Photo Caption: Chinook helicopter above Combat Outpost Keating, Nuristan, Afghanistan Original caption: " A Chinook helicopter lands at Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan, in this March 2007, file photo. A military investigation of a Taliban attack last fall on the remote U.S. army outpost that left eight American soldiers dead and 22 wounded has resulted in administrative punishments for two commanders blamed for "inadequate measures taken by the chain of command." (Sgt. Amber Robinson/U.S. Army)
BATTLE OF KAMDESH
On the morning of October 3rd, 2009, approximately 50 soldiers from Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron 61st Cavalry Regiment woke up in good health and in good spirits on a small combat outpost near Kamdesh, Afghanistan. By the time the sun would set on those same men, 8 will have had been killed in action and nearly two-thirds of the total force would be wounded. Yet, the Americans would still be in possession of the ground over 300 Taliban desperately tried to take from them. The Battle of Kamdesh took place in an obscure Afghan river valley but would earn a gallant seat in the halls of military history. At its close the small contingent of men would have earned 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals with a “V”, 3 Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars with a “V”, 9 Silver Stars, and two men would walk away from this battle the nation’s newest living recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Taking the Fight to the Enemy
In late 2006 with the Coalition Forces continuing to face stiff resistance from an insurgent Taliban a decision was made to take the fight directly to the heart of the enemy. It was determined that the ideal point on the map to interdict insurgent weapons and supplies pouring in through Pakistan would be a small river valley near Kamdesh. This was the point where several valleys converged and where the hammer brought to this pinpoint on the map success would be possible. The maps, however, were not telling the full story.
The only viable location at this point on the map for a combat outpost would be surrounded by sheer razor sharp cliffs shooting into the sky on three sides. With a fast moving river following the remaining side to say that COP Keating was isolated is an understatement. The sheer cliffs provided ample opportunity for insurgents to fire at descending rotary wing craft into COP Keating. The situation had become so grim that resupply flights were eventually limited to moonless nights so as to provide some concealment.
There was no functional system of roads of which to speak making resupply by ground even more treacherous. COP Keating would take its name from First Lieutenant Ben Keating who was killed when the road collapsed under him during such a supply convoy. Isolated, nearly impossible to resupply and under frequent attack the decision to abandon COP Keating was made in late 2008. Yet for the men of Bravo Troop they still had a job to do until the last boot left the ground. On October 3rd, 2009 they would with inexplicable gallantry indeed do their job.
Holding the Line
On the morning of October 3rd, approximately 50 US Soldiers from Bravo Troop, 20 Afghan National Army Soldiers and 2 Latvian military advisors began what they thought would be an average day at COP Keating. Perhaps take a little fire, maybe a patrol but all in all a normal day’s affair. It was only at 6:00 am as over 300 Taliban insurgents opened up in a storm of small arms fire, RPGs, recoilless rifles and mortars down on COP Keating that they realized today would be far from normal.
Almost as quickly as the attack began, the 20 ANA soldiers broke ranks and left the scene only stopping to take the time to steal what they could from the American Soldiers. Despite the pleas of the Latvian military advisors the ANA didn’t last the first few minutes of the ferocious fight. Just 48 minutes into the fight the Taliban had breached the defensive perimeter of the American Combat Outpost. Multiple buildings were on fire and the enemy was inside the wire, but these Americans would refuse to go quietly into the night.
Under the intense fire, the Soldiers fell back to a tight internal perimeter supported by the vehicles with heavier mounted weapons. Keeping these guns in the fight would be essential prompting then Specialist Ty Carter to brave multiple trips across 100 meters of fire swept ground to bring ammunition and gun oil. On another occasion he braved the enemy to retrieve unused weapons back to the position. Unfortunately, the Taliban had zeroed in on these positions and began to pound the vehicles with multiple RPG strikes. Despite being wounded early in the battle; Carter would again brave the swarm of enemy fire to retrieve a wounded comrade. For his actions that day, Ty Carter would receive the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor. However, before the day would end he would not be alone.
Gallantry was Common, Gallantry was Required
During the same battle, Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha was fearlessly organizing the defense. Moving about confidently through the enemy fire, the assessed the situation and began organize the weathered men into action. At one point taking out an entire enemy machine gun team himself, he was severely wounded when an RPG struck the generator he was using for cover. Despite his wounds he continued the defense and when the time was right he took the men back on the offensive to reclaim their position. When it became clear there were fallen soldiers whose bodies were at risk of being claimed by the Taliban he led men across 100 meters of fire swept terrain to protect the fallen. For his actions that day, Clinton Romesha would also receive the Medal of Honor.
While coalition aircraft buzzed overhead providing what assistance they could the terrain made landing reinforcements impossible. COP Keating was supported by an over watch at COP Fritze higher up the mountain. However, they too were under attack and efforts to dispatch a (QRF)Quick Reaction Force were met with enemy ambush. Consequently, during the battle that began at 06:00 am that morning it would well past 19:00 before friendly boots would arrive at COP Keating. The QRF arrived to find that men of Bravo Troop had already succeeded in taking back most of the base alone. The Taliban retreated with their dead numbering well over 150.
The decision to delay the closing of COP Keating would prove costly as 8 Americans lost their lives. Two days later the chapter on COP Keating would be closed as the Americans abandoned the position they fought so hard to retain. It was later bombed by aircraft to prevent any left behind munitions from entering the Taliban’s hands. So it would go down in the halls of military history that 50 gallant men stood in the gap at Kamdesh and fought for one another. For Valor and Gallantry - 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals with a “V”, 3 Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars with a “V”, 9 Silver Stars, 2 Medals of Honor and the eternal respect of every American to ever don the uniform, and the Citizens of this great country. Grounds of Valor salutes the men of COP Keating for setting the standard for the term Valor itself.
Grounds of Valor/First Run Battle Story