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November 22, 2009
Danger Close (2)By Greyhawk
Below: an excerpt from Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan, by Doug Stanton.
They turned out of the camp at midmorning and rode down the hill with the sun hot on their backs and the horses rolling beneath them along the path. Then the riding got hard, the path rocky. They climbed several thousand feet across the face of the mountain and descended again. Going where there was little sign of a trail. Where no truck or tank had ever been.
As Dostum rode, Nelson heard him on his satellite phone talking to congressmen back in the United States, politicians in Pakistan and Russia. One of the men he talked to was a hearty character named General Habib Bullah, who at that moment was fighting in the Taliban army. Habib had, in fact, forty men under his command and was dug in in a trench in Chapchal, the village Dostum and Nelson were now trying to take.
A former general in the Afghan army, (the anti-Soviet army), Habib had been imprisoned after the Taliban took power in 1996. His family urged his release by promising that Habib would join the Taliban army. Reluctantly, Habib agreed. What else was there to do? Habib had rented his skills as a soldier for his freedom.
He loathed the Taliban. He was one of the select few Dostum had given a phone to in order to communicate secretly about their movements.
"Yes, lead! It is in short supply here." The joke either confused or mystified the reporters. Dostum thought it was hilarious.
Falls' head was bouncing up and down on the horse's butt while his hiking boots were flailing up around his ears. He was yelling at the top of his lungs, "I don't want to die!"
At the bottom of the run, the horse spied an eight-foot-wide ravine; Falls saw it, too, and yanked on the reins. The horse leaped and was airborne, sailing downhill, making a perfect landing, and galloping to the bottom. Falls pulled the reins and the horse began making a circle, as if Falls were on a merry-go-round, the horse going faster and faster then finally slowing, until it stopped and began grazing a few sparse stalks of grass.
Falls sat up, amazed that he had survived. He had covered so much ground so quickly with his shortcut that it took General Dostum and Nelson ten minutes to reach him.
When they did, Dostum rode up, gazing at Falls. He said something quietly in Dari as he passed and rode on without stopping.
"What'd he say?" Falls asked a translator.
"He said, 'Truly you are the finest horseman he has ever seen.'"
"Tell the General thank you," said Falls.
After a four hours' ride, they arrived at the austere, windswept outpost, altitude 4,800 feet.
In the distance, tucked on top of a hill, stood about forty mud houses. The window openings dark and empty. No people about, no animals. The village looked like something recently excavated from the earth. Through the binoculars, the the edges of the buildings were sharp... The Taliban had dug a trench into a hill near the village, which was about two miles off.
Nelson also spotted several Blimpies. They were designed to protect infantry during an assault, armed with a 100mm gun, a 30mm cannon, and three machine guns bristling from the blunt metal bow. Like tanks, their reach was far - they could hurl fragmenting shells up to two and a half miles.
And there were several ZSU-23s - called "Zeuses" by the Americans - which, with their turrets sprouting four 23mm cannons, were normally used as antiaircraft weapons. The Taliban had learned to back these up a hillside so that the uplifted barrels were tipped horizontal to the ground and could be fired, at a demonic rate of 4,000 rounds a minute, creating a furious wall of lead in the air. It was through this wall that men and charging horses would try to ride...
The sun would set at 6 p.m., ...they would launch the attack at two.
More to follow...
Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan by Doug Stanton. Copyright © 2009 by Reed City Productions, LLC.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 22, 2009 2:23 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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