07 October 2009

The Battle for COP Keating

Patrol outside of Forward Operating Base Keating in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, March 1, 2008. FOB Keating is the most North-Eastern forward operating base actively used by coalition forces. Photo by Staff Sgt. Brandon Aird, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs.

As six of the eight Fallen Heroes from Saturday's battle made their final journey home yesterday, 56 of their comrades back downrange are coping with their losses.

These men have lost friends, their outpost, and all their belongings. One soldier who made it out wrote that “most people back home dont even know, no one gives a $#!§”. Well, many of us do. And you can prove it by giving whatever you can. These guys need things like running shoes, and other essentials, as well as some comfort items like iPods and DVD players.

Please go to the Burn Pit to read about the battle and the men who fought there. Make sure to scroll all the way down to find out how we can show these guys how much we care.

Update: An embedded ABC News journalist, who previously reported on wounded soldiers refusing medevac and others giving blood during the battle for their wounded comrades, has a new eyewitness account.

By the time Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ross Lewallen and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chad Bardwell arrived over the embattled outpost, dubbed Camp Keating, parts were in flames and dozens of insurgents could be seen on the camp's perimeter.

When the battle was over and the fire extinguished, many who survived had nothing left "except the clothes off their backs and the weapons in their hands," one soldier told ABC News.

"When we first showed up and put our sensors on Keating, it was just kind of shock," said Bardwell, 35, of Liman, Wyo., who piloted one of a swarm of Apaches that rushed the base's defense. "All the amount of flames and the smoke and to see that amount of personnel running outside of their wire. It was really kind of shock."

Lewallen added, "I've been on three deployments and I've never seen that large of a force attacking one static position."

Hunkered down inside the base's operations center were 1st Lt. Cason Shrode, 24, of Dallas, and Sgt. Jayson Souter, 22, of Tuscon, Ariz. The two men were working radios and directing traffic for the Apaches and attack jets that swarmed overhead.

Soon the camp was on fire with strong winds fanning it along to additional buildings. Eventually, every building in the camp, except one, was burned.

"We were basically surrounded 360 degrees," Shrode said. "I think there were significant numbers [of enemy fighters] throughout the day."

He immediately called for air support.

"We had fixed wing [jets] 20 minutes after fight started," Shrode told ABC News. "We had helicopters 20 minutes later. ... We had so many different assets up in the air ... they were stacked on so many different levels."

22 and 24 years old. What these guys did was incredible. Read the whole thing.

Update: The interview above has now been made available by DVIDS as video.
Part One.
Part Two.

And Part Three is below. Watch them all.

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