18 – 25 December 2004: Operation CORNHUSKERS / Christmas Eve Ambush

India Company Marines, Korengal Valley, December 2004.

India Company Marines, Korengal Valley, December 2004.

India Company conducted Operation Cornhuskers in the Korangal Valley, Kunar Province.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 July to 31 December 2004


3/3 Chronology

“Shortly thereafter, India Company conducted Operation Cornhuskers in pursuit of AFG leaders in the Korangal Valley of Kunar.  Following the operation, they left a remain behind squad along with signals intelligence equipment to collect in the area.  This squad was attacked on the evening of 23 December.  The Company’s Quick Reaction Force, deployed the next day to extract the squad from the valley and, after linking up and beginning the movement out of the area, the enemy initiated an ambush that wounded several Marines (one due to gunshot and others due to shrapnel).  All of these Marines returned to duty within the next month.  The Marines maneuvered against the ambush site killing two enemy combatants and capturing eight in what many Marines described as the most interesting Christmas Eve they had ever experienced.”

“19 Dec – India Company detained one individual and discovered 2 – AK-47s, 171 – 7.62 rounds, 1 bag explosive material.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 July to 31 December 2004


News

3/3 Marines go vertical

KORANGAL VALLEY, Afghanistan (Jan. 2, 2005) — Marines of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have been operating at the forward edge of Operation Enduring Freedom, often in isolated areas where support for insurgency against the Afghan government and Coalition Forces remains.

Last week, I Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, entered the Korangal Valley in Kunar Province with the mission to capture or kill terrorists suspected of conducting attacks against Coalition Forces while working to win over the trust of the local villagers.

“We get intelligence that lets us know where the bad guys are,” explained 2nd Lt. Roy Bechtold, 2nd platoon commander, I Co. “After we get grid locations, we work with our assets to plan the best way to go in and get them.”

The Korangal Valley is infamous for its inaccessibility and the numerous defeats the Russians suffered there during their ill-fated campaign to control Afghanistan.

After vertically inserting in CH-47 Chinook helicopters, I Co. set into blocking positions along the roads and maneuvered into their positions.

“The best way to come in is on foot or by air,” said Bechtold, “We have to leave as small a signature as possible in order to not spook the guys we’re looking for into running. If you come in with vehicles, they’ll be long gone before you have a chance.” Bechtold admitted that Marines in the past have had difficulty getting into villages sympathetic to Anti-Coalition Forces without having the targets flee.

Once in place, the mission of I Co. evolved to house-by-house searches as the clock started ticking on how long the Marines had until it was unlikely that their targets remained.

Up and down the bluffs and rocky faces that double as paths between the impossibly stacked-up houses of the valley, the Marines and Afghan Security Forces talked to village elders, shook hands and searched houses from top to bottom.

“It all goes back to attention to detail,” said Sgt. Shawn Kelly, an acting platoon sergeant in I Co. “You can’t skip anything, it could be that one cache or that one guy you miss that could help us stop an improvised explosive device emplacement or attack on Coalition Forces.”

I Co.’s attentiveness paid off on the second day of the operation as Lance Cpl. Sean Decoursey, rifleman from Jacksonville, Fla., crawled through a small opening in a floor to find a cache of weapons and ammunition hidden under a pile of hay.

“I found the AK-47s and ammunition,” said Decoursey, modest about the find. “I almost didn’t look in that hole either – it looked like maybe it only went back about two or three feet until I crawled in there.”

With the discovery of the weapons, the Marines held one Afghan man for questioning, confiscating his illegal weapons and ammunition. Their find was a good one. After being questioned, the man named several other anti-Coalition militants operating in the area which put I Co. right back to work in the villages.

“It feels really good to be here and to be getting something done,” said Decoursey, who has been in the Marine Corps just over a year. “It feels like we’re really making a difference when we can catch one of them.”


Marines face, repel enemy twice in as many days

Cpl. Rich Mattingly

KONAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan —- Marines and Sailors of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, had some close calls when they made contact with enemy forces in the Korangal Valley twice in a 48-hour period.

Coming immediately after a mission where Co. I had been pursuing anti-Coalition militants, the Marines and Sailors of “America’s Battalion” came under small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire in the middle of the night in the valley.

“It started during a watch change-over, so most of us were awake,” said Navy Seaman Jonathon Seaux, hospital corpsman with Co. I.

“I checked on my Marines to make sure everyone was OK, and then I just did the first thing I thought to do — pick up the squad automatic weapon next to me and start firing back.”

Seaux didn’t even notice the 7.62 mm round that lodged in his body armor just above his heart until the next day.

“I guess I’m just lucky,” said Seaux, proudly displaying the small arms protective insert plate with a hole from which he had extracted a round.

After taking fire for a solid 20 minutes, the Marines sent the enemy packing for the night with deadly accurate 60 mm high-explosive mortar rounds.

With one squad running low on ammunition after the firefight, another squad in the valley made a night movement of over 1,200 meters to ensure their fellow Marines had back-up.

“They didn’t complain and they didn’t stop,” said Marine 2nd Lt. Pete Ankney, platoon commander with Co. I. “They knew they had a job to do.”

The next day, the company’s combined anti-armor team went to retrieve the Marines who were maintaining an over watch position in the valley. After extracting the Marines, they got their own taste of action in an ambush by heavily-armed enemies using fortified fighting positions.

“We heard muted gunfire, RPGs exploding and the sound of rounds hitting the trucks,” said Marine Cpl. Josh Burgbacher, Co. I machine gunner.

“That lasted for maybe half of a second and then you could hear every single gun in the convoy open up. Everyone just reacted with their training.”

Other Marines said Burgbacher, a machine gunner, calmly helped fix a jammed MK-19 automatic grenade launcher while rounds were impacting around him.

The ambush was a well-planned attack, according to the CAAT Platoon Commander, Marine 1st Lt. Jonathan Frangakis. He said the enemy had a pile of rocks marking the start of the kill zone.

“We thought at first it was an improvised explosive device, but they knew how many vehicles we had, and as soon as the first vehicle got near the marker, they opened up on us,” he said.

For several Marines, it was their second firefight in just a few hours.

“I heard the rounds impacting,” said Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Alfieri, Co. I machine gunner. “I just thought, “Here we go again,” ” he recalled as he cleaned his weapon after returning to Forward Operating Base Asadabad with his squad.

The Marines assaulted through to the village where much of the fire had originated. They confirmed two enemies killed.

Another close call to complement Seaux’s included the shot-through front site post of Marine Sgt. Jason Burch‘s M-16A4 rifle.

Burch said he didn’t even notice the damage to his rifle as he continued to return fire on the enemy’s position.

As dawn broke in the morning, the Marines and Sailors joined together in giving thanks for their good fortune that no one was seriously injured in the firefights.

The Marines returned to FOB Asadabad where, to the man, the Marines broke out cleaning gear and busted the carbon off of their weapons before considering the mission complete.

Source: DVIDSHub.Net


3/3 Marines, Sailors Repel Christmas Eve Ambush

Cpl. Rich Mattingly

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Marines and Sailors of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment had an unforgettable holiday, making contact with enemy forces in the Korangal Valley Dec. 23 and again on Christmas Eve.

Coming immediately after a mission where India Co. had been pursuing Anti-Coalition Forces in the valley, the Marines and Sailors of “America’s Battalion” came under small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire in the middle of the night.

“It started during a watch change-over, so most of us were awake,” said Navy Seaman Jonathon Seaux, hospital corpsman with India Co., from Abbeville, La. “I checked on my Marines to make sure everyone was okay, and then I just did the first thing I thought to do: pick up the squad automatic weapon next to me and start firing back.”

Seaux didn’t even notice the 7.62mm round that lodged in his body armor just above his heart until the next day.

“I guess I’m just lucky,” said Seaux, proudly displaying the SAPI plate with a hole from which he had extracted a round. “Better me than one of my Marines,” added the corpsman, who helped bandage another Marine’s bullet wound the very next day.

After taking fire for a solid 20 minutes, the Marines sent the enemy packing for the night with deadly accurate 60mm high-explosive mortar bursts.

With one squad running low on ammunition after the firefight, another squad made a night movement of over 1,200 meters to make sure their fellow Marines had back-up.

“They didn’t complain and they didn’t stop,” said 2nd Lt. Pete Ankney, platoon commander with India Co., from Colstrip, Mont. “They knew they had a job to do.”

On Christmas Eve, India Co.’s Combined Anti-Armor Team went to retrieve the Marines who were maintaining an over watch position in the Korangal Valley. After extracting the Marines, they got their own taste of action in an ambush by heavily-armed forces using fortified fighting positions.

“We heard muted gunfire, RPG’s exploding and the sound of rounds hitting the trucks,” said Marine Cpl. Josh Burgbacher, India Co. machine gunner from Lima, Ohio.

“That lasted for maybe half of a second and then you could hear every single gun in the convoy open up. Everyone just reacted with their training.”

Other Marines said Burgbacher, a machine gunner, calmly helped fix a jammed MK19 automatic grenade launcher while rounds were impacting around him.

The ambush was a well-planned attack, according to CAAT platoon commander, 1st Lt. Jonathan Frangakis. The Belle Meade, N.J., native said the enemy had a pile of rocks marking the start of the kill zone.

“We thought at first it was an improvised explosive device, but they knew how many vehicles we had, and as soon as the first vehicle got near the marker, they opened up on us,” Frangakis said.

For several Marines, it was their second firefight within just a few hours.

“I heard the rounds impacting,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Alfieri, India Co. machine gunner from Syracuse, N.Y. “I just thought “here we go again”,” he said as he cleaned his weapon after returning to Asadabad with his squad.

The Marines assaulted through to the village where much of the fire had originated. They confirmed two enemy killed and captured eight men they believe were involved in the attack. Seven of the eight later came up positive on a test for gunpowder and explosive residue.

Another close call to complement Seaux’s included the shot-through front site post of Sgt. Jason Burch‘s M16 A4 rifle. Burch, a Deerlodge, Mont., native said he didn’t even notice the damage to his rifle as he continued to return fire on the enemy’s position.

It wasn’t the start to the holidays the Marines maybe had hoped for, but according to what one Marine had seen on the popular television show “Mail Call” hosted by famous Marine R. Lee Ermey, it seemed to be tradition.

“Before it started, we had just been talking about how I had seen that 3/3 got attacked on Christmas Eve in Vietnam and repelled an enemy assault,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Archambeau, assaultman and MK19 gunner with India Co., from Waynesboro, Pa.

As dawn broke on Christmas morning, the Marines and Sailors joined together in giving thanks for their good fortune that no one was seriously injured in the firefights. After holiday services, the Marines returned to Asadabad where, to the man, the Marines broke out cleaning gear and busted the carbon off of their weapons before heading to Christmas chow.

“There isn’t anyone I”d rather have spent the holidays with,” said Archambeau. “This was the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”

Source: DVIDSHub.Net


3/3 Marines track down clues, insurgents in Korangal Valley

Cpl. Rich Mattingly

KORANGAL VALLEY, Afghanistan – Marines of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have been operating at the forward edge of Operation Enduring Freedom, often in isolated areas where support for insurgency against the Afghan government and Coalition Forces remains.

Last week, India Co. entered the Korangal Valley in Konar Province with the mission to capture or kill terrorists suspected of conducting attacks against Coalition Forces, while working to win over the trust of the local villagers.

“We get intelligence that lets us know where the bad guys are,” explained 2nd Lt. Roy Bechtold, 2nd platoon commander, India Co. “After we get grid locations, we work with our assets to plan the best way to go in and get them.”

The Korangal Valley is infamous for its inaccessibility and the numerous defeats the Russians suffered there during their ill-fated campaign to control Afghanistan.

After vertically inserting in CH-47 Chinook helicopters, India Co. set into blocking positions along the roads and maneuvered into their positions.

“The best way to come in is on foot or by air,” said Bechtold. “We have to leave as small a signature as possible in order to not spook the guys were looking for into running. If you come in with vehicles, they’ll be long gone before you have a chance.”

Bechtold admitted that Marines in the past have had difficulty getting into villages sympathetic to Anti-Coalition Forces without having the targets flee.

Once in place, the mission of India Co. evolved to house-by-house searches as the clock started ticking on how long the Marines had until it was unlikely that their targets remained.

Up and down the bluffs and rocky faces that double as paths between the impossibly stacked-up houses of the valley, the Marines and their Afghan National Army counterparts talked to village elders, shook hands and searched houses from top to bottom.

“It all goes back to attention to detail,” said Sgt. Shawn Kelly, an acting platoon sergeant in India Co. “You can’t skip anything, it could be that one cache or that one guy you miss that could help us stop an improvised explosive device emplacement or attack on Coalition Forces.”

India Co.’s attentiveness paid off on the second day of the operation as Lance Cpl. Sean Decoursey, rifleman from Jacksonville, Fla., crawled through a small opening in a floor to find a cache of weapons and ammunition hidden under a
pile of hay.

“I found the AK-47s and ammunition,” said Decoursey, modest about the find. “I almost didn’t look in that hole either – it looked like maybe it only went back about two or three feet until I crawled in there.”

With the discovery of the weapons, the Marines held one Afghan man for questioning, confiscating his illegal weapons and ammunition. Their find was a good one. After being questioned, the man named several other anti-Coalition militants operating in the area which put India Co. right back to work in the villages.

“It feels really good to be here and to be getting something done,” said Decoursey, who has been in the Marine Corps just over a year. “It feels like we’re really making a difference when we can catch one of them.”

Source: Sentinel (Vol 1, No 2): Dec 31, 2004


Photographs

Official

Personal


Video

Ambush of CAAT Relief

Ambush of CAAT Relief (Part II)


Awards

Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device

Peter Ankney

NAMFor heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as 3d Platoon Commander, Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76 from November 2004 to June 2005 in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. During this period, Second Lieutenant Ankney performed his duties in an exceptional manner while displaying unmatched professionalism and tactical expertise. On 24 December 2004, while extracting one of his squads following an engagement with the enemy, the convoy he was riding in was ambushed by approximately 30 Al Qaeda fighters. With sound presence of mind and exceptional bravery, Second Lieutenant Ankney quickly dismounted his marines and maneuvered his platoon in a counter attack against the enemy position. Leading from the front, he directed his marines in closing over 800 meters of mountainous terrain to dislodge the enemy who were occupying hardened positions and caves. Second Lieutenant Ankney’s courageous actions, initiative, and complete dedication to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Jonathan Frangakis

NAMHeroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon Commander, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76 from 10 November 2004 to 15 June 2005. On 24 December 2004, while leading a ground assault convoy into the Korangal Valley, an enemy force of 30 fighters ambushed his five-vehicle convoy. Remaining calm, First Lieutenant Frangakis initiated the convoy’s immediate actions and directed the employment of over 100 marines in a counter attack against the enemy. First Lieutenant Frangakis exposed himself to heavy fire, moving between the vehicles assessing their status and giving direction to the subordinate element commanders. Upon establishing fire superiority and communications with higher headquarters, he expertly controlled and deconflicted close air support with ground support agencies, allowing the marines to close with the enemy positions. First Lieutenant Frangakis’ courageous actions, initiative, and complete dedication to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Gideon Hornung

NAMHeroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as squad leader, Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76 on 24 December 2004 and 12 March 2005 in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. On 24 December, while operating in the Korangal Valley, 2d squad was ambushed by Al Qaeda forces employing small arms and rocket propelled grenades. During this attack, Corporal Hornung was wounded by enemy fire and continued to engage the enemy while refusing medical evacuation until his platoon was extracted. On 12 March 2005, during operations in the village of Salar Ban, 2d Squad was attacked by 10-15 Al Qaeda fighters. While under heavy enemy fire, Corporal Hornung moved to assist the rest of his team in gaining cover and establishing fire superiority. Learning that two Marines in his squad were injured, he assisted the squad leader in attending to the wounded. After being struck by fire in the small arms protective insert plate positioned over his chest, Corporal Hornung continued to treat the wounded and fight the enemy. By his enthusiasm, professionalism and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Hornung upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Patrick McKinney

NAMHeroic achievement while serving as machine gunner, India Company, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, on 24 December 2004 in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. During Operation Cornhusker in the Kunar Province, Afghanistan, Lance Corporal McKinney was a member of a convoy to extract an element of India Company that was critically low on ammunition. His convoy was ambushed by an anti-coalition militia force employing small arms, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Manning his M2 .50 caliber machine gun, Lance Corporal McKinney immediately returned accurate suppressive fire. Showing no regard for his personal safety, he calmly continued to deliver deadly fire upon the anti-coalition militia force enabling the manuever element to sweep the enemy force from their positions. Lance Corporal Mckinney’s enthusiasm, ability, personal initiative, and unswerving devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

David Parkinson

NAMFor heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as squad leader, Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76 from November 2004 to June 2005. On 24 December 2004, Corporal Parkinson’s squad was ambushed by Taliban forces employing small arms and rocket propelled grenades from an elevated position. During this attack Corporal Parkinson’s quick and decisive action led to the capture of several Taliban forces. On 12 March 2005, while manning an observation post in the village of Salar Ban, Corporal Parkinson’s squad was attacked again. With two Marines in his squad wounded by rocket propelled grenade fragments and with no corpsman present, Corporal Parkinson attended to the Marines while simultaneously calling for 60mm mortar fire on the enemy. During another enemy attack on 23 March 2005, Corporal Parkinson ran from his fortified position, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to locate a position to more effectively support his platoon by fire. Corporal Parkinson’s courageous actions and complete dedication to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

James Rogers Jr

NAMHeroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as fire team leader, 2d Platoon, Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76 on 24 December 2004 and 12 March 2005 in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. On 24 December 2004, during an ambush in the Korangal Valley, Afghanistan, Corporal Rogers displayed great courage under fire as he effectively suppressed the enemy until the platoon was in position to maneuver. While moving against the locations to which the Al Qaeda forces had fled, Corporal Rogers selflessly volunteered to assist with the search of the compounds that harbored the enemy. His actions ultimately led to the capture of several enemy combatants. Later, on 12 March 2005, during operations in the village of Salar Ban, approximately 15 Al Qaeda fighters attacked Corporal Rogers and his fire team. Pinned down by heavy enemy fire, Corporal Rogers remained calm and confident as he called in fire missions that ultimately repelled the enemy assault and protected his team. By his enthusiasm, professionalism and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Rogers reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Joseph Summers Jr.

NAMHeroic achievement while serving as mortar squad leader, Weapons Platoon, India Company, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, on 23 December 2004, in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. During the execution of Operation Cornhusker in Korangal Valley, Afghanistan, Corporal Summers’ squad was tasked with supporting a squad overwatch position with indirect fire support. During the night, an anti-coalition force attacked the squad with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy small arms fire. Without hesitation, Corporal Summers rallied his squad and immediately began to suppress the enemy with effective mortar fire. While engaging the enemy, he continued his withering fire on the enemy position, crushing their will to fight. Corporal Summers’ quick reaction and steadfast leadership prevented the anti-coalition militia from maneuvering on his squad’s position. Corporal Summers’ enthusiasm, ability, personal initiative, and unswerving devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Eric Toms

NAMFor heroic achievement in the superior performance of his duties while serving as section leader, Heavy Combined Anti-Armor Team, attached to Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76 from 8 November 2004 to 15 May 2005. During this period, Sergeant Toms significantly contributed to combat operations in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan. His form of leadership played a significant role in the unmatched success of Company I in their area of operations. Serving in a challenging billet usually reserved for a Staff Sergeant, Sergeant Toms’ expertise went far beyond that of heavy machinegun employment and combined anti-armor concepts. During an enemy engagement on 24 December 2004, Sergeant Toms effectively employed his section, suppressing the enemy, allowing the dismounted forces to close with the objective area. His actions served as an example to all and embody and exceed the professionalism expected in a Marine Sergeant. Sergeant Toms’ initiative, perseverance and total dedication to duty reflected credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Patrick Whalen

NAMFor heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as squad leader, Heavy Combined Anti-Armor Team, attached to Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76, while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan from November 2004 to June 2005. During this period Corporal Whalen demonstrated exceptional leadership, challenging his squad mentally and physically and seamlessly operating independent of his platoon headquarters. Serving in a challenging billet usually reserved for senior sergeants, he was considered the subject matter expert in heavy machinegun employment, and combined anti-armor concepts. During an engagement on 24 December 2004, he calmly and confidently employed his squad, successfully suppressing the enemy forces attacking his section’s mounted patrol. Under heavy fire, Corporal Whalen continued to expertly control his section’s fire, providing the necessary support to allow his fellow Marines to close with the enemy. Corporal Whalen’s professionalism and dedication to duty reflected credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

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