Chosen Company | July 13, 2008 | Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler vic Wanat Village, Afghanistan
- Rock Move
- Area of Operation
- Waygal Valley, northeastern Afghanistan
- Reposition forces from Combat Outpost Bella to the outskirts of Wanat village
- Disrupt militant traffic, and lay foundation for local economic and security improvements
- Staff Sgt. Pitts’ Element
- Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade
- Supporting Elements
- Army engineers, Marine Corps Embedded Training Team mentors, and Afghan National Army
July 8-9, 2008
Forces arrived in Wanat under cover of darkness, established a perimeter and immediately began building-up their defenses for the new base. The Soldiers nicknamed the base “Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler,” in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler, their former platoon sergeant. An observation post, called “OP Topside,” was placed on a ridge to the east of the main base to provide overwatch of the valley.
July 13, 2008
The sun was not even peaking over the mountains when the Soldiers of 2nd Platoon manned their assigned posts around the burgeoning perimeter of VPB Kahler. It was their fifth day in the village of Wanat, and like every day of their 14-month deployment, the paratroopers were awake before dawn and prepared to fight – a practice known as “stand-to”.
Then-Sgt. Ryan Pitts, the forward observer, was at his position at OP Topside with a team of eight other paratroopers: Spc. Jonathan Ayers, Spc. Jason Bogar, Sgt. Matthew Gobble, Pfc. Chris McKaig, Spc. Matthew Phillips, Spc. Pruitt Rainey, Spc. Tyler Stafford, and Spc. Gunnar Zwilling. The nine-member team at OP Topside served as the company commander’s eyes and ears. Their job was to keep watch over the village, warning leadership at the main base of suspected enemy movements and responding with force if ordered.
Shortly after stand-to, Soldiers identified potential insurgents on the western high ground, above Wanat. From OP Topside, Pitts and Gobble began putting together a request for indirect fire support. As a 13F, Fire Support Specialist, commonly known as a forward observer, Pitts was the team’s expert at identifying where enemy targets were located, and calling for accurate mortar or artillery fire to destroy those targets.
Before they could complete the request, at approximately 4:20 a.m., they heard a burst of machine-gun fire coming from the direction of a two-story building to the north. Then the valley erupted in fire, and an estimated 200 enemy fighters launched a full-scale assault.
The insurgents had infiltrated Wanat and set up firing positions and weapons caches in the town’s bazaar, hotel complex, homes, and mosque. The initial volley targeted Chosen’s best defenses inside the main perimeter: the mortar-firing positions and a vehicle equipped with a TOW (tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided) missile system. The enemy also focused fires onto OP Topside.