Michael's Dispatches

Ambush this Morning

09 August 2011
Zhary District, Kandahar, Afghanistan

(A quick, unedited dispatch.)

At 0630 this morning, the Commander of 4-4Cav and I met for a morning run.  Lieutenant Colonel Mike Katona is on his fifth combat tour.   After the run, I decided to finish a dispatch and publish today, and therefore had to skip today’s mission with LTC Katona.

As the day unfolded, radio traffic came in that LTC Katona’s mission, consisting of four MRAPs, was in a serious and well organized ambush.  The Commander’s vehicle was immediately disabled from an 82mm strike to the engine, which scorched the Commander’s boots.  The gunner was knocked unconscious and fell down from the hatch.  The gunner quickly recovered and joined battle.  Katona spilled out of the MRAP and began firing at the enemy.

The other three MRAPs all were hit, for a total of four destroyed MRAPs.  The enemy used a combination of small arms, RPGs, and 82mm.  One RPG hit a windshield but did not penetrate, but the 82mm were devastating.  All or most of the troops were wounded, but all are MINOR.  The fight raged for about twenty minutes.

Reinforcements and recovery crews picked up the patrol and vehicles.  When they returned to FOB Pasab, I talked with four of the younger Soldiers.  All had taken some knocks to the noggin and are under medical care, but they also are in great spirits and free to roam.  They are not in danger and I suspect that all the wounded will return to duty very soon.  One young Soldier told me the ANA (Afghan Soldiers) who were there in two trucks did well and fought back.  Under fire, the Afghans stuck with the busted US vehicles and our guys and kept fighting.  The young Soldier also told me there was a slight altercation between two US Soldiers during the fight; both wanted the machinegun to get into the fight, but the higher ranking one just pulled rank and so he got the machinegun.  The Soldier started unwrapping his arm to show me his wound and I said don’t take off the bandage crazy man.  Are you crazy?  Just leave it on.  I said don’t take off the bandage.  But he’s ready to get back out there and just wanted to show that the wound was minor and shouldn’t keep him out of the missions.  (Not that my medical opinion makes a grain of salt.)

I talked at length with LTC Katona.  We are going to skip the morning run (I’ll go alone), but he wants to get back out into the fight ASAP.

Bottom line:  I know the FRG (family readiness group) already is burning up the lines on this.  All is fine, other than we need four new trucks.  This is the second time LTC Katona has been ambushed since the air assault about ten days ago.  His only regret is the busted MRAPs.

The enemy put up a good show today and deserves credit for that, but 4-4 Soldiers also suspect they may have killed four.  This is unknown.  Am looking forward to next mission with these men.

Comments   

 
+10 # RE: Ambush this MorningChris 2011-08-09 17:34
I knew the LTC in college, as he was my cadet battallion commander in ROTC. He was a hard charger even back then. He has always been a very motivated, and motivational, leader.
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+10 # RE: Ambush this MorningPhil 2011-08-09 20:23
Awe inspiring, Michael!! Tell the 4-4 we are proud as hell of those men!!!
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+10 # RE: Ambush this Morningjames 2011-08-10 01:23
So good to hear of officers that are there for the troops, in and out of battle! I reckon we need a damn sight more of these Spartan commanders in the field!

My best wishes to all in 4-4. It me proud to be a soldier with soldiers like these in the world.
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# Zeeko 2011-08-10 07:27
4 MRAPs at $500k apiece not to mention the fuel and logistics to get them there to be blown up. Add the long term medical issues for our boys from getting knocked out inside their armored targets, PTSD, and no jobs for them when they get home.
Get us out now while we can still afford to fly them home!
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# Tommy Barrios 2011-08-11 22:11
LOL Fighting over the machine gun to see who's gonna whack the Talibums :D

That's our boyz 8)
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# Tommy Barrios 2011-08-11 22:34
So you would have women being shot on the flimsiest of reasons.

You would have children being indoctrinated with hateful propaganda and used to inform on their parents?

You would restore a breeding ground for terrorists camps operating with impunity and exporting brainwashed murderous thugs to the US?

The list goes on and on this subject!

Tell us oh wise one, how you would solve this problem?

Cut and run and have another country wide slaughter like South Vietnam?
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# Zeeko 2011-08-13 06:15
Quoting Tommy Barrios:
So you would have women being shot on the flimsiest of reasons.

You would have children being indoctrinated with hateful propaganda and used to inform on their parents?

You would restore a breeding ground for terrorists camps operating with impunity and exporting brainwashed murderous thugs to the US?

The list goes on and on this subject!

Tell us oh wise one, how you would solve this problem?

Cut and run and have another country wide slaughter like South Vietnam?

Your words, not mine. We aren't going to win. Our country is bankrupt. We are making things worse. We don't have a cohesive strategy. We can't afford the war. Logistics alone dictate our loss. The list goes on and on...
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+10 # RE: Ambush this MorningRobert C Smith 2011-08-13 09:30
Thank you for your reports, I have a son in the 4-4 cav and while this is un-nerving to a father, it also makes me proud.
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-10 # RE: Ambush this Morningmarcus 2011-08-13 10:28
makes you wonder how much of this is true :lol:
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# Jack Handy 2011-08-17 14:57
Aren't those are the same reasons we left in 1980s. That worked out well for us.
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-8 # RE: Ambush this MorningOld Soldier 2011-08-19 16:01
I've heard quite the oppostie about the commander of 4-4 CAV. My nephew, who is in 4-4, sent me a recent Army Times article on "Toxic Leadership," and said that describes him perfectly. As retired Army myself, it saddens me greatly that these are the types of leaders who are responsible for our sons and daughters in such dangerous circumstances
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# Katherine 2011-08-25 13:03
Even the mongols found these people impossible. As did the British of the early 1800s. And the mentality of the Afghans hasn't changed from that day to this. We should not be nation building in Afghanistan. No amount of money or time or blood will change these people.

And given our current ROE, we should not be there at all anymore. If we are not in it to win it and go home, then we shouldn't be there expending American lives.

We should just go all out and take it to the Taliban even into the tribal areas of Pakistan and once and for all blast them until just hearing word American leaves them sick for days.

Then we should leave with a warning, that if we ever have to come back, we'll destoy everthing in our path.

Send our soldiers home. But not without giving them the last opportunity, resources and men to grind the Taliban into dust. Make all the lives lost count for something.

Then leave the Afghans to themselves.
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# david Mullins 2011-08-27 14:41
Many times soldiers forget the MRAP are a priority target for the bad guys to take it out and then do the damage or attack the soldiers. They are good at destroying the MRAPS.
David
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+8 # RE: Ambush this MorningMichael Yon 2011-08-30 04:14
Freedom of speech carries heavy responsibilitie s. Some comments on this string are made from the safety of a dark crowd. I am reminded of “The Man in the Arena.” The men in this arena are in combat numerous times each week. The doctor here recently had LTC Katona confined to base for a couple of days for observation for TBI subsequent a hard strike during an ambush. Some of the persons leaving anonymous comments are doing so from the safety of the crowd and darkness. They are, in essence, swilling beers and tossing the empty bottles. Their comments are general in nature, clearly are secondhand, and none have provided checkable facts. If the anonymous comments come from men and women of character, they have no cause to hide. My name is Michael Yon. I stand by my name and by my words. If the anonymous commenters have good reputations, there is no cause to be fearful. “Captain America” is not a name, but a fantasy.
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-8 # RE: Ambush this MorningBrett Bartlett 2011-08-30 17:22
I don't know CPT America or Scooby Doo(that I know of). I do know serving in 4-4 was the worst experience I've ever had (in 10 yrs svc). Leaving was bittersweet. I wanted to get away from the toxic environment, but I also missed the brotherhood that developed when great men go through such a horrible experience together. I struggle daily that my brothers, friends, and heroes are still there, fighting thier hearts out, for a CDR who cares only about his career. Mr. Yon, before you start throwing stones at commentors, maybe you should look left and right. I speak for noone but myself. True loyalty is given to those who serve below you, not above. If its facts you want, contact me. The real question is.... what will you do with it?? Will you call a spade a spade and tell the real story? I'm not afraid of telling the truth. I owe it to the men, women, and families, who deserve the best. My request is the Soldiers in 4-4 don't receive retribution for a few brave souls crying for help.
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-9 # RE: Ambush this MorningBrett Bartlett 2011-08-30 17:26
I took me nearly an hour to shorten my reply enough for it to quote. My apologies for abbreviations and partial sentences.
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+9 # RE: Ambush this MorningMichael Yon 2011-08-30 18:11
Not interested in talking. Manners go a long way in life.
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# Tommy Barrios 2011-08-30 19:05
Michael I think you need to take a knee on this one :-*

Seems you have stirred up a hornets nest and the hornets are right there with you, not back here in the LOP or the RA :o

I'd be careful about sniping back and forth on the web when your antagonist is only a grenades throw away :-?
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# Tommy Barrios 2011-08-30 19:34
BTW someone called a Michael a journalist, a term to which he has never ascribed :-?

He is an independent war correspondent, a writer of great skill and acuity and one of the best photographers I have ever seen.

He expresses his opinions in his missives something which a true "objective journalist" is never supposed to let happen, something that has been lost on our current MGMSM :sad:

I believe his opinions come from the heart and how he sees things at that moment in time, a snap shot just like his camera.

As we all know the scene changes and in war it changes with deadly speed.

If Katona is making huge mistakes, they will resolve themselves in short order, they have to, by the very nature of the hostile situation in the AOP.

Sniping back and forth on the web is not going to solve these issues.
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# Tommy Barrios 2011-08-30 19:36
Everyone needs to get their head on straight and think about the larger issues here, like how the F are we going to end this mess in the Middle East and bring our guys and gals back home with peace and honor :-)

Peace be unto you and yours 8)
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+9 # RE: Ambush this Morninga soldiers sister 2011-08-31 03:12
Only the students who are failing a class hate their teachers; this is a hard subject to teach and therefore there will be many students who will not pass. The best teachers in life will lead the best students through the most difficult of all of the subjects--when the test means life or death then give me the teacher who will best prepare me for the test of battle. God bless all of the men and women serving our country and God bless LTC Katona and all of his superiors who are faced with the complicated task of trying to lead our soldiers (even the disgruntled ones) through this very difficult war. Keep your head up and focus your energy on what's really important-not politics but keeping safe...we are praying for ALL of you-no matter what your rank.
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+8 # RE: Ambush this MorningMan up 2011-08-31 04:20
What an embarrassing display for an American soldier. Do you think the Taliban are boo-hooing in an internet cafe right now bitching about their commanders in a forum? Makes you look like the idiot. Quit crying like a baby and sounding off in silence blaming your commanders because you can't handle the heat. If it's too much for you then just shoot yourself in the foot and go home. That'll leave the real men and women there that are busy serving and protecting instead of boo-hooing behind a computer.
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+10 # RE: Ambush this Morning4-4 CAV Soldier 2011-08-31 15:47
I served with CPT Bartlett. He's never impressed me. That's probably why he's not here anymore and disgruntled about it. I'm proud of 4-4 and all its leaders.
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+10 # RE: Ambush this MorningBeen There 2011-08-31 19:54
Lets give these guys a break and throw stones after they are out harms way. Toxic to me means "tough love" and this commander is probably just doing what he needs to do to keep his guys alive and complete the mission. Keep the peanut gallery comments to yourself.
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+11 # RE: Ambush this MorningFour Tours 2011-08-31 20:01
This guy is obviously a limp dick, whiner. If you would have made that ruck with us at NTC and lost some weight you wouldn't be on your way out yourself. Quit backstabbing ... and yes we think we know who you are.
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+10 # RE: Ambush this MorningFour Tours 2011-08-31 20:07
Way to go buddy. While you are bitchin about incompetence and toxic leadership the rest of us have a mission to complete. Why don't you complain when we get back ... if in fact your really out here with us. Keep your personal agenda to yourself.
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+11 # RE: Ambush this MorningMutual Respect 2011-08-31 20:14
Mike has always been driven. If there is anyone more qualified to lead this effort its him. All this crap about "toxic leadership" is a bunch of BS. Mike knows what to do to complete the mission and keep his guys alive.
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-10 # RE: Ambush this Morningbattle goat 2011-09-01 12:45
Quoting 4-4 CAV Soldier:
I served with CPT Bartlett. He's never impressed me. That's probably why he's not here anymore and disgruntled about it. I'm proud of 4-4 and all its leaders.


you were obviously never in the same troop as him. if you were youd know that he put his soldiers above himself all the time. we respect the hell out of him because he respected us and we knew that hed do anything for us. im proud to say hes one of the best leaders ive ever met. and you obviously dont know what youre talking about because the reason hes not here anymore is because he was selected for special forces. so watch yourself befor you start spewing bs.

battle goats
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+10 # RE: Ambush this MorningMichael Yon 2011-09-15 20:19
This email came from "Captain America":

Mike,

I respectfully request that you remove my comments from the thread.

I am not in 4-4. I have never served in 4-4. I am not in AFG. I am sorry I lied.

I got an email from a friend in the unit that made me upset and angry. I regret what I wrote. I let my emotions get the best of me.

For the sake of the men in 4-4 and their families, I request, man to man, to delete my comments.

I know what I wrote was inappropriate and I want it to be deleted.

Thanks,

MD
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-9 # RE: Ambush this Morningseen from above 2011-09-16 05:44
Michael,
I am not in 4-4 CAV but I am in close prox. I see a lot from the bottom and a lot from the top. The enlisted force deserves to be heard. You may find what some are writing to you as harsh and rude. Surely not all the soldiers behave in this manor. If you want to know the true events of what happened on the ground during this ambush you should have talked to someone other than LTC Katona. These solders are dieing and bleeding in Zhari. Tell their story acurately and with out exagerating what the leadership does or fails to do. You being a soldier at one time should know that they deserve for the truth to be told.
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# Tommy Barrios 2011-09-16 15:55
Now if we could only get our spineless politicians to man up like this and face the facts of dealing with the middle east, we could be over and done with this farce and bringing our troops back home 8)
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