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Notes from a 2/7 platoon commander on the Battle of Shewan

Notes from a 2/7 platoon commander on the Battle of Shewan

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Published by Christian Lowe
The platoon commander who led the assault against 250 insurgents in the Afghan village of Shewan recounts his harrowing story in vivid detail.
The platoon commander who led the assault against 250 insurgents in the Afghan village of Shewan recounts his harrowing story in vivid detail.

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Published by: Christian Lowe on Dec 03, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/09/2014

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There have been several large battles in the town lasting anywhere from 3 hours to 36 hoursin the past, but we had traveled through the town on numerous occasions without incidentsince then. I was prepared for contact but I wasn't expecting any. It turned out later thatthere was a big meeting of enemy leaders in the town that we had interrupted and weinadvertently trapped them inside of their compound. They must have thought that if theyambushed us we would cut and run. This was not the case. They were not expecting us toassault through their ambush and they were not expecting us to stay and fight. I think theyare used to a lot of people being tied to their vehicles. I think that the enemy commandersgave the call to reinforce the town and fighters were coming in from all over the place. Iknow that they were reinforcing the ambush site because the battle started out with aboutthirty guys and eventually escalated to over 250. We didn't win the fight because of our superior firepower. We were severely outnumbered, and outgunned. From that first counter ambush assault we gained the momentum and maintained it until the enemy finally fledfrom the battlefield eight hours later. We later found out that we had killed or wounded allof their leadership in the fighting and this was probably what finally broke the enemy's back.We were patrolling through the town for an hour and a half before we were attacked. Wewere walking through the town when I saw a [rocket-propelled grenade] go over one of myHMMWVs. We saw a three man RPG team about 150 meters away. My [platoon sergeant]killed the RPG gunner, and another one of my Marines killed the second RPG gunner  before he could fire his weapon. We starting taking fire from various compounds but wekept pushing into the village. An hour or so later we were ambushed by 5 - 10 [insurgents]in a shallow irrigation ditch. Part of my platoon assaulted through the ambush but startedtaking heavy fire from a trench line to the north. Two of my trucks were ambushed fromanother position in the same tree line with heavy machine gun and RPG fire. One of thevehicles took a volley of RPGs to the hood. The crew dismounted from the vehicle andimmediately started taking accurate machinegun fire from the trenchline. The M249 SAWgunner disregarded all the fire being directed at him and started suppressing the enemy withhis SAW from a very exposed position. The team leader from the other vehicle dismountedwith two of his Marines and began laying down suppressive fire. I pushed my truck into thekill zone to cover the downed vehicle and my gunner was able to suppress the enemytargeting my downed vehicle, which helped buy the Marines enough time to dismount fromtheir truck. My gunner was taking a lot of fire to his gunners shield but he stayed up on thegun and continued to effectively suppress the enemy. The SAW gunner took charge of histeam, pulled his vehicle commander out of the burning vehicle and exposed himself toenemy fire in order to suppress the enemy so that his Marines could get behind somecover. All of a sudden we took an intense amount of fire from the tree line and at this pointnumerous machine guns opened up on my vehicle and the dismounted crew trapped in thekill zone. All of this happened in about thirty seconds to a minute. This began twentyminutes of intense fighting as the platoon battled to recover the Marines from the kill zone.
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One of my designated marksmen heard what was going on so he crawled up on the berm hewas taking cover behind and began searching for targets with his rifle. This left himcompletely exposed and the enemy began to focus their fires on him. He was able toidentify an RPG team targeting the Marines. With absolutely no regard for his personalsafety, the designated marksman ignored the heavy fire impacting within a foot of his position, made the appropriate adjustments to his scope, controlled his breathing, relaxed,and began engaging targets. He killed the first RPG gunner before he could fire. He spottedanother RPG gunner readying to take a shot and killed him. He scanned the trenches untilhe found another target, made corrections for wind and distance and killed him.The enemy fired over forty RPGs from the tree line but were unable to effectively engagethe Marines trapped in the kill zone because of the high amount of accurate fire beingdirected at them. The SAW gunner continued to suppress the enemy while the gunner onmy vehicle systematically shifted his fire from fighting position to fighting position.The enemy was reinforcing the tree and the enemy was replacing fighters as quickly as wewere killing them. The designated marksman was able to clearly see waves of enemyfighters running to the tree line from a compound to the north. He quickly acquired thesenew targets, made the necessary adjustments and rapidly worked his way down the linedestroying targets as they presented themselves. The enemy began to target him withextremely accurate small arms and machinegun fire. In response to the heavy fire he wasreceiving, the designated marksman merely adjusted the data on his gun and sighted in ontargets as they revealed their positions by engaging him. He rapidly acquired and prosecuted these targets again and again, firing his rifle with exceptional accuracy. Hecontinued to scan the trenches for targets from his exposed perch until all of the Marineswere recovered from the kill zone. In the short time we were in the kill zone he fired twentyshots and killed twenty enemy fighters.After twenty minutes of fierce fighting, we were finally able to suppress the enemy enoughto get an MRAP into the kill zone to recover the Marines. Once that was accomplished, we pulled back so our platoon corpsman could look at the casualties. The vehicle commander from the downed vehicle was incoherent. The gunner wasn't in much better shape. Wedrove out of range of the enemy's fires, took ten or so minutes to redistribute ammunition,and came up with a quick game plan. I don't think the enemy expected us to come back, because we caught them off guard. We dropped some [close air support] on them while weconducted a trench assault. We started fighting our way through the trenches to clear outthe ambush site but we had to cross over a road in order to complete the assault. As soon aswe started to make our way over we took heavy machinegun fire from a compound to thenorth. We took another sixty or so RPGs, some rockets and mortars. We turned the directionof our attack and fought our way to the eastern flank of the compound. It wasn't as far tothe compound from that direction, but as we attempted an assault we started taking morefire from another compound. The enemy had established a defense with mutuallysupporting positions. We were unable to press forward because a direct assault would have been extremely difficult because of the distance and level of resistance. We could see
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