Prev | List | Random | Next
Note: Originally from February, 2005, this tribute to a hero of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM is being presented as part of Mudville's Memorial Day weekend, 2006.
The Navy has announced it will name a ship for Air Force Technical Sergeant (E6) John A. Chapman.
TSgt Chapman was working special ops in Afghanistan, where on March 04, 2002 during a flight over mountainous terrain the helicopter his team was in came under fire and Navy SEAL Neil Roberts fell out.
Supposedly...as the helo was on final, it came under fire. An air-crewman fell off the back ramp and was dangling by his tether. Neil reached down to pull him back in. An RPG hit the nose of the helo (didn't explode) and the pilot subsequently made an evasive maneuver. Neil tumbled out (the air-crewman may have also mistakenly pulled Neil out while Neil was trying to recover him or that may have not even of happened - doesn't matter - bottom line, Neil fell from about 10ft and was on the ground alone). It is unclear as to whether or not the guys on board the helo knew that they lost a man. Helo peeled away, developed hydraulic problems, and crash-landed about a click away.
Neil turns on his beacon and low crawls to a position under fire. Neil takes the offensive, firing and maneuvering against the enemy and allegedly storms a machine-gun nest. Neil was shot several times, but continued the fight. Apparently, the video shows the mortal wound and Neil falls to the ground (an hour after he fell from the helo). He had expended all of his ammo, both primary and secondary, as well as his grenades. The video has Neil point shooting with his pistol at very close ranges to the enemy. He was dead by the time the enemy arrived and dragged him off. Not sure on whether they intended to use Neil's body as a decoy for an ambush or as a bargaining chip or for another Somalia street dragging episode.
Meanwhile, the heavily damaged aircraft egressed the area and made an emergency landing. TSgt Chapman contacted an AC-130 gunship to provide close-air support and a helo to extract the team and aircrew members, then volunteered to rescue Roberts from the enemy. On insertion his team made immediate contact with the enemy.
The remainder of the story is best told in the citation accompanying the award of Chapman's Air Force Cross. A Service Cross is the military's second highest medal for valor in combat, surpassed only by the Medal of Honor. Since its creation in 1960, the Air Force Cross has been awarded to only 23 enlisted airmen. Chapman became the third person since the end of the Vietnam War to receive the award.
Citation for award of the Air Force Cross to John A. Chapman
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, U.S.C., awards the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States as a 24th Special Tactics Squadron combat controller in the vicinity of Gardez, in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan, on 4 March 2002.
On this date, during his helicopter insertion for a reconnaissance and time-sensitive targeting close-air support mission, Sgt. Chapman?s aircraft came under heavy machine gun fire and received a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade which caused a United States Navy sea-air-land team member to fall from the aircraft. Though heavily damaged, the aircraft egressed the area and made an emergency landing seven kilometers away. Once on the ground Sgt. Chapman established communication with an AC-130 gunship to insure the area was secure while providing close-air support coverage for the entire team. He then directed the gunship to begin the search for the missing team member.
He requested, coordinated and controlled the helicopter that extracted the stranded team and aircrew members. These actions limited the exposure of the aircrew and team to hostile fire. Without regard for his own life Sgt. Chapman volunteered to rescue his missing team member from an enemy stronghold. Shortly after insertion, the team made contact with the enemy. Sgt. Chapman engaged and killed two enemy personnel. He continued to advance, reaching the enemy position, then engaged a second enemy position, a dug-in machine gun nest. At this time the rescue team came under effective enemy fire from three directions.
From close range, Sgt. Chapman exchanged fire with the enemy from minimum personal cover until he succumbed to multiple wounds. His engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement on the second enemy position enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact. In his own words, his Navy sea-air-land team leader credits Sgt. Chapman unequivocally with saving the lives of the entire rescue team. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and the dedication to the service of his country, Sgt. Chapman reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
More details on the ship from the Fayetteville Observer:
The cargo ship that will become the Chapman is currently named the MV Merlin and has been operating in the Mediterranean. The ship is one of seven container and roll-on/roll-off ships. The ships are used to preposition munitions in the Mediterranean, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocena and Saipan in the western Pacific. These ships are loaded with military equipment and supplies needed for a war or other operations. The ships are positioned in key ocean areas to be able to provide equipment, fuel, and supplies around the world on short notice.
The 670-foot logistics ship joines several named in memory of special operations veterans with ties to Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base.
The USNS Shughart and USNS Gordon are large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ship named in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart and Gary I. Gordon, Delta Force soldiers who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their actions in the battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
The USNS Benavidez is a large, medium-speed roll-on/ roll-off ship named in honor of Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez, a 5th Special Forces Group soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War in 1968.
And the USNS Sisler is a large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ship named for 1st Lt. George K. Sisler, another 5th Special Forces Group soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War for his actions in 1967.
Lots more links with details of the story here. As the PJ site says,
...the Pentagon called it "Operation Anaconda." The press have also referred to it as the battle at Shah-i-Kot Mountain. But the men who fought there, call it the battle on Robert's Ridge.
Many of the details of this battle are still classified. We do know that Combat Controller John Chapman and Pararescueman Jason Cunningham were killed in action. The SAR objective was USN SEAL Neil Roberts, who was left on the ground on during a team insertion by a CH-46 on 4 March 2002.
Below is information obtained from multiple unclassified sources. Also on the ground during the battle was Combat Controller Gabe Brown and Pararescueman Kerry Miller. They also fought bravely and provided close air support and emergency medical care to many wounded until the casualties were medevaced out.
I suggest that you read the below articles in the order they are listed. Doing so may allow you to extrapolate what John and Jason were doing when they were killed. The PJs who have access to all the classified documents tell me that if anything, the unclassified information understates the heroism of John Chapman and Jason Cunningham. Both these men died "So That Others May Live."
Neil Robert's body was recovered, as were the others, and all were evacuated.
The ridge is now called Roberts Ridge.
(Originally posted 2005-02-25 20:06:02)
This is why this country is so great. The people like this brave man! They inspire others to do better!Posted by mrupe at February 25, 2005 10:33 PM
A question for those more knowledgeable than I: It sounds like Roberts was pretty heroic himself; has he received (or would he be eligible for) any kind of posthumous commendation for his actions on the ground?Posted by Beth at February 26, 2005 01:47 AM
Discovery Wings, now the Military Channel, has an hour long show about pararescueman in training. One of them was Cunningham. They repeat it time to time, well worth looking out for.Posted by MKL at February 26, 2005 02:57 AM
The only problem is he had to die. Its just sad.Posted by Steve at February 26, 2005 07:25 AM
There is no justice in a world where the man who lost Afghanistan and Iran to the Mad Mullahs has the most deadly submarine named after him [USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23)] and a genuine hero who gave his life freeing Afghanistan from the Mad Mullahs has a civilian-owned container ship named after him.Posted by Sharkman at February 26, 2005 10:04 PM
too bad Carter did not go out 'at the top of his game' like, when he was governor of Georgia... He could have saved our nation islamofascism, the destruction of our intel and military, nukes in nkorea, sandinistas, hugh castro jr, haiti, angola, good heavens, the list never ends.
Plus the goober worthless appeaser is in Venezuela trying to convince the citizens of a nation that should be wealthy that castro jr is a great leader. Where does it end? Venezuela is "better" than nkorea, iran and haiti, three more chapters in the goober bio.
Sad for the talented dedicated warriors who are serving on our newest nuclear submarine. They are going to exert a lot of power for freedom, too bad about the sorry name. Hey, guys, we are proud of you!!Posted by JoeS at February 28, 2005 04:53 AM
Interesting timing -- I haven't read this yet (it should arrive any day now) but there's a brand new book on this operation. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0425196097/qid=1109640850/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/104-8771892-6831134.)Posted by dauber at March 1, 2005 01:36 AM
Second the comment on the inappropriate naming of the USS Jimmy Carter. What a sad excuse for a CinC! In spite of this, the bubbleheads manning this preserver of liberty are in our thoughts and prayers. May the currents off your bow guide you safely through the deep.Posted by captjay at March 1, 2005 03:45 PM
Hi all, I am John Chapman's sister and have always been damn proud of him. I think it's awesome that the Navy is recognizing his actions by recommissioning a ship in his name ... and he's AF! Didn't think about the fact that it's a cargo ship, but it's a huge, once-in-a-lifetime honor just the same (even though it would be VERY cool if John had a submarine named after him!). God bless military men and women and their families. I love you all.Posted by Lori L at March 2, 2005 03:25 PM
I served with John @ Pope and even on the same team. I am out of the AF now but it saddens me to this day knowing of John's death. The naming of the ship is a great honor for him and his family.
On March 4th 2002 we lost a great American, brother and team member.
You have made me a better American. I will never forget you Chappy.
xRed Team 24STSPosted by JR at March 25, 2005 01:44 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(10) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)