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Mission 20 -Detail
Freedom's Heroes: Rangers Lead the Way

Spera, Afghanistan. April 22, 2004: Sixteen months earlier, US gun ships fired on a group of Zadran tribal leaders traveling in a convoy. They were acting on flawed intelligence and targeting the cultural heads as Taliban. Local tribe members were devastated by the loss of their honored leaders, and in a vengeful response, followers began tipping off Islamic insurgents about Special Ops patrols in and around Afghanistan's deadliest regions.

In the southern and eastern portions of Afghanistan, US-led coalition forces launch Operation Mountain Storm in March. More than 13,000 troops, including the elite Army Rangers, begin fighting alongside the Afghan army, encountering intermittent firefights with al Qaeda operatives as they continue to rout out terrorists along the Pakistan border. The 2nd Battalion of the 75th Army Ranger Regiment keeps contact with the locals, attempting to pry information from distrustful villagers about Taliban operations. The Rangers are also in charge of patrolling the perilous gorges, waiting and watching for insurgents on the move.

Mountain Storm is a complex operation in a merciless landscape. The terrain is an unforgiving merge of mountains and ravines and woods that seems to offer coverage for the enemy and clear exposure for US troops. Countless times, the soldiers find themselves under fire outside their vehicles. In unfamiliar territory, and often under the cloak of darkness, finding and fighting al Qaeda along the Pakistan border is a chaotic and confusing situation.

The face of the battlefield is ever-changing, as are the faces of the coalition. Afghan army soldiers are working with the US, and often tribal leaders from Afghanistan will ride with a convoy to lead the soldiers to covert locations. The 75th Army Ranger unit on patrol that night was accompanied by an Afghani, a man who had offered to take the Rangers to a hidden enemy arms dump. According to the Taliban, the Afghani was not a coalition fighter at all but rather one of their own who was leading the Rangers into an ambush.

There is trouble from the start. One of the vehicles in the Ranger convoy breaks down. When the squad mechanic is unable to fix it and there are no air resources to lift the machine out of the area, the Rangers decide to tow the vehicle. This splits the platoon. The lead unit moves ahead while the second unit follows, hauling the disabled vehicle. The patrol continues for 30 laborious minutes. At 7:30 p.m., gunfire interrupts the monotony of the convoy.

Small arms and mortar fire erupt around the trailing vehicle. The lead unit up ahead is not in danger, but the rear section of his convoy is pinned down in rough terrain, unable to escape the crossfire. The unit is ordered back to the ambush spot "to take the fight to the enemy forces" on the "dominating high ground."

Exactly what happens from here, we may never know.

It is a frenzied scene. A dozen enemies have surrounded the Rangers' rear convoy, and incoming fire arrives from multiple directions. The conditions are harsh, the terrain is immovable, and there is precious little light. The only thing in ample supply, it seems, is confusion. The lead elements rush to take firing positions near the crest of a hill, and for 20 minutes, there is a barrage of fire from Taliban, Rangers, and the Afghan fighter. Bullets hail from every angle.

When the deafening blasts are finally silenced, two coalition soldiers are found wounded. Two more, perched on the hill above, are dead.

Who was the Afghani killed alongside US Army Rangers that night? Was he truly an aid to the coalition? Or was he a Taliban fighter helping ensnare the Rangers? All we know for sure, and maybe all that matters, is that extraordinary soldiers died that night, fighting for freedom, countering terror, and ultimately sacrificing their lives for their fellow Rangers.

Screenshots

Freedom's Heroes: Rangers Lead the Way
 


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