­munition to wage an eight-hour battle against a well-trained, well­equipped Marine force.
And in the end, the results were devastating — for the insurgents.
More than 50 enemy fighters were killed in the battle, and sev­eral more wounded, Marine offi­cials said. A single Marine corpo­ral, serving as the unit’s designat­ed marksman, killed 20 insur­gents by himself, using only 20 shots to do it.
The estimated 30 Marines in­volved, on the other hand, rolled away relatively unscathed. No Marines were killed and only one was wounded in the battle, the pla­toon commander said.
“We didn’t win the fight because of our supe­rior firepower,” he said, speaking through e-mail on condition of anonymity. “We were severely outnumbered and outgunned. From [the] first counter-ambush assault, we gained the momentum and main­tained it until the enemy finally fled from the battlefield eight hours later.” As 2/7’s deployment comes to an end this month, many details about the Aug. 8 battle at Shewan and the heroism displayed there remain shrouded in secrecy.
The Marines involved in the battle have asked for privacy and the Corps has agreed. Several have been nominated for combat awards, but Marine officials will not disclose who those Marines are, which platoon or company they were with, or what awards they might receive.
For now, they are simply an unidentified band of brothers. And while it’s clear they were out­manned, whether they were out­gunned is a matter open for debate.
‘Trapped in the kill zone’
Shewan is a village that sits in Farah province along Highway 517, south of the center of Bala Buluk, home to more than 100,000 Afghans. Like many loca­tions in southwestern Afghani­stan, it was an insurgent strong­hold when 2/7 arrived in the spring, and the site of several bat­tles that lasted anywhere from three to 36 hours, the platoon commander said.
The Marines targeted Shewan for patrols because it was a known home to insurgents and near a supply route through Bala Buluk that needed to be secured, Marine officials said. Opening the route would make life easier in Farah for the Marines who were there.
What the Marines did not real­ize on Aug. 8 was that insurgent leaders were holding a meeting in a Shewan compound. By pa­trolling the area, the platoon was interrupting and trapping the in­surgents inside, Marine officials said.
The platoon patrolled Shewan, in vehicles and on foot, for about 90 minutes before it was attacked, the platoon commander said. The ambush began with a rocket-pro­pelled grenade streaking over the top of a Humvee outside the town’s center, drawing attention to a three-man team of insurgents about 150 meters away.
“My platoon sergeant killed the RPG gunner and another one of my Marines killed the second RPG gunner before he could fire his weapon,” the platoon comman­der said. “We start[ed] taking fire from various compounds, but we kept pushing into the village.” About an hour later, the Marines were ambushed again, this time by five to 10 insurgents hiding in a shallow irrigation ditch, the pla­toon commander said. The Ma­rines fired back, but began taking heavy fire from a trench line to the north.
“Two of my trucks were ambushed from another position ... with heavy machine gun and RPG fire,” the platoon commander said. “One of the vehicles took a volley of RPGs to the hood. The crew dismounted from the vehicle and immediately started taking accurate machine gun fire from the trench line.” With the targeted Humvee on fire and two Marines trapped in­side, a machine gunner turned his squad automatic weapon on the insurgents, suppressing the enemy while leaving himself ex­posed to incoming fire, the platoon commander said. Three other Marines got out of the platoon commander ’s vehicle and added to the suppressive fire, allowing the officer to push his truck in front of the downed vehicle and provide cover for the trapped Marines.
“My gunner was taking a lot of fire to his gunner ’s shield, but he stayed up on the gun and contin­ued to effectively suppress the enemy,” the platoon commander said. “The SAW gunner took charge of his team, pulled his ve­hicle commander out of the burn­ing vehicle and exposed himself to enemy fire … so that his Marines could get behind some cover.” Things got worse, though. The enemy fighters opened up on the platoon commander ’s Humvee with an intense second wave of fire from a nearby tree line, prompting an intense, 20­minute firefight as the platoon battled to re­cover Marines in the disabled vehicle.
“The enemy fired over 40 RPGs from the tree line but were unable to effective­ly engage the Marines trapped in the kill zone because of the high amount of accurate fire being directed at them,” the platoon commander said. “The SAW gunner continued to sup­press the enemy while the gunner on my vehicle systematically shifted his fire from fighting posi­tion to fighting position.”
20 shots, 20 kills
With the insurgents sending for reinforcements and “replac­ing fighters as quickly as we were killing them,” a designated marksman — identified only as a corporal — took action, platoon commander said.
Positioned on a nearby berm, the corporal began firing at the in­coming insurgents, ringing up kill after kill while leaving himself ex­posed to small arms and machine gun fire landing as little as a foot away, the platoon commander said.
By the time the shooting stopped, the Marine had notched 20 kills on 20 shots, the platoon commander said.
“I was in my own little world,” the corporal said, in an account of the battle released by the Corps. “I wasn’t even aware of a lot of the rounds impacting near my posi­tion, because I was concentrating so hard on making sure my rounds were on target.” After 20 minutes of fighting, the platoon was able to hold back the insurgents long enough to get a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle into the kill zone to recover the trapped Marines, the platoon commander said.
“The vehicle commander from the downed vehicle was incoher­ent,” he said. “The gunner wasn’t in much better shape. We drove out of range of the enemy’s fire, took 10 or so minutes to redistrib­ute ammunition, then came up with a game plan.” The Marines called for close-air support. Then they launched an assault on the trenches where the ambush began, eventually cross­ing over a road to complete the assault.
“As soon as we started to make our way over we took heavy ma­chine gun fire from a compound to the north,” the platoon comman­der said. “We took another 60 or so RPGs, some rockets and mor­tars. We turned the direction of our attack and fought our way to the eastern flank of the com­pound. It wasn’t as far to the com­pound from that direction, but as we attempted an assault we start­ed taking more fire from another compound. The enemy had estab­lished a defense with mutually supporting positions.” Faced with fire coming from both compounds, the Marines pulled away, deciding it would be too difficult to engage the insur­gents directly.
“We could see vehicles arriving from the distance with dozens of enemy reinforcements who could be seen swarming through the fields and trenches to protect their stronghold,” the platoon commander said. “We engaged these fighters, but while we sig­nificantly reduced the number of enemies on the battlefield, there was no lull in the fire from the enemy compounds.” Unwilling to give up, the same team leader and SAW gunner who provided suppressive fire for the disabled Humvee crawled under fire until they were 30 me­ters away from one enemy com­pound, so they could log its exact location. They crawled back be­hind cover 75 meters away, called in air strikes, then watched it get lit up, the platoon commander said.
“At this point, we saw that the enemy was starting to pull back their forces,” he said. “We drove them off the battlefield.”
The aftermath
The Marines involved that day took out “a good number of mid­level leaders, thereby crippling their operations in the Shewan area,” said Lt. Col Richard Hall, 2/7 commander, in an e-mail. So bloodied were the enemy fighters that one of the remaining insur­gent leaders tried to swap sides and support coalition forces after the fight, Hall said.
Farah province remains unsta­ble, however, so Marine officials expect the insurgency will recover. “Until we achieve area stabiliza­tion and get the people to take ownership of their own future, which I am confident they will at some point, the enemy will simply backfill their losses and continue their murder and intimidation campaign,” Hall said. Ë
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Old 12-17-2008, 01:53 PM   #2
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Old 12-19-2008, 03:10 PM   #3
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