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Dakota Meyer blasts Army brass in new book


21 August 2012

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted: Monday Aug 20, 2012 14:53:32 EDT

WEST MILFORD, N.J. — During one of the Afghan war’s ugliest battles, Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer was nearly taken prisoner at gunpoint but fended off his would-be captor by beating him to death with a baseball-sized rock, according to the Marine’s forthcoming book.

That is among several revelations in “Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War.” It chronicles the disastrous Sept. 8, 2009, battle in Ganjgal, a mountainside village in Kunar province where U.S. Marines and soldiers, and their Afghan counterparts, were pinned down under fire for hours. The book, due to be released Sept. 25, is co-authored by Meyer and Bing West, a best-selling writer and former Marine infantryman.

Throughout the book, Meyer, a sergeant in the Marine Corps Individual Ready Reserve, takes aim at several targets — especially the Army officers he blames for allowing members of his team to die that day. He describes perceived flaws in the mission’s planning, outlines how officers at a nearby base refused to send help and questions why an Army captain who fought alongside him, Will Swenson, still hasn’t received any valor award despite being recommended for the Medal of Honor nearly three years ago.

Marine Corps Times obtained an advance copy of the book and met with Meyer on Aug. 7 here in New Jersey, where he was visiting friends. In a wide-ranging interview, he discussed its contents, his memories and what it’s like living in the public eye as a Medal of Honor recipient.

Foremost, “it’s a matter of capturing what happened,” Meyer said of the details included in the book. “It’s all about being held accountable for your actions in life.”

Last September, Meyer, 24, became the first living Marine in 38 years to receive the nation’s highest award for combat valor. He is credited with braving enemy fire multiple times on foot and in the gun turret of several vehicles during a frantic effort to recover four missing members of his embedded training team. He eventually found them shot to death in a hillside trench and worked alongside Swenson and other troops to remove them from the valley where they were killed.

As the battle in Ganjgal boiled over, Army officers at nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce refused to send artillery support despite repeated pleas from those in the maelstrom. At least two officers received letters of reprimand as a result, Army officials have said.

Meyer writes in the book that, as he attended to a dead Afghan soldier, Dodd Ali, he was approached by an insurgent wielding an AK-47. Meyer fired the 40mm grenade launcher attached to his M4 carbine, the round striking the fighter in the body armor at close range — without exploding, he wrote. They began wrestling, and Meyer hit the man with a rock, breaking his front teeth with one of the blows, the book says.

“We both knew it was over,” Meyer wrote. “I drew back my arm and drove the stone down, crushing his left cheekbone. He went limp. I pushed up on my knees and hit him with more force. The blow caved in the left side of his forehead. I smashed his face again and again, driven by pure primal rage.”

The incident was not described in the witness statement Meyer submitted for the subsequent investigation of the battle, his Medal of Honor citation or in the media interviews he did last year. However, the hand-to-hand combat has weighed on Meyer, he said.

“You know, what makes it so hard when I write that is you have people who question the story, of course, and that’s a part that they’re questioning,” Meyer said. “You know, I called Will Swenson, [who] was with me, and said, ‘Will, do you remember this?’ And he said, ‘Well, you know, I don’t really remember it.’ I said, ‘Well, can you tell me it didn’t happen?’ And he said, ‘I can’t.’ So I’m, like, trying to figure out where it fits in at.”
What about Swenson?

The book’s release will be close to the third anniversary of the battle and the first anniversary of Meyer getting the Medal of Honor. Meyer unequivocally backs the captain’s case for the Medal of Honor in the book — and questions why the award hasn’t already been approved.

Swenson — then a member of 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, out of Fort Riley, Kan. — was deployed to oversee the training of Afghan border police. A Ranger School graduate with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, he had participated in the planning of the mission and was assured fire support would be available if needed.

Interviewed for the investigation afterward, Swenson unloaded on the rules of engagement used in Afghanistan, the leadership of officers who didn’t send help and the second-guessing he experienced while requesting fire support, according to a copy of his witness statement.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Traci · 9 years ago
    Thanks for the heads up on the new book Michael, will definitely be picking it up. Heartbreaking stuff really that due to the cowardice of others in command this battle escalated to such an extraordinary level. I am constantly overwhelmed and humbled by the courage and strength of our warriors but also deeply saddened by the horrors they have to face and in turn live with. I pray for them always.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heywood Jablomi · 9 years ago
    The cowardice of the commanders who refused to green-light artillery support because they valued their careers more than the lives of American soldiers in contact is unspeakable.

    And they received "letters of reprimand." Whoa. They sure did get punished. How about prosecuting them?

    Soldiers died. Men were fighting for their lives. And they sat in the TOC and drank coffee while they jerked those men around over the radio.

    They should be charged with cowardice and prosecuted. Letters of reprimand are woefully inadequate punishment. These jackasses will just continue their politically correct careers. They should be required to wear a Big C branded on their foreheads: C for Coward.

    The blame for this goes all the way to the top. Those assholes were entrusted with command. Those who promoted them should be punished. Those who implemented the command climate should be punished. The ultimate commander who endorsed the ROE that justified their failure to approve artillery support should be prosecuted. This is not the first time that we have heard that the ROE endangered American forces.

    Many of us know precisely who promulgated those ROE.

    He may have been a stud when he was behind the fence. He sure was over his head as commander, ISAF.

    Anyone can dismiss this criticism as Monday Morning Quarterbacking. And that is precisely what the politically correct politicians and bureaucrats will do. Anything to avoid confronting the core problem.

    The politically correct slimeballs are still covering their asses. Why do you think that Will Swenson's MOH is still mired in bureaucracy? To decorate him is to endorse his criticism of the bad commanders who failed him and his men when they needed bold decision-making the most.

    And Dakota is wracked with guilt? Please!

    Those scumbags who sat in their comfortable command chairs in the TOC with cups of coffee in their hands are the ones who should never be able to look themselves in the mirror for the remainder of their pathetic lives.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Traci · 9 years ago
    Ditto's and well said Heywood! It sickens me!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ron Schultz · 9 years ago
    It comes down to this . the military is not in charge of the way the ways are now fought. Its all don't do any thing that will look bad and cause the people to thing ill of us. If the army wasn't so sorry assed and let the civilians behind the scene make the rules then we would just go kick ass break things and kill people the war would be won and every one comes home .It started with the Johnson administration and hasn't changed . Where is Patton and Chesty Puller when we need them . Semper Fi.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    rcrogers6 · 9 years ago
    The ROE were authored or approved by McChyrstal's predecessor and modified by McChrystal. After this incident, he further clarified them. The Sergeant in the TOC immediately provided prearranged artillery fires ( rounds I believe) that did not impact on the Taliban. The "Battle Captain" who normally did not perform that function then overruled the NCO and denied IDF support. Eventually, some smoke rounds went out. The S- wandered into the TOC and after asking too many questions to protect his ass, he denied support. Air support was denied by the Aviation Brigade because the request was not in the right format! Had they not been chickenshit, 2 nearby Kiowas could have been diverted from a mission where they were flying cover, but not engaged.

    Meanwhile men were dying. There is no mystery why CPT Swenson had his MOH file "lost." He criticized the Army officers to their faces and in his AAR. He criticized the ROE along with Dakota. So his superiors screwed him. These award recommendations are input into a computerized awards system and someone would have to erase them - which is not supposed to be feasible. Now that GEN Allen has resurrected the recommendation, please note how quickly the corrupt Army leadership is processing this award recommendation. When it is all out in the open, they still drag their feet.

    This is one case where the President is directly involved as the final approving authority. He should reach down and seize the paperwork and reach his determination. This requires that he cares about justice and gets off his ass to insure that "right be done."

    While he is at it, he should relieve General Odierno for cause. The Chief of Staff of the Army is condoning this conspiracy and a pattern of retribytion for those who criticize the Army. BTW, they didn't like CPT Swenson's haircut either. They seem to ignore that CPT Swenson's heroic actions reflected credit on the Army and counterbalanced to some extent the incompetence and careerism of the officers who let their fellow soldiers and Marines die in a ditch - surrounded.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    matt · 9 years ago
    This has been a mess from the outset. Too many times search teams were breaking down down the wrong doors based on bad intel and the Taliban and Haqqanis have used civilians as their intel network and human shields. Thus bad ROE's.

    McChrystal's predecessor, GEN McKiernan was relieved of command, I believe for his insistence upon an additional 0,000 troops which was politically inexpedient for Dear Leader. The subterranean warfare with Karzai hasn't helped either and we are keeping our mouths firmly shut regarding direct Pakistani cross border involvement.

    In other words, it is the perfect operating environment for the weasel class. We have incredibly talented line military while the rear echelon does its best to play the same games that have been played in the rear for the past 75 years.

    CPT Swenson was screwed then and now for doing the right thing and not keeping his mouth shut and for not having a Rabbi to watch his back.

    Hopefully the Army does the right thing, but 10 years into these wars, our military seems to be devoluting rather than evolving into a more efficient tool.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Mike · 9 years ago
      Those officers conduct is shameful and a letter of reprimand in there 201 file isn't enough... the Army Captain who was with him should also be recognized not only for his courage in battle, but his MORAL Courage.. Sometimes doing the right thing and being a man of honor and integrity in this day in age takes as much courage as a soldier under fire... God bless them both.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Milton-Hall · 9 years ago
    Anyone else notice the enormous growth of JAG Corps and their supporting cadres across the services? Seems to me they have devolved into the 'Political Officer' that oversaw the correct attitudes and front-line decisions of the commanders. Plus the fall-out from there has followed the war-fighters back home, months and years after the fact.

    This is one of too many PC/Propaganda-style attacks our troops have endured from their own side. God bless and keep safe both Meyer and Swenson, and all others so entrapped.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    RVN SF VET · 9 years ago
    The officers in the TOC were imposing their ignorant interpretation of the situation upon the appreciation of the situation by Marine and 1 Army officer under fire and facing death. Those Army officers in the TOC and who wandered back into the TOC were more concerned about their careers than the lives of the men in contact. Although those letters of reprimand will end their careers, I agree that is not enough.

    This was a situation where there were no friendly civilians. The civilians were running ammo to the insurgents. That included children. The artillery and armed helicopter support was required to klnock out the insurgent's crew-served weapons sited on key terrain. The situation was confirmed by senior NCO Marine snipers observing the situation through high-powered spotting scopes.

    Do not start that crap about blaming civilian authorities. This doctrine is Army COIN doctrine misinterpreted ansd misapplied. since those officers in the TOC Ddid not understand the COIN ROE, they decided to protect their careers by not "making a mistake." The rules are pretty clear; when troops are in contact and cannot extract themselves with the weapons they have, indirect fire support (IDF)is authorized.

    As CPT Swanson has said, it was the Army's fault and not some mysterious civilian imposed doctrine.

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