8 May 2005: Kilo-2 Mayl Valley Ambush

Nick Kirven (L) and Richard Schoener (R)

Nick Kirven (L) and Richard Schoener (R)

“2d Platoon from Kilo Company was ambushed with RPG, RPK, and small arms fire while on patrol in the Mayl Valley, Laghman Province resulting in the death of two Marines Killed in Action (KIA) and a confirmed 14 enemy killed (aerial BDA and enemy radio traffic estimated 23 total enemy killed) through coordinated ground/air attacks.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 January to 30 June 2005


3/3 Command Chronology

2d Platoon from Kilo Company was ambushed with RPG, RPK, and small arms fire while on patrol in the Mayl Valley, Laghman Province resulting in the death of two Marines Killed in Action (KIA) and a confirmed 14 enemy killed (aerial BDA and enemy radio traffic estimated 23 total enemy killed) through coordinated ground/air attacks.

“On 8 May, 2d Platoon, Kilo Company was ambushed while on a presence/security patrol in the Mayl Valley.  The Kilo Company element received a barrage of RPG, RPK, and small arms fire from a platoon sized enemy element.  Kilo Company returned fire, forcing the enemy to take cover in nearby caves as they continued to fire.  Second Platoon continued to close with the enemy while calling in air strikes from A-10s.  After the air strikes on the caves and the resulting lull in gunfire, an element from 2d Platoon began to assess battle damage when two Marines conducted a search to confirm the status of a slain enemy combatant.  Corporal Schoener and Lance Corporal Kirven suffered gunshot wounds sustained from small arms fire emitting from a nearby cave where two combatants were well concealed.  While the two injured Marines returned fire, the combatants threw a fragmentary grenade, which killed Lance Corporal Kirven.  Severely wounded by the fragmentation, Corporal Schoener continued to return fire despite his injuries and remained trapped in the enemy line of fire.  The remainder of the squad maneuvered around the cave while returning fire and throwing grenades into the cave.  It was only when the Marines had destroyed the enemy in the cave that they were able to come within reach of Corporal Schoener, who expired shortly thereafter.  Additionally, during this engagement three Marines were wounded in action: First Lieutenant Boada, Corporal Chinana, and Lance Corporal Lynch.

Kilo 2-2, 6 April 2005

Kilo 2-2, 6 April 2005

The police chief of Alishang, Commander Sharif, confirmed that the enemy combatants were fighters of the insurgent commander of the region, Pashtoon.  Sharif reported that most of the AQAM dead and wounded were brought to Kanday Village where it was confirmed that six enemy personnel were wounded in action (WIA) and 15 enemy personnel KIA.  Four WIA and twelve KIA were positively identified, to include two of Pashtoon’s brothers and his uncle.

Kilo Company remained in the immediate vicinity of the contact for several days to develop leads to locate any more individuals involved in the skirmish.  Combined Task Force Trinity, along with an entire grateful nation, mourned the loss of the two fallen Marines who are truly American patriots.  On 13 May, a memorial ceremony was held at FOB Mehtar Lam and on 18 May, Camp Trinity at JAF was re-named Camp Schoener-Kirven as a tribute to these Marines’ sacrifice.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 January to 30 June 2005


Family Mourns Casualty Of War

Stephanie McCrummen || Washington Post Staff Writer || Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Three weeks ago, Nicholas Kirven wrote his stepfather a long e-mail from somewhere in Afghanistan, one in which the trajectory of the 21-year-old’s life was at last becoming discernable.

“I’m still thinking of the college thing next fall but not sure where,” he wrote. “Given my grades in high school I might have to start small. . . . I’ve now gained the maturity and discipline needed to excell in school. I doubt I would have done well at 18.”

“How’s Jobes?” he wrote, referring to younger brother Joseph. “I think about him all the time and hope that he’s getting through that tough growing up time. I just pray he doesn’t make the mistakes I did, he’s a good kid.”

Michael Belle, Kirven’s stepfather, was in his home office when the Marine gunnery sergeant and a Navy chaplain knocked on his door in Fair Oaks about 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Kirven’s mother, Beth Belle, was in the kitchen, and screamed when she saw them.

“Beth could not answer the door,” Michael Belle said.

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Cain Kirven, a directionless but big-hearted teenager who found purpose in the Marine Corps, was killed Sunday in an area of eastern Afghanistan his parents can hardly pronounce, Alishang.

The gunnery sergeant told the Belles that Kirven’s unit had engaged in a lengthy firefight with insurgents about 60 miles east of Kabul. He said the Marines had chased the insurgents into a cave and called in air strikes. When Kirven, the squad leader, and another Marine entered the cave to assess the situation, he said, they were ambushed and killed.

“The gunnery sergeant said that he was such a hero in this battle, that he saved lives,” Beth Belle said.

Kirven was to come home within 30 days. “He wanted to come home,” Michael Belle said. “He’d had enough, you know. He kept saying, ‘I gotta get by just 30 days, and I’ll be seeing you soon.’ ”

Kirven specialized in soccer, basketball and girls in high school, all four of them that he attended. He played piano, composed music and made his family laugh, often with impersonations of Colin Farrell. Kirven considered himself unfocused, though, and had his share of teenage troubles.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a Marine recruiter visited his high school in Richmond, where Kirven was living with his father, Leo Kirven. A senior then, he found the sense of purpose he had been craving, and signed up.

“He needed to join the Marines because it’s the toughest branch of service,” his stepfather said. “He wanted to be the few, the proud — the commercial.”

Kirven told his family he actually enjoyed boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., and he went on to complete grueling training in rock climbing and swimming, eventually joining Special Operations.

He left for Afghanistan on Oct. 31. He called when he could and wrote dispatches through the frozen winter, usually attaching snapshots of things he noticed for one reason or other: a staring, dark-haired little girl; a dead camel; an elderly man’s misshapen foot (“I don’t know what is wrong with it,” he wrote). Mary-Pride Kirven said her brother always appreciated small details.

He was proud of what the Marines were accomplishing in Afghanistan, he told his parents, and said he enjoyed the work of rebuilding the country more than hunting down al Qaeda.

“Everything is ok here,” he wrote to his stepfather in April. “I’ll tell you all the good stories when I get back. Mom would freak so I spare the details that would cause her worry. . . . Give Joseph a big birthday hug for me and tell Pridie I’m so proud of her when she graduates.

“I love you all so much,” he wrote. “Love, Nicholas”.

Source: © Washington Post 2005

Fallen Marine ID’d

By Gregg K. Kakesako || Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Pentagon has identified a second Kaneohe Marine killed in combat in Afghanistan on Sunday as Lance Cpl. Nicholas C. Kirven.

Kirven and fellow Kaneohe Marine Cpl. Richard P. Schoener, 22, were killed as their squad was clearing a cave of suspected insurgents in eastern Afghanistan. They are the first Kaneohe Marines to die in Afghanistan.

They were infantry riflemen assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which was attached to Combined Joint Task Force-76 in Afghanistan.

Kirven, 21, the squad leader, and Schoener were killed in a five-hour battle with insurgents who were holed up in a cave. Both were supposed to have come home in 30 days.

Michael Belle, Kirven’s stepfather, told a Fairfax, Va., TV station, “We knew as soon as we opened the door the purpose of the visit. We saw the Navy chaplain.”

Kirven’s family said he loved the Marines and helping needy children in a violent country.

They said Kirven understood his family missed him so he set up a Web site with pictures and messages about his tour of duty.

Relatives said he had a big heart and an engaging personality.

Kirven’s mother, Beth Belle, said, “Nicholas was the most warm, kind, loving son. He loved his family more than anything in the world.”

Sunday’s battle began when a Marine unit checked out a tip about insurgents operating in Laghman, an opium-producing area 60 miles east of the capital, Kabul. The military said insurgents were killed in a five-hour battle in Alisang in eastern Afghanistan.

Kirven, a native of Richmond, Va., enlisted in the Marine Corps on Dec. 13, 2001, and reported to Kaneohe on March 26, 2003, before deploying to Afghanistan on Veterans Day last November.

His awards include the Navy unit commendation medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service and Expeditionary Medals, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with second award.

He is survived by his parents.

Twenty-two soldiers, two sailors, 42 Marines and one civilian with Hawaii ties have been killed in Iraq since the war started on March 19, 2003. Thirteen of the soldiers were from the 25th Infantry Division based at Schofield Barracks. One soldier was killed in Kuwait last year.

Besides Schoener and Kirven, 15 soldiers from 25th Division have died in Afghanistan.

Copyright © Honolulu Star-Bulletin 2005

No letup for Marines

By Roger Leo || July 5, 2005

MEHTARLAM, Afghanistan – First Lt. Stephen J. Boada, 26, spent Father’s Day at home in Hawaii with his wife, a dramatic change from Mother’s Day when he was in a vicious firefight with insurgents in rugged foothills above the Alishang River in eastern Afghanistan.

In that battle, 1st Lt. Boada, a native of Bristol, Conn., crawled within a few feet of insurgents firing from a cave, caught M-67 fragmentation grenades from his fellow Marines and tossed them into the cave.

The insurgents died, but not before killing two Marines.”I only wish I could have done what I did a little sooner and maybe the lives of two of our Marines could have been spared,” 1st Lt. Boada said.

Cpl. Richard P. Schoener, 22, of Hayes, La., and Lance Cpl. Nicholas C. Kirven, 21, of Richmond, Va., died after being hit by AK-47 fire and the blast from a grenade that exploded between them after it was tossed out of the cave.

The Marines had been patrolling a rough mountain valley where opium poppies grow. Afghans said they had never seen Americans in the area, which is less than three hours from the main road from Kabul to Jalalabad, a major city near the Pakistan border.

Kilo Co., 3rd Marine Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, had just moved into the region, to a rough base at Mehtarlam, at the mouth of the Alishang Valley.

“We’ve been fortunate until now,” Lt. Col. Norman L. Cooling, 40, of Baytown, Texas, commander of 3-3 Marines, said after the encounter. “We’ve been here six months, it was our 19th firefight … and these are the first two boys we’ve had to send home like that. Some Marines have been wounded, but only one had to return home.”

Kilo Co.’s 2nd Platoon was in its fourth day of a patrol up the valley when the Marines learned about an ambush plot.

Marines said villagers went to the company’s forward patrol base, high on a windswept ridge, to warn them.

Radio chatter also alerted the Marines.”ICOM (radio) traffic indicated they were setting up an ambush,” Lt. Col. Cooling said. When one squad of Marines moved up the valley, he said, 1st Lt. Sam A. Monte, 28, of Portland, Ore., leader of the 2nd Platoon, Kilo Co., sent his machine gun squad to a ridge overlooking the area. The squad saw 11 people with AK-47s and RPGs – rocket-propelled grenades – moving along a ridge, he said.

Lt. Col. Cooling said Marines moved toward the men, who then opened fire from about 1,000 yards away – too far to be effective.

“The squad takes cover and begins to close – there were no helicopters, because of bad weather, so they pull A-10s out of the stack and give ’em to Kilo 2nd Platoon,” he said.

“While two squads are moving against the 11 men, and the A-10s are hitting the 11, they break into two groups, and one moves into a cave complex. The A-10s, ground-support combat planes, work in two sections: two pound the caves and move out, two more come in and pound them. But the caves are impregnable – superb fighting positions. The A-10s are putting down suppression fire while the Marines are moving in on the caves. Close to the mouth of the caves, two Marines come upon what appears to be a dead enemy combatant. One reaches down to check, to see if he is dead, to check the body, while the other covers him.

“Lance Cpl. Nick Kirven is reaching down. Cpl. Rich Schoener is covering, as Lance Cpl. Kirven is searching for grenades.

“They hear movement from the cave, and both turn, and both are hit by AK-47 fire. In the first burst, Lance Cpl. Kirven is hit in the side, Cpl. Schoener in the arm. Both go down and call for help.

“The enemy in the cave opened up on the squad, and threw a grenade at Lance Cpl. Kirven and Cpl. Schoener. It silenced Lance Cpl. Kirven, and wounded Cpl. Schoener in the leg. He was calling for help and returning fire. It took several minutes to silence the caves. By then, Lance Cpl. Kirven had no pulse, and Cpl. Schoener died within minutes,” Lt. Col. Cooling said.

Sgt. Robert R. Campbell, 29, of Jackson, Tenn., leader of 2nd Platoon’s 2nd Squad, and Sgt. Benjamin “Benny” Upton, 30, of Brighton, head of a sniper team attached to 2nd Platoon’s 1st Squad, said as Lance Cpl. Kirven and Cpl. Schoener went down in two bursts of AK-47 fire, their buddies swarmed toward the cave, firing.

Sgt. Campbell: “As Lance Cpl. Kirven and Cpl. Schoener moved on the cave, there were two three- to five-round bursts of AK fire from the cave. Kirven and Schoener were hit. They continued to fire as they went down. Lance Cpl. Lynch (Loren M. Lynch, 20, of Orlando, Fla.) and Lance Cpl. (Matthew) Reynolds, behind them, fired and … moved toward the cave. A grenade came out of the cave, landed between Kirven and Schoener. The grenade went off. I moved Reynolds and Lynch back, provided cover fire. Lt. Boada and Cpl. Arndt (Cpl. Troy M. Arndt, 21, of Palmyra, Pa.) moved on the cave to eliminate the enemy.”

Sgt. Upton: “We heard the AK bursts, moved to the front and left side of the cave, split off, four to the left, four to the right, got with Sgt. Campbell’s squad, converged within a 30-foot radius within 60 seconds of the firing.”

Sgt. Campbell: “The enemy continued to fire out the 18-inch entrance to the cave and through holes in the roof where the rocks were overlapping. We suppressed the whole area as Lt. Boada and Cpl. Arndt moved up and got into position to throw grenades into the cave.”

Sgt. Upton: “We were above them, and would throw our grenades to Lt. Boada and he would throw them into the cave.”

Sgt. Campbell: “They’d prep, would yell, `Covering fire,’ and `Frag out’ and we would pick up suppressing fire. Once the last grenade went off and we knew the last enemy was eliminated, we performed CPR and any other lifesaving we could on Kirven and Schoener. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do.”

1st Lt. Monte, the platoon leader, said, “Whatever happened, every one of those Marines went toward the enemy – every one of ’em. You hear it, `It’s the Marine to your left and to your right’ – but you don’t understand until you’re there. I looked to the left and right, and saw the eyes of the Marines and that’s how you can keep going, ‘cuz they’re there and they’re not leaving you ever. That’s why we don’t back down.”

That firefight lasted three hours, but the ordeal for Kilo Co.’s 2nd Platoon was far from over. The Marines had to carry their dead comrades nine miles to 12 miles down steep mountain terrain in the dark, with no food or water, little ammunition and with the enemy closing from two directions.

Sgt. Upton: “As the crow flies, it was 5K, but in steps, 15 to 20 kilometers. We tried donkey, wheelbarrows, litters – nothing worked.”

Sgt. Campbell: “We ended up carrying ’em. We got out at 0400.”

Sgt. Upton: “The enemy launched counterattacks as we approached the village. Fortunately there was a Specter Gunship in the air – an AC-130. At the first river crossing, the enemy was converging on us – the Specter Gunship killed ’em.”

Lt. Col. Cooling said the gunship killed 21 enemy in two engagements – 11 in one group and 10 in another.

Sgt. Campbell: “We used so much ammo in the firefight, without the gunship I don’t know if we could have defended ourselves. We had no food or water for 16 hours. We were coming off a three-day patrol. It was without doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life … Cpl. Pollander linked up with us at the village, to help us carry the two out.”

Sgt. Upton: “Everybody was beat. Sgt. Campbell’s squad was in shock. The terrain was so steep. Litter, wheelbarrows, donkey, hand – everybody was beat. Third Squad showing up was a godsend. We had no food or water for 16 hours, we were tired, that was a hard night. The donkeys couldn’t carry the weight, they lay down. The wheelbarrows broke. The litters – the wood broke and the ponchos let go. We carried ’em – four to a Marine – and traded off every 10 minutes.”

Sgt. Campbell: “That valley, they were growing so much poppy – it’s funding terrorist activity. We had a good reason to be there.”

Sgt. Upton: “Heroin has destroyed my community. I hope they burn it all.”

Sgt. Campbell: “At first you hate the whole country and everyone it in. But after a few days we re-gather our thoughts. I want to end this so my children don’t have to worry about it. The good Lord willing, I will.”

Sgt. Campbell: “I’d like to say that Kirven and Schoener are two of the greatest men I’ve ever known. I’m a much better person for the last seven months, spending every waking moment with them. They were always positive, this squad’s glimmer of hope at all times. They are dearly loved, never forgotten, sorely missed by us. That’s pretty much all I can remember about it.”

Sgt. Campbell paused, then continued, quietly, almost talking to himself: “It’s one of those situations, no matter how you do it, the outcome’s not what you wanted.”

Sgt. Upton: “I’ve worked with everybody – Navy SEALs, Special Forces – and they’re the best in the battalion. Other services have left their dead behind. It seemed pretty much impossible to make the movement with the bodies – wheelbarrows, donkeys, litters – nothing worked. There was a log bridge 12 inches wide. Cpl. Pollander got ’em across – I don’t know how they did it.”

Sgt. Campbell: “What we’re saying now we owe to their parents. They need to know what heroes their sons were. The American people need to know, too. Schoener was 22, Kirven 21. There’s a lot these Marines sacrifice being over here and serving their country. We give everything and ask nothing in return.”

Lt. Col. Cooling said the firefight was a major blow to the region’s insurgency.

“The engagement … eliminated most of the mid-level leadership of the most dangerous insurgent cell in the Laghman Province and significantly extended the reach of the Government of Afghanistan,” he said.”

I think this is important because the Marines’ moms and the public need to know that these Marines didn’t just die, they gave their lives producing something with real impact in the global war on terror.”

On June 16, Kilo Co. returned to its base in Hawaii after seven months in Afghanistan.

Copyright © Worcester Telegram & Gazette 2005

Marine recalls Silver Star actions

By Cpl. Michelle M. Dickson || Marine Corps Base Hawaii || February 10, 2006

Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay — “May eighth, two-thousand-five. That was a memorable day,” said the young officer as he sat back in his chair, beginning his account of what had happened that cold, wet day in Afghanistan. This was a day that would change a few Marines’ lives forever, and would earn 1st Lt. Stephen J. Boada, fire direction officer, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, a silver star for his actions.

Boada was attached with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, during that time, serving as a forward observer and forward air controller serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

This was a first time for the Bristol, Conn. native to be deployed to Afghanistan, but he looked forward to the experience.”You always train for the possibility of being deployed,” said Boada, “It was good to finally have the opportunity to put that training to use. Even though some of it seemed pointless at the time, there was a good reason for all of it. In what seems like a symphony of chaos, there is organization.”

Boada found himself with Kilo Company, 3/3, where he took part in a multitude of successful information operations, patrols, and civil affairs; while also the coordinating of aircrafts and mortars in the area.

While moving on a five to seven day patrol operation of eastern Afghanistan, Boada and roughly thirty other Marines set out in a mounted convoy through the Alisheng Valley to hopefully gain information on people who were on a target list.

This patrol was only supposed to last during the day time hours, but this day would be different, and two of the Marines would not be coming back alive.

“We set out at approximately 0700 in a mounted convoy through the Alisheng Valley,” said Boada. “As you start to come up through the valley, the road eventually ends for vehicles, so we set out on foot. We were trying to get to the end of the valley and as we went a long, would stop at villages, consulting elders about certain issues.”

While getting getting closer to the end of the valley, the Icom scanners that were being used to pick up radio frequencies, began receiving radio traffic that was translated by an interpreter to be enemy forces. The forces were watching the Marines and plotting to ambush them in the valley.

“We could hear them discussing how many of us there were, and how we would never make it out alive,” said Boada “So from there we set up a satellite communications antenna and called back to higher. We requested close-air support to sweep the hills but the poor weather wouldn’t allow it.”

The radio traffic continued as the Marines proceeded to move through the valley. They were only stopped when they heard over the radio, “They just passed us. We’ll get them on the way back.”

“The Marines were getting pretty amped up at that moment and we could recognize two of the voices over the radio to be cell leaders who were responsible for a police station that was rocketed just before we arrived,” said Boada. “It was difficult to see anything around us though due to the mountains. We knew what area the enemy was in, but couldn’t pin point anything.”

At that time, 1st Lt. Sam A. Monte, platoon commander, directed a squad and a 240 [Golf] team, to go southeast onto a hilltop to scan the area. In a short time, they received a call back from the squad that they had spotted ten to 12 individuals across the valley, who had automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in their possession.

“At the same time we heard a single rifle shot, but the round didn’t actually land anywhere near us,” said Boada. “At that time, we couldn’t tell whether it was caused by sniper fire, or whether it was possibly a signal.”

The machine gun team was then directed to engage toward the enemy who was located roughly seven to 800 meters away, said Boada. The individuals then fled into a ravine up the mountainside.

“The support by fire remained on the hilltop as we decided to make our way toward the enemy,” said Boada. “As we began moving into the draw, a brief fire fight broke out, but none of us were injured.”The Marines continued and crossed a river that rose up to their chests. As they began to climb up the hillside they again contacted higher, who was able to push a section of A-10 Warthogs out to the area.”

Cpl. Johnny Polander, a squadleader, was on the radio on the hilltop and he was able to let us know where the individuals were located,” said Boada. “At that time Lance Cpl. Kirven, a team leader, was able to send a 203 smoke round to mark the cave that the individuals entered. We also popped smoke in ours and the SBF did the same thing, we just had different colors so the aircrafts knew the difference.”

After that was complete, Boada informed the aircrafts of the situation on the ground and they proceeded to use 30 mm cannons into the enemy cave, making three or four passes with 2.75 mm rockets. After every pass, the SBF was again contacted, and they would give any adjustments that would need to be made for the aircraft fire.

“When they ran out of ammo, more A-ten warthogs came out and there were about eight or nine passes made, total,” said Boada. “During that time, we could hear the enemy over the radio making exclaims such as, ‘That went just by my head,’ so they were indirectly helping us adjust our fire.”

When the situation was under control, the Marines began their long trek up the mountainside to assess the situation and check for any enemy KIAs, said Boada. Once reaching the caves, Boada teamed up with Sgt. Robert R. Campbell, a squad leader, and began searching the different caves with the other Marines. This was when Marines heard Lance Cpl. Nicholas C. Kirven identify a dead body. He called out and Cpl. Richard P. Schoener came down to provide security for a dead check.

“Sgt. Campbell and I were only probably twenty-five meters away when we first heard the bursts from an AK-47 and the screams,” said Boada. “The squad began circling toward Kirven and Schoener who were laying on the ground, but the gunfire wouldn’t stop and we couldn’t tell exactly how many people were firing at us.”

Most of the Marines managed to find some cover and Cpl. Chinana, a scout sniper attached to Kilo Company, had a 203 but wasn’t able to fire because the weapon needed at least 30 meters to arm itself and the Marines were too close. Chinana would then attempt to mark the cave with a 203 smoke round, but the round would ricochet, and Chinana would receive a bullet frag on his scalp line and fall back.

“We really didn’t have any other option at that point because the Marines were laying so close to the mouth of the cave,” said Boada. “I made the call to move up closer so we could see where the fire was coming from and attempt to grab the downed Marines.”

Boada popped a smoke grenade as he and Cpl. Troy Arndt, team leader, made their way to a position very close to the Marines.

“The fire was still coming as we popped more smoke and kind of leap frogged from rock to rock,” said Boada. “Cpl. Arndt attempted to grab one of the Marines by the sappy plate carrier, but the gear ripped and he fell. By that time the smoke was clearing up and I grabbed him and we got to cover again.”At this point, Boada said he could reach out and touch the downed Marines because they were so close. He then grabbed a fragmentation grenade and threw it, although fire was still coming.

“I ended up repeating the process about four times,” said Boada. “Cpl. Arndt would prep the grenades for me, I would shout ‘Cover and fire!,’ and throw the grenades. Cpl. Arndt did some amazing things out there as a young corporal, I hope he gets recognized for something.”

At this time, support was being given by Campbell and his Marines while Arndt and Boada were attempting to gain the opportunity to retrieve the downed Marines.”We had to actually shoot over Arndt’s and Boada’s heads to cover them,” said Campbell. “I admire both of them and their bravery.”Finally, there was silence and no movement in the cave, said Boada. Another corporal made the call to search the cave, which was secure.

Several attempts were made to regain the lives of Schoener and Kirven, but the CPR was useless, said Boada. They had passed away.”By that time, it was about 1800 and getting dark,” said Boada. “We weren’t prepared for a night operation and there was a lack of both food and water. We set up an LZ to try to get a a medivac for the Marines, but they couldn’t send one to us because of the weather.”

At this time Boada said the Marines were beginning to get frustrated with the whole situation.”They were doing a heck of a job out there, and they had just lost two of their friends,” said Boada. “After everything that happened though, they still remained focused.”

It was at that time, that the Marines began to carry their fallen comrades in ponchos.”The Marines tried to buy some donkeys to help carry the Marines but it was no use,” said Boada. “They carried the Marines the whole time, about seven miles through mountainous terrain.”

“What had started as a three hour patrol, ended as a twenty two hour ordeal,” said Campbell. “It was the worst day of my life.”

AC130 support was available and would be able to give the Marines a heads up if there were enemies up ahead. They were able to engage and neutralize 25 individuals who were setting up ambushes in two separate areas, said Boada.

“We continued to move through out the night and arrived back to our vehicles at about 04 or 05,” said Boada. “The Marines really did a hell of a job out there. They weren’t even my Marines but I know I couldn’t have picked a better bunch.”

Boada said the hardest part about the whole deployment was having to leave the Marines he was with upon returning to K-Bay, especially the Marines he was with on that fateful day.

“They were ready for anything, even Kirven and Schoener,” said Boada. “Those two were great Marines.”

Boada received a purple heart and a Silver Star medal for his gallant actions against the enemy while serving as a forward observer and forward air controller that day, but remains truly humbled by the experience.”I think about what happened out there every day, and will for as long as I live,” said Boada. “I think about what we could have done different. What we could have done to have those two Marines walk home with us.”

Boada is now back with 1/12, but feels he should be going to Iraq with the Marines of 3/3.

“It just doesn’t feel right and I regret not having the opportunity to deploy with them again,” said Boada. “I try to keep in touch with all of the Marines I was with.”

Campbell said he feels the award for Boada is a much deserved one.

“He is an artillery officer,” said the Jackson, Tenn. native. “The things he did, he didn’t have to do. He put himself in harms way and did everything he could do to try and save those two Marines. We all did everything we could do, and it was truly an honor to work with Lt. Boada.”

Boada felt differently about his role in the situation when asked.

“The Marines I was with that day deserve the recognition,” said Boada. “They all need to be talked about, talked about more than me, they are all amazing.”

Source: Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Marine’s ‘conspicuous gallantry’ cited

By William Cole
February 2, 2006

KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii — Afghanistan has been called the “forgotten war” because the fighting and controversy of Iraq sometimes overshadow it. Not for 1st Lt. Stephen Boada or the family and friends of two Hawaii Marines who were killed by enemy gunfire in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan last May 8.

On Feb. 1, Boada was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action — the first for the Kaneohe Bay base for service in Iraq or Afghanistan — for his role in the firefight that left the two Marines dead and wounded three others.

“There are a lot of things going on day to day in Afghanistan that people, they don’t really know about,” the Connecticut man said. “It’s not as high of intensity as Fallujah or the Iraq fight right now, [but] I think we’ve made significant progress up to this point.”

Boada, 27, directed airstrikes against enemy positions, tossed grenades into a cave — killing the fighters who shot the two Hawaii Marines — and called in aircraft again to cover the unit as it evacuated its wounded.

“He stepped up,” Lt. Col. Rudy Janiczek said after the presentation at Kaneohe Bay.

“He saw something going on and took charge.”

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Kirven, 21, of Richmond, Va., and Cpl. Richard Schoener, 22, of Hayes, La., were shot and killed by insurgents who holed up in a cave after Boada called in the A-10 aircraft strike.

The soft-spoken leatherneck deflected the praise for his actions onto the members of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, who were with him that day in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Some members of the unit stood behind Boada as he talked with reporters.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” Boada said. “This is not my day. This is their day.”

The battalion includes about 900 Marines and is expected to deploy to Iraq in March.

Boada is an artillery officer with 1st Battalion, 12th Marines. In his seven months in Afghanistan, he was attached to 3/3 and was standing in as a forward air controller.

The firefight, in which an estimated 25 to 30 enemy fighters were killed, began as a routine patrol at an elevation of about 7,500 feet through the Alishang district of Laghman province for the 30 Marines of 2nd Platoon.

The opium-growing region had been the scene of previous clashes. Another unit radioed to the Marines that fighters were moving up a mountainside and were setting up an ambush.

While the unit took small-arms fire, Boada called in the A-10 strike.

Schoener and Kirven were hit by AK47 fire from a cave as they checked on fallen enemy fighters.“It was something to see,” said Cpl. Troy Arndt, 22, of Palmyra, Pa., of the A-10 rocket and cannon fire. “You train in situations and use some of the weapons systems, but it’s all training to see what you would do in this type of environment, and when you are actually put to it, you hope to react the way the lieutenant reacted to get those aircraft on the scene.”

Boada and Arndt picked their way through boulders to get about 30 feet from the cave.

With Arndt removing safeties on grenades, and Boada tossing four of the explosives, the Marines killed the fighters inside.

Arndt was approved for a Bronze Star with a combat “V.”

Copyright ©  Honolulu Advertiser 2006

Heroes 2006: ‘Americans will not make it out alive’

Marine officer led rescue mission into Afghanistan’s mountains

By Sean Kimmons
Stars and Stripes
Published: June 14, 2006

Screams from fellow Marines being attacked by insurgents in a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan were all that 1st Lt. Stephen Boada needed to hear.

The moans from the dying Marines of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, sparked a rescue attempt led by Boada, the fire direction officer for the 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, on May 8, 2005.

In February, the 27-year-old from Bristol, Conn., was awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day.

While on a dismounted patrol through the Alisheng Valley, Boada’s unit of about 30 Marines began to pick up radio traffic between insurgents on their Icom scanners. Interpreters informed the Marines that the insurgents — concealed in the rough terrain — were plotting an ambush.

“The Americans will not make it out alive,” Boada remembers one of the insurgents saying on the radio.

To keep one step ahead of their enemies, the Marines tried to call in helicopter support. However, the weather did not permit such action, so the Marines forged ahead in a movement-to-contact approach, said Boada, who was a forward air controller at the time.

A few Marines on top of a hill scanned the area and spotted 10 armed individuals walking across the valley. A single rifle shot, believe to have been fired by one of the individuals, prompted the Marines to open up machine gun fire on the enemies, about 800 meters away.

The other Marines, including Boada, pushed toward their adversaries, who were fleeing up the mountainside as the machine gun team on the hill provided supporting fire.

While making their way up the ridge, Boada called for fixed-wing air support. Four A-10 Warthogs came roaring over the valley, unleashing 30mm cannon fire and 2.75-inch rockets onto the enemy locations, as Boada, with help from the machine gun team, called in target adjustments to the aircraft.

After about eight passes by the A-10s, the Marines searched for enemies killed or injured by the barrage, he said.

Lance Cpl. Nicholas C. Kirven came across a body and called out to Cpl. Richard P. Schoener to provide security.

Boada was about 25 meters from Kirven and Schoener when he heard the bursts of an AK-47 rifle and the screams of both Marines, he said.

The rest of the Marines began to circle around Kirven and Schoener, who were lying near a cave whose mouth spat out persistent gunfire.

Using a smoke grenade for concealment, Boada and Cpl. Troy Arndt made it up to the Marines.

“Corporal Kirven was dead, but the other one was still alive and talking to us,” he said.

Arndt grabbed Schoener but couldn’t drag him away. Boada then tried to help Arndt, but Schoener’s flak vest ripped. Boada and Arndt had to take cover after more enemy gunfire came from the cave.

Boada fired his M-9 pistol and threw four grenades into the cave to eliminate the threat.“No one was in left in [the cave], just body parts,” Boada recalled.

Other Marines tried to resuscitate Schoener and Kirven, but were unsuccessful.

“Our efforts were futile, because they lost so much blood,” Boada said.

On top of their loss, the Marines could not get a medical evacuation and had to carry both bodies back to the vehicles that were about six miles away, he said.

Although Boada has been called a hero, he said he believes that the two Marines who didn’t walk away from that fight are the real heroes. Arndt, who earned a Bronze Star for his actions on that day, and the other Marines who were out there are heroes to him as well.

“I wasn’t the only one out there. I was just put in a position to make a decision,” Boada said.

Copyright © Stars and Stripes 2006

Stephen J. Boada

U.S. Marine Corps / Silver Star
He put himself in the line of fire while coordinating the removal of two fallen fellow Marines
By Dale Eisman
© Stephens Media LLC – 2009

Two of his Marines were dying just a few feet away, and gunfire all but pinned him to the ground. As he crouched behind a rock near the mouth of a cave, 1st Lt. Stephen James Boada could just about reach out and touch Lance Cpl. Nicholas C. Kirven, felled by gunfire coming from inside.

Kirven was unresponsive, but Cpl. Richard P. Schoener, wounded and bleeding nearby, was talking. Boada and Cpl. Troy Arndt, crouched behind another rock, told Schoener to hold on.

It was May 8, 2005. Mother’s Day. In Afghanistan’s Alishang Valley, Boada and two squads of Marines dug into a hillside.

With bullets ripping into the ground and rock around him, Arndt managed to get a hand on Schoener and tried to pull him to cover, to no avail. Boada crawled over to help, but Schoener’s flak vest ripped as the two Marines tugged at it.

The enemy gunmen, well sheltered in the cave, seemed to have plenty of ammunition. Boada tried tossing a smoke grenade into the entryway, hoping it would provide enough cover for a quick rescue. No good.

Boada had one fragmentation grenade. As Arndt and other Marines provided covering fire, Boada popped up above the rocks — fully visible to the enemy — and hurled the grenade into the cave. The fire kept coming. Arndt pulled another grenade off Schoener, and Boada popped up again to throw it.

Marines farther down the hill prepped other grenades and passed them forward. After the fourth blast, the cave went silent.Medics rushed forward to tend to Schoener and Kirven.

“No one’s moving. No one’s breathing,” Boada recalled. “They just lost too much blood.”

The Marines had hiked up and down a ridge more than six miles from an Afghan village in pursuit of the fighters in the cave. They were farther up the rugged and remote valley than coalition forces had previously penetrated. Now they had two fallen comrades to carry out. Bad weather made a helicopter pickup impossible.

And other enemy fighters were all over the area, tracking the Marines from a ridgeline and looking down on the platoon to plan and launch attacks.

An Afghan interpreter with the Marines overheard their chatter on the radio: The Americans would not get out alive, they said.

“It was ugly,” recalled Boada, 26 at the time. “We tried just about every recovery technique the Marine Corps teaches you.”

The Marines took turns carrying the bodies, fireman-style, over their shoulders. They fashioned litters from their ponchos, but none lasted long.

They commandeered two donkeys in one village. The terrain was so rugged, Boada said, “Even the donkeys, after about 20 minutes, they quit.”

Several Marines, including Boada, were wounded. A citation accompanying the Silver Star he received months later describes how he “continued to fearlessly lead his Marines as they fought off a tenacious enemy while other members of the unit extracted their fallen comrades.”

Boada shrugs off the award: “You get rewarded for doing your job.”

As darkness arrived, the Marines overheard more enemy radio traffic: Ambushes were being set ahead. Boada twice called in AC-130 Spectre gunships, which were able to spot and shoot fighters who were preparing traps. His “tactical acumen in directing these aircraft saved many lives in the platoon,” his award citation reads.

“We would have been in a tough spot, a much tougher spot if not for those guys,” Boada said. “They did some phenomenal things for us.”

Source: AmericanValor.Net


Silver Star

Stephen Boada

Silver StarThe President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant Stephen J. Boada, United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Forward Observer and Forward Air Controller, Company K, Third Battalion, Third Marines, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command in support of Combined Joint Task Force-76 and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM from 5 to 9 May 2005. While operating near Shatagal Village, First Lieutenant Boada’s platoon received intelligence that Al Qaeda and Associate Movement fighters were setting up an ambush position from which to attack the platoon upon their departure from Shatagal. Despite the barrage of intense enemy fire, he calmly directed the tactical employment of the unit and directed fires from an A-10 aircraft onto enemy positions. During the ensuing firefight, First Lieutenant Boada and members of his squad were wounded. Ignoring his injuries, he continued to fearlessly lead his Marines as they fought off a tenacious enemy while other members of the unit extracted their fallen comrades. As the platoon maneuvered over five kilometers of arduous mountain terrain with the injured Marines, First Lieutenant Boada called for and directed AC-130 aircraft to cover the unit’s movement. This action resulted in the destruction of the besieging enemy. Without question, First Lieutenant Boada’s tactical acumen in directing these aircraft saved many lives in the platoon as the enemy’s ambush positions controlled the high ground through the terrain in which the platoon was conducting its retrograde. By his bold leadership, wise judgment, and complete dedication to duty, First Lieutenant Boada reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device

Nick Kirven (Posthumous)

Bronze Star with VFor heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as 3d Fire Team Leader, 2d Squad, 2d Platoon, Company K, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76 in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan. On 8 May 2005, while conducting security patrols in the Mayl Valley, Alishang District and Laghman Province, Lance Corporal Kirven’s squad became the assault element in the counter-attack against an Al Qaeda and Associated Movement ambush position. While leading his fire team and closing with the enemy under the cover of close air support, Lance Corporal Kirven had at least one confirmed enemy kill with his M203 40mm Grenade Launcher. Upon closing with the enemy position and while conducting a search of an enemy body, Lance Corporal Kirven and a fellow Marine noticed movement in a fortified cave just ten meters from their position. With little regard for his personal safety, Lance Corporal Kirven valiantly assaulted the position to clear it of enemy personnel. In the process, Lance Corporal Kirven received multiple wounds from enemy automatic small arms fire and fragmentation grenades. Lance Corporal Kirven continued to fire at the enemy until overcome by his wounds. By his zealous initiative, courageous actions, and exceptional dedication to duty, Lance Corporal Kirven reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Richard Schoener (Posthumous)

Bronze Star with VFor heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as 2d Fire Team Leader, 2d Squad, 2d Platoon, Company K, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76 in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan. On 8 May 2005, while conducting security patrols in the Mayl Valley, Alishang District and Laghman Province, Corporal Schoener’s squad became the assault element in the counter-attack against an Al Qaeda and Associated Movement ambush position. Corporal Schoener became the point man for his squad while leading his fire team and closing with the enemy under the cover of close air support. Upon closing with the enemy position and while conducting a search of an enemy body, Corporal Schoener and a fellow Marine noticed movement in a fortified cave just ten meters from their position. With little regard for his personal safety, Corporal Schoener valiantly assaulted the position to clear it of enemy personnel. In the process, Corporal Schoener received multiple wounds from enemy automatic small arms fire. Despite his wounds, Corporal Schoener continued to fire on the enemy position while covering his fellow wounded Marine and identifying the enemy position to the remainder of his squad so that they could position themselves appropriately. Corporal Schoener continued to fire from his exposed position until mortally wounded by two enemy fragmentation grenades. By his zealous initiative, courageous actions, and exceptional dedication to duty, Corporal Schoener reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Troy Arndt

Bronze Star with VFor heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as Fire Team Leader, Second Squad, Second Platoon, Company K, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Combined Joint Task Force-76 as part of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. On 8 May 2005, in the vicinity of the Shatagal Village, Alishang District, Laghman Province, Afghanistan, Corporal Arndt led his fire team under the cover of close air support to close with an Al Qaeda and Associated Movement element that had initiated an ambush against his platoon. Corporal Arndt’s assault element confirmed two enemy combatants killed during this movement. Upon closing with the enemy position, when two of his fellow Marines fell to enemy fire emanating from a fortified cave position, Corporal Arndt seized the initiative and ran fifteen meters under heavy enemy fire to a position just a few meters from the wounded Marines and just thirteen meters from the enemy’s fortified position. Over the next several minutes, Corporal Arndt selflessly and repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire while attempting to extract his fellow Marines from the kill zone and while providing suppressive fires on the cave so that another Marine could throw a series of hand grenades into the cave until the enemy was silenced. As the cave was cleared, Corporal Arndt initiated life saving efforts on the two mortally wounded Marines and stayed by their side as the Corpsman arrived. Over the next twelve hours, Corporal Arndt assisted in carrying the two mortally wounded Marines nearly five kilometers over arduous mountain terrain and under enemy harassment to link back up with the platoon’s vehicles and complete their retrograde to their patrol base. By his zealous initiative, courageous actions, and exceptional dedication to duty, Corporal Arndt reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


Nicholas C. Kirven – the final battle in Afghanistan May 8, 2005

Telephone conversation from Nicholas’s Commanding Officer, Marine Col
May 12, 2005

The Squad had been there 4 days, meeting in Male Valley. Interpreters with platoon picked up heavy radio transmission and found the Pashtoon were organizing ambushes against our forces. Reports keep coming over the icom.

Nick’s squad proceeded into the mountains in search of the insurgents when from across the valley on the other side of the mountain shots were fired on them. A firefight ensured. Nick’s squad moved up with the other squad as the insurgents split into two groups. One group left to the city, the other to the caves on the other side of the mountains. The Platoon commander could not get the helicopters to respond because of the weather and the mountainous terrain. They asked for air support. And the USAF responded 15 minutes later with A-10 Thunderbolts. The Thunderbolts eventually run out of fuel and ammunitions and returned to base. Nick’s squad moved in closer with fire power provided by the A-10’s. The Taliban split off and one enemy element went into a cave. Nick’s squad under Sgt. Campbell advanced to close out the cave. After the Thunderbolts pounded the cave for about 15 minutes Nicholas and Corp. Ricky Schoener spread out and entered the cave. They came upon a body and Rickey was in the observation position and Nicholas checked the body for weapons and / or bombing devices. At that time Ricky reported movement spotted from the corner of his eye and at point blank range Nicholas and Ricky came under very heavy direct fire. Ricky and Nicholas returned fire in the direction determined they were fired upon when Ricky was struck in the arm, Nicholas in the side. They both went down and they continued to return fire. They both yelled to the squad mates for help. The squad mates tried to retrieve both Nicholas and Ricky but were pinned down by fire. Grenades were launched; Nicholas and Ricky were both hit. As the squad tried to remove Nicholas one Marine was trying to pull Nicholas by the vest strap but it broke under the pressure as fire from small arms continued. He was pinned by gun fire.

The squad finally got control of the situation and eliminated the enemy. They came to Nicholas’s and Ricky’s aid but found that Nicholas had no pulse and Ricky’s was very faint. Ricky had major blood lose and a major artery in his legs was severed by the grenade(s) and he died shortly afterwards.

No helicopters to get to the region for support so the Squad carried Nicholas and Ricky on their backs for 4.0 to 4.5 kilometers, 6 ½ hours as they reached their vehicles. The US Marine CO told us this was a significant battle and victory and that Nicholas did not die for an inconsequential cause. They reported 38 deaths, 5 arrests three of witch are major opposition players 2 bothers and an uncle). This battle was successfully concluded and the 2nd platoon was sent back to base as he sent the 1st and the 3rd platoons to return to the region to complete the clean up which was completed by Wednesday May 11th.

Nicholas’s squad is in total disbelief and shock at their losses as was the CO and the rest of the Corps. The Co assured us that Nicholas and Ricky did exactly what they were trained to do and went down returning fire to the end and never gave up. He also though it was important to note that these two brave men were “always faithful”.

Source: Posted on Audiworld Forums

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