It was called Operation Kaika – the mission was to reestablish order in a contested region of the Panjawi District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Leading the group of 16 Americans (members of the 7th Special Forces Group – the Green Berets) and 46 Afghans was Special Forces Army Captain Sheffield Ford III. As night began to fall on the evening of June 23, 2008 near a small village where the Taliban was believed to be hiding, “All hell broke loose.” (OSD)
Suddenly, the enemy descended upon the group from three directions, attacking with machine guns, RPGs, and rifle fire. Ford was able to organize his forces and eventually repel the attack. The fighting had been fierce, but the battle had just begun.
From the OSD report: “Early the enxt day, he ordered some of his Special Forces operators to lead a team of Afghans into the suspected Taliban hideout. As the unit engaged the hostiles, it was divided in two when some 200 Taliban fighters poured out, separating the American attackers and surrounding the make-shift patrol base.”
During the fighting two Americans were wounded and were at risk of being overrun. Their situation was so dire that the Afghan translator fighting alongside them said he would kill the two Americans – and himself – if it looked as if the Taliban would capture them alive. Ford said, “We’ve got people coming.”
Master Sergeant Brenden O’Connor, the team’s medic, crawled the 200 yards to get to the men – the shooting was so intense that he had to remove his bulky body armor in order to get low enough to reach them without getting hit himself. As the fight raged on, O’Connor evacuated the two men and provided emergency first aid until they could be medevac’d – under fire the entire time.
After two days of near constant fighting and with the help of air support and Afghan reinforcements, the team was eventually able to withdraw. In their wake were 120 dead Taliban. Two Americans and three Afghan soldiers were killed in the battle.
Capt Ford (now Maj Ford) was awarded the Silver Star for his incredible leadership during the battle, and Master Sergeant O’Connor was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross – the first such award a member of the 7th Special Forces Group has received since 1964.
Major Ford, Master Sergeant O’Connor, and the brave men of their team are our heroes of the week.
To see a 60 Minutes interview of these two men, click here.