Nightmare in the Shok Valley
Burton, Janice, Soldiers Magazine
THERE are no roads leading into the Shok Valley. The village, which stands sentinel over the valley, is home to one of the fiercest insurgent forces in Afghanistan--the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, or HIG.
On April 6, 2008, a daring raid into the stronghold by Afghan commandos and their special forces counterparts, tested the mettle of the Afghan forces and further forged the bond between them and their SF brothers.
In December 2008, Lt. Gen. John F. Mullholland, commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, pinned Silver Stars on the chests of 10 of the men involved in the raid and the ensuing six-and-a-half-hour firefight that saw more than 150 insurgents killed. It was the largest ceremony of its kind since the Vietnam era. But for the members of Team 3336, of the 3rd Special Forces Group, it was never about the medals.
When you ask them to use one word to describe April 6, their words pop, much like the gunfire that rained down on them.
"Baptism by fire," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Plants, "it was my first firefight."
More words followed as the team went back in their minds to that day.
The team was assigned to take out high-value targets within the HIG. The insurgent group was entrenched in the valley and was guarded by a number of highly trained foreign fighters. The sheer number of weapons and amount of ammo used by the insurgents led the team to conclude they had been stockpiling the weaponry within the fortress-like village since the Soviet occupation of the country during the 1980s.
A group of Afghan commandos accompanied the team that day. "We have such a big rapport with the commandos we've trained," said Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, the team's intelligence sergeant. "They have such a loyalty to us. They try as hard to protect us as we try to protect ourselves."
"We eat, sleep and train with these commandos," said Capt. Kyle Walton, the detachment commander. "We die with them, too. These guys are close friends to us. At the outset of the attack, I lost my interpreter, and we were as close as anyone."
The interpreters hold a special place within the team. "They are just like a member of the team," said Morales. "One of our interpreters has seen as much combat as any of us. He has six years of combat experience. He's been with six SF teams and been in hundreds of firefights--but …
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Publication information: Article title: Nightmare in the Shok Valley. Contributors: Burton, Janice - Author. Magazine title: Soldiers Magazine. Volume: 64. Issue: 5 Publication date: May 2009. Page number: 4+. © 2008 Soldiers Magazine. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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