Running the Kill Zone

U.S. Marines dive into a deadly ambush—multiple times—to recover wounded and save fellow soldiers!

under-attack
While following the directions of the helicopters, Cpl. Meyer ran towards the location where the members of ETT-28 were trapped.Illustrations By Ken MacSwan.

This article is dedicated to the U.S. and Afghan forces of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8 who fought through impossible odds on September 9, 2009. U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, Marine Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook and the eight Afghan troops and interpreter should always be remembered for their bravery and valor.

Perfect Storm
Kunar Province, Afghanistan, near the village of Ganjigal, is a remote and Taliban-held part of Afghanistan that has proven difficult for coalition troops to crack. The area has steep ravines, sweeping tree-studded mountains full of boulders and caves—the perfect terrain for an ambush. The area is full of ethnic Pashtuns who do not like foreigners
and have a history of resistance—just ask the Russians.

dakota-meyer-carrying-wounded
Cpl. Meyer is credited with helping to evacuate 13 Marines and U.S. Soldiers and 23 Afghan soldiers during five runs into the kill zone.

On September 9, 2009, 60 Afghan soldiers, 20 Afghan borders guards and 13 U.S. Marine and Army trainers set out at 0300 hours from their base in Shakani District to Ganjgal to search for weapons and hold a meeting with village elders to discuss the establishments of police patrols. They were part of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8.

The unit headed there because the local elders declared their loyalty to the government and asked for the meeting. The village elders had insisted that the Afghan’s perform the security patrols.

The pre-mission intelligence revealed that the local Taliban would try to ambush the unit. Intelligence estimates showed approximately 20 fighters in the area.