Having taken over northern Helmand from the British in September 2010, Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, began aggressive clearing operations by October.
|Sangin Valley Green Zone (Source: http://www.talkingproud.us/)|
The section breaks contact and retreats towards the rest of the platoon but in their rush to find cover, one of Bravo's fireteams take a wrong turn and finds themselves separated from the section in a corner of the village that seems very quiet ... a little too quiet!
[Adapted from Skirmish Sangin 'Recon Patrol' scenario pp. 142-144]
Fireteam Leader Cpl. Lewis 'Chesty' Puller whispers into the comms:
"Stay Frosty Oscar Mike, it's too quiet around here."
|"Stay Frosty Oscar Mike"|
Chesty gives the order to "Freeze!". Five marines hold their breath. Then the order comes, "Fireteam, to the front, two troops, irrigation ditch, one hundred, commence firing!"
|The Taliban spring their trap!|
The local warlord had been reinforced by some Taliban - these veteran fighters saw the opportunity to bottle up the lost marines in the laneway. The radio chatter heightens as the Taliban leader deploys a team in the irrigation ditch to cover the north end of the lane, while he leads a flanking maneuver to the left through a compound. Meanwhile, he calls the local warlord's men in to close of the south end of the lane.
|The quiet is shattered by two AK-47s opening up sending the marines into cover.|
|The local warlord's men close off the line of retreat to the south. |
The marines are trapped!
'Chesty' Puller barks the order "Far ambush" sending his men into cover from which they will return fire and look for the opportunity to maneuver. But, the kill zone ahead leaves no chance of assaulting the enemy.
His men implement their counterambush drill like clockwork. As the SAW gunner, PFC Sipple, and the his assistant Pvt "Chuck" Robb, on the other side of the lane, prepare to cover their line of retreat, Chesty signals his rifleman to follow him over a shattered compound wall to look for some cover (yellow arrows).
The local Warlord's men have closed off their retreat, the SAW gunner falls prone beside a shot-up utility hoping to lay down some suppressing fire, "RPG!" someone yells ...
|RPG! An ear-shattering explosion sends a shock-wave down the lane followed by red hot shrapnel and a shower of masonry.|
When 'Chesty" gets his first sight of the lane his worst fear is confirmed. The SAW gunner Pvt Hasford, has been badly wounded by the RPG. His assistant, "Buzz" McCloskey is under heavy fire. It doesn't look good for Hasford, Chesty knows his mission is now focused on extracting his wounded.
The fire from the irrigation ditch shifts to the marines on the rooftop, which proves to be devoid of any effective cover. Chesty goes down in a hail of automatic fire. Rifleman Miller, already halfway through the hatch, is hit too - both slump on the rooftop, motionless.
Automatic Rifleman PFC "Jim" Webb dives over the shattered wall into the compound hoping to assess and stabilise Chesty and Miller. With Chesty down, the fireteam is now under his leadership. He can hear movement coming up at speed through the compound he's just entered - he's not alone! From the compound opposite he hears an order barked in Arabic, he swings around and sees the Taliban leader on the rooftop - Webb takes a bead on him with his M249.
The Taliban now charge into contact from the north end of the lane. Chesty and Miller are seriously wounded and trapped on the rooftop, the SAW gunner, Hasford, is possibly KIA. Things are looking grim for the marines.
Webb gets some rounds away in the direction of the opposite compound roof and fumbles for a grenade. He's keenly aware the compound he is in is not secure.
The grenade bursts at Buzz's feet, shrapnel tears into the marine and, unbeknownst to him, the Taliban fighter taking aim behind him.
|Buzz McCloskey's grenade is tossed back by the RPG operator with terrible effect.|
|Webb's grenade sends shrapnel scything over the compound rooftops|
Webb has no time to think, an AK-47 rattles behind him and rounds smash into the adobe wall by his head. He swings around to see one of the warlord's men crouched behind some pallets of grain. A quick burst of his M249 takes out his opponent as shouts from the lane tell him he needs to scram if he's going to get out of this alive.
Sick to his stomach at the thought of leaving his buddies behind - alive or dead - Webb dives for a window in the compound wall and dashes towards the, now empty, irrigation ditch. His first thought to take cover and assess the situation.
But as his aching feet hit the dirt on the other side of the narrow, but deep, ditch, something tells Webb to keep going. He dashes for the cover of the wheatfields. No time to think of what he has left behind, if he's going to make it to lunchtime, he needs to find the rest of the squad. It had been a bad morning in the Sangin Valley.
Coming up next ... V-Beach, Cape Helles, Gallipoli, 25th April 1915. A TFL If the Lord Spares Us scenario.
|V-Beach, under construction|