After two business trips to Iraq, as a correspondent for the Marine Corps, in April 2012, I went to Afghanistan, but already as a civil war correspondent. The next история talks about an improvised combat exit, during which one Marine was injured and more than 20 Taliban killed.
I arrived at the height of the events, immediately after the attack on the headquarters of the Afghan police. About this attack in the camp said so:
"Police chief Wali Kok is now officially cooler than Chuck Norris."
This was said after the Marines learned that the Musakelah District Police Chief would survive a gangster attack. During the attack, he was holed from top to bottom and lost one eye.
A few days earlier, in broad daylight, men in police uniform on three motorcycles drove up and parked in front of the district police headquarters. The men dismounted, turned to the guards and opened fire on them, killing them instantly.
The attackers, without losing time, stepped over the dead bodies, entered the door and went straight to the office of the chief.
“They were well oriented in the building, everything was explored in advance, that's for sure,” said Captain Ben Middindorf, commander of the 2 battalion of the 5 battalion of the marines. “And they had a police uniform on, everything except the shoes. I had sneakers on my feet, not boots.”
The first attacker broke into Kok's office and fired a line from his AK, hitting a police officer several times. Koka fell to the floor, took out a pistol, and began to shoot back, the shooting went point blank. The first attacker fell, and when the second attacker was wounded in the doorway, he blew up his shahid belt.
As a result of the explosion, they were blown to pieces, and three metal balls, which were filled with a belt, hit the policeman in the eye.
"This guy was a key figure for maintaining stability in the district, and we understood that in his absence, we had to do something to regain control," said Midindorf.
The idea was to take a company of marines, about 200 people, secretly move forward at night to a meeting point, rest there, and then move in the direction of a key supply hub deep in the territory tightly controlled by the Taliban. This hub, the operational base for enemy actions in the area, was a small village called Levar-jel-Jay.
This is what the marines call "A company in contact [with the enemy]."
“Forgive my French, but I couldn’t believe it; and when I finally gave the order, I said - get ready for a frontal attack on Levar-Gel-Jay. ”
(Author's note: At the request of their fellow Marine Corps, this is the story for Colton Carlson, a young American who was male enough to put on hemostasis before himself, before the powder smoke cleared. It's you, Colton!)
In the near post. When planning and preparation have been completed, the marines eat, smoke, joke, and slumber putting cards under them.
The security is on display, the rest of the marines are resting. One fight is over for today, another will start later. Accurately by the hour, when the sun starts to lean towards the horizon ...
Crac! Crac! The sound of shots from the Dragunov sniper rifle, it shoots an Afghan soldier. Suddenly, they open fire on us from almost all directions.
Marines throw their combat "rattles" onto the roof and climb there themselves.
Coordinating shooting with the Afghan military, the marines fire in three different directions. Shooting takes place at a certain rhythm and pace, some marines call it "singing."
Three or four machine-gun positions, one or two machine guns shoot, the rest rest. And so, in turn, then everything repeats. Shooting becomes like a song.
In the end, the shooting subsides, but the marines are waiting until late at night. In 3: 00 am, we move to a different position.
Early in the morning, under cover of night, the company advances to another position. To the east of us, behind this ridge, is the village of Levar-Jel-Jay, where the Taliban is the master.
During the day it is hot to 120 degrees (Fahrenheit, it's around 500 C), but the nights are cold, up to about 40 degrees (about 40 C). Marines in sweat-soaked clothes after an 7-kilometer-long night patrol crawl into sleeping bags, trying to hide from the cold and all sorts of creatures.
Someone just fell asleep where he sat down, putting on all that was clothing. Someone angry and sleepy gets up and lights up, then there may not be time for a cigarette.
Knowing that in front of a hot and long day, the marines are trying to get rid of all that is possible. Anything that is not absolutely necessary will travel in the back of the car.
"First Strike Rations" (suhpay) contain the entire daily ration, as well as a bag of gum "Stay Alert", each plate is equal to one cup of coffee. That morning I decided to eat the whole package, six plates, and by the time we arrived in Levar-jel-Jay, my tongue was swollen to the size of a big yellow sponge for washing the floor.
Walking along the ridge ridge in the morning, we encountered a herd of livestock. This is not a zoo: marines are not recommended to come into contact with any animals in order to avoid insect bites and infection by bacteria.
Marines are following each other, this is done in order to avoid a rush on a homemade mine. I carefully repeat the steps of the Marine in front of me.
We go to the village, units move in a staggered manner. Everyone needs to know where other units are on the battlefield. In the distance, sporadic shooting is already heard.
Senior Sergeant Justin Rittenberger scans a small group of buildings to our left. The unit to our right came under fire and we are moving to a position where we can support them with machine gun fire.
The 240B 7,62 machine gun is powerful enough to flash Humvee armor. Corporal Cedric Hay indicates to Corporal Kyle Lamayra targets in the location of the enemy fortifications.
When Corporal Lamair opens fire on buildings on the left side of the compound, the Marines begin to move to the right ...
... fix the C4 mine on the wall, set a timer and go around the corner of the building.
Marines make their passages inward. Going through an existing gate or door is a sure way to run into a homemade mine.
The smoke had not yet been dispersed, and the marines were already inside. They use blast and smoke to confuse the enemy.
Having cleared the compound from the enemy, we continued our movement towards Levar-Jelle-Jay, indiscriminate fire was firing at us all along the way.
Poppy field. Incredibly beautiful flowers, from which they get a poisonous "paste", as they call it. But beauty is the last thing I think about now. Rittenberger points to the place where possible homemade mine.
This is me jumping over the place indicated by Rittenberger, whatever it is. Pay attention to the armored personnel carrier on the crest of the ridge, this other unit has come to support our left flank, as we head straight into the narrow passage between us and two hundred Taliban behind the hill.
"Have you ever been in real combat?" shouts Rhett. "Probably, not in the way you called this" I pay the same coin twice to the gentleman of the Purple Heart.
We line up on top of a hill and start shooting down the village. When the bullets begin to fly, we see that the last groups of villagers are fleeing from the battlefield.
Marines determine the position of enemy shooters. Directly in front of us, groups of enemy fighters occupy positions that are located at a distance from 300 to 1000 meters from us. The Taliban are firing from afar, but their “spotters” are much closer to us, they send fire to their comrades by radio.
"This guy in blue ManJams, shoot, shoot, kill him!" ('Manjams' refers to clothes from a single piece of cloth, like most Afghans living in rural areas wear). The Talib tried to escape, but the blue color is clearly visible in the local landscape and Lamayr put it down.
After a few seconds or minutes, I heard the sound of a flick, a few feet from me, and 2-th Lt. Mike Rhodes, the guy lying near me, turns and says: "I'm injured. I'm injured." The guys began to act instantly to pull Mike from the line of fire.
Surprisingly, Rhodes can still move. Later he told me: “It seemed to me that I received a blow with a sledgehammer.”
Now this is just hell. The bullets fly around us, I hear them whistling over my head and slam into the ground in front of me. I must admit, I am lying on my back and pressing into the ground as much as possible.