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Day of valor: Fort Carson unit withstands bloody onslaught in 2009 in eastern Afghanistan

By: sgt. 1st class mike cline Fort Carson
December 3, 2017 Updated: December 3, 2017 at 4:10 am
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On Oct. 3 around 6 a.m. a force of more than 300 Taliban fighters began a coordinated attack on Outpost Keating in Afghanistan. Reuters photo.

In the summer of 2009, the strategy in Afghanistan had been to deploy small units in forward combat outposts with a goal of denying Taliban access routes over the Pakistani border and empowering local elders and Afghan national forces.

One such outpost was named Keating near the town of Kamdesh in the Nuristan Province of eastern Afghanistan.

The outpost was surrounded by mountains on all sides and supported by a platoon at Observation Post Fritsche, more than a mile away. Leading up to October 2009, Keating was the scene of nearly daily attacks.

On Oct. 3 around 6 a.m. a force of more than 300 Taliban fighters began a coordinated attack on Keating while simultaneously attacking Fritsche.

Deadly projectiles from small-arms fire, RPGs, anti-aircraft machine guns and a recoilless rifle began pouring in to Keating from all sides. Within 48 minutes, breaches occurred to the perimeter wire and the post had been overrun. The Taliban fighters began setting fires and burned down most of the buildings.

The American forces, from the former 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division - now 2nd Brigade Combat Team - had formed a tight internal perimeter, centered on the two buildings that were not burning.

Regrouping there, they pushed out to retake much of the outpost. They expanded the perimeter all the way back to the entry control point and to the buildings on the western edge of the outpost, which became their final fighting position. Fritsche soldiers regained control of their mortar pit and began providing indirect fire support to help in the defense of Keating.

U.S. air support, including attack helicopters, A-10s, a B-1 bomber and F-15 fighters, destroyed an enemy building where much of the insurgents' heaviest fire originated.

Two Air Force F-15E fighter bombers circled overhead for almost eight hours helping coordinate strikes by 19 other aircraft.

The battle raged for nearly 13 hours before reinforcements forces were able to make their way to relieve Keating, due to the terrain and the heavy fire on approaching helicopters.

The Battle of Kamdesh as it would come to be known, was one of the costliest battles for Americans in the Afghanistan conflict. When the daylong battle was over, there were eight Americans killed in action and more than 20 wounded.

Fifty-three Americans served in the garrison, earning 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals with valor devices, 37 Bronze Stars and nine Silver Stars.

Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha and then-Spc. Ty Carter were awarded America's highest medal for valor, the Medal of Honor, for their actions that day.

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