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Company D fights through ambush in Tengay Mountain Valley

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The soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman, laughed when they heard the report of the attack.

“The report states: two tanks were hit by artillery shells and a rocket,” U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Chris Brenke, 2nd platoon’s platoon sergeant from East Dubuque, Ill., read from a printout during the mission briefing April 11. “Both tanks were completely destroyed during the fighting that lasted an hour. The report also said that four American soldiers were killed and two others wounded. I regret to inform you that four of you guys died yesterday.”

The report was from the Taliban Voice of Jihad Online, and was the Taliban’s account of what happened the day before in the Tengay Mountain Valley of the Qarghai District. The area is a site of frequent enemy ambushes.

In fact, the majority of the contact Company D has been involved in was in the valley, which 2nd Platoon patrols. Company D is part of the Iowa National Guard’s, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, and is stationed at nearby Forward Operating Base Xio Haq.

The soldiers of 2nd Platoon told a very different story.

“Basically, it was a day of a lot of firsts,” Brenke said. “It was the first time they hit us in the rain, the first time they hit us with that complex of an attack and the first time from that close.”

On a quick reaction force mission, the platoon responded to a call of a burning fuel tanker, said Brenke. A common tactic of the enemy is to shoot at fuel trucks to ignite them, using the burning trucks to draw coalition forces into an ambush. That’s exactly what happened April 10.

When the platoon’s convoy entered a narrow stretch of highway surrounded by steep cliffs on both sides about 15 miles west of their base, the attack began, said Brenke. Then insurgents launched a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades from the cliff to the south.

“There was about 15 minutes of solid contact, pretty intense fighting,” said Brenke. “The RPGs were close. We were firing back with the .50 cal, and they kept fighting. They weren’t stopping.”

Two of the RPGs struck the middle vehicle, where company commander U.S. Army Capt. Jared Gevock, from Dubuque, Iowa, sat, serving as truck commander. Fortunately, the RPG protective nets on the outside of the vehicles dispersed the grenade blasts, and no soldiers were injured in the attack.

In fact, the up-armoured mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle suffered battle damage, but was driven back to base. Several other vehicles also suffered bullet holes or chips to their armour, and will need to be repaired, but all were able to return to the base.

When the enemy attacked, first with RPGs, then with machine gun fire, the first four vehicles in the convoy pushed through the ambush. They then returned to assist occupants of the final vehicle, who was under heavy contact. The platoon fought back with .50-caliber machine guns, laying heavy fire and pinning down the enemy in their fighting positions on top of the mountain.

At this time, the enemy started attacking with small arms fire from the cliffs across the road to the north.

“That was pretty smart on their part,” Brenke said. “They were pinned down to the south, so the ambushers across the road started attacking us.”

U.S. Army Pfc. Joel Mason, a gunner from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, spotted one of the attackers to the north and engaged him, ending the ambush from that side.

“After receiving small arms fire from the south, I saw one of the attackers engage us from the north,” Mason said. “We took contact from them, I got positive identification on one of the attackers, confirmed there were no friendly forces in the area, and took him out with the .50 cal.”

U.S. Army Spc. Dale Heiser, a crow gunner with 2nd Platoon, from Davenport, Iowa, who witnessed Mason’s shot through his crew remote-operated weapon optics system.

The platoon continued to lay down heavy suppressive fire on the ambushers to the south, keeping constant eyes on six individuals on the mountainside. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Peter Harder, a forward observer from Huxler, Iowa, called in an air strike on the ambushers.

U.S. forces dropped three bombs, the last one dead on target, according to the platoon, ending the conflict. When all was said and done, three American vehicles suffered repairable battle damage, no American forces were injured and seven insurgent fighters were eliminated, which differed significantly from the Taliban report.

Article by Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson, Combined Joint Task Force 101