Friday, 9 June 2017

Skirmish Sangin - A bad morning in the Sangin Valley

Sangin Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, October 2010

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:
Late one October morning, after three hours of patrolling the streets and fields surrounding a village in the Green Zone of the Sangin Valley, Bravo Section is returning to base. While crossing open ground at the edge of the village, the section is engaged by a force of about 20 insurgents.

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!
As the two Taliban, prone in the irrigation ditch, continue with their suppressing fire (orange arrows), their leader and another fighter swing left through the compound hoping to flank the marines (blue arrows). 

'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.
Chesty Puller and Rifleman Miller feel the concussion of the nearby RPG blast shake the mud walls of the hut they have entered. They quickly decide to climb up to the roof to assess the situation ... "Miller, stay low and find cover when we get up there!" Chesty barks as they climb through the choking dust into the light.

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.
But the fleet footed Taliban leader and his comrade are already in the compound opposite. The marines have lost the initiative. 

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.
"Buzz" McCloskey is in desperate measures in the lane - cut off with Taliban approaching from the north and the local warlord's men from he south. He grabs a grenade and tosses it at the insurgent with the RPG who is struggling to reload while keeping cover. His training tells him to 'cook it' for a few seconds, the target being so close, but under pressure he throws early. The RPG operator drops his tube, picks up the smoking grenade and tosses it back!

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.
Back in the compound, PFC "Jim" Webb, now the last marine standing, reaches for a grenade and pitches it towards the Taliban leader who is on his radio calling his men into a final assault. He cooks it but fumbles the throw and it bounces onto the rooftop above him and explodes seconds later. Chesty, Miller, and the Taliban leader opposite, all receive mortal wounds from the grenade.

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


  1. Wow, that was a rough one. I've only played SS once, and it can be very brutal but I too enjoyed the RP aspects, though not the bad luck I had in my game too!

  2. Sure was tough - I couldn't hold the marines together. But hard spot to get out of. I shouldn't have sent the fireteam leader and rifleman up onto the roof - too exposed. Looking forward to another go. Hope you have a better result next time too.

  3. Os,

    You're killing me! Chesty Puller is the fireteam leader, eh? ;) I spent a little time with Hotel 3/7.

    In any case, a great looking fight, and looked to be a lot of fun, though it didn't go very well for the Marines. I keep going back and forth on whether to pick up Skirmish Sangin; I like the batreps I've seen, but it seems a bit more involved than I'm looking for.

    Thanks for posting, and I can't wait to see more of your Marines in Afghanistan.


  4. Thanks Jack,

    Yeah, I like to name my guys after famous Marines! We owe a debt of gratitude to the USMC in Australia. That's not to diminish the mighty efforts of the Australian 9th Division on Kokoda, of course ;)

    LtGen Puller is one heck of a guy - honestly, Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Inchon landings - to survive alone is impressive, but he was int eh thick of it. I have every intention of bringing him back in each skirmish. And then, here you are, a vet of 3/7 finding him on a tiny blog in Australia. Got to love this hobby.

    I hear you about the level of detail - I haven;t got my head around it and might try something a little more playable next time - lite FoF, perhaps. But, something about SS grabs me. What I liked about it is it quickly exposed my tactical mistakes. I'm just about to finish a Gallipoli game and next will be back to Afghanistan. Ides for the next scenario always welcome.

    1. Hope my typing skills impress you - - not at all! Cheers Alan

    2. Alan,

      Excellent, I'll expect to see some Dalys, Butlers, Vandegrifts, Mattis, Krulak (the senior), Zinni, close air support by Cunningham, Boyington, etc... ;)

      I spent a little time with 3/7, but not much, went to Iraq with B/1/5 and K/3/1 (1st Marines were Chesty's). And I was blessed to visit the Land of Oz on three separate occasions: once to Tindale, twice to Rockhampton/Shoalwater Bay Training Area, with liberty in Brisbane.

      My go to for super-detailed is "SOF Warrior," which seems a bit like Skirmish Sangin in that figures can activate in multiple phases of turn based on their skill level, but mostly I play quicker games using 5Core (specifically, "Five Men at Kursk," modified).

      I look forward to more action in Afghanistan.


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