The Battle of Takur Ghar
Submitted By justuceh
How The Battle of Takur Ghar Changed Small Unit Tactics. Special Operation Forces (SOF) operate in remote locations around the world. Most people have little to no knowledge of what takes place within these elite units. There have been many instances throughout history that influenced how future wars would be fought. Friendly and enemy tactics change regularly depending on the enemy and where the fighting takes place. Currently our country is still fighting a war in Afghanistan. Many battles have taken place and many of these battles changed the tactics we are using this very second. The very unfortunate events that took place in March of 2002 in the mountains of Afghanistan during The Battle of Takur Ghar forever changed the way SOF operates in combat. These changes significantly altered the way SOF is allowed to infill troops on ground, in many instances making the missions less effective.
The Battle of Takur Ghar started out as a simple mission where two Seal Teams were supposed to be inserted by two separate helicopters in order set up an observation post on the peak of the mountain named Takur Ghar. The U.S. Forces had no idea that the Landing Zone (LZ) at the peak had two enemy bunker positions that were well hidden and concealed by snow and foliage. The fighting positions even remained undetected from our aerial reconnaissance aircrafts. The first helicopter approached the LZ for landing and was immediately struck by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). After the helicopter was impacted by the RPG one of the Seals slipped off the back ramp of the helicopter and fell out roughly five to ten feet onto the snowy peak met immediately by opposing forces. “Nobody knows exactly what transpired over the next few minutes on that mountain top. There were no surveillance aircraft over the mountaintop at the time
Roberts fell from the helicopter. Based on forensic evidence subsequently gathered from the scene, we believe Roberts survived the short fall from the helicopter, likely activated his signaling device, and engaged the enemy with his squad automatic weapon (SAW). He was mortally injured by gunfire as they closed in on him” (Defence, 2002). The helicopter had no choice other than to regain control and evacuate off the mountain leaving one man behind. Shortly following the evacuation the helicopter made a controlled crash landing. The second helicopter came and picked up the personnel from the crash site. The unit went back to their forward operating base (FOB) regrouped and headed back to save their comrade who was on top of Takur Ghar. Once again they inserted on the same LZ taking heavy fire. This time the infill was a success but their comrade had already been killed. The Seals fought their hardest for as long as they could eventually falling back and heading down the mountain. A nearby U.S. Army Ranger Quick Reaction Force (QRF) element was already starting to head to the battle in two helicopters. Due to bad communications because of the mountainous terrain the QRF didn’t get a full situation report and was unaware that the Seal Team they were going to assist was no longer on the peak of Takur Ghar. They were also unaware that it was a hot LZ. The first of two helicopters approached for landing immediately being shot down. The first three Rangers leaving the downed helicopter were killed by small arms fire. The remaining Rangers from the downed helicopter fought their way out of the helicopter and started advancing on the Al Qaeda insurgents. The second helicopter carrying Rangers landed approximately 800 meters down the side of the mountain and the QRF element fought their way up to the top (Defence, 2002). It took them nearly two hours to reach the peak fighting through 3 feet of snow at a 45 to 70 degree slope (Defence, 2002). Both QRF elements eventually linked up and eliminated the enemy force securing the mountain top killing nearly 200 insurgents. All the remaining men, wounded and deceased then waited all day to be extracted later that evening.
Changing the tactics
It’s important to know the events that took place on top of Takur Ghar to understand the influence it had on future combat operations. I am fortunate enough to have had first had experience of these tactical changes due to my service in the 75th Ranger Regiment just two years following Takur Ghar. It is ideal in most cases when doing night raids to infill the helicopter directly on the target to establish the element of surprise not giving the enemy time to react to what’s on their door step. This is what they did on Takur Ghar which was a very unideal situation. We lost many men and many aircrafts due to that type of insertion regrettably. I argue though that this battle was a bad exception. That wasn’t a standard mission. There were multiple helicopters coming in one after another giving the enemy the full advantage to resupply and regroup in time to take down the next wave of coalition. The tactics have gotten a new standard because of this. Now the standard infill is done a certain distance away from the target not to give specifics but it takes a considerable time to walk these distances. This presents a problem. The enemies early warning systems that are in place now give the enemy time to prepare for an attack while SOF makes their way to the objective on foot. It’s all situational dependent but the standard is now walking into the objective which in my experience is a less effective means of infill and results in missed opportunities and more casualties due to enemy preparedness.
History has shaped our country to what it is today and that includes the way our military operates in foreign wars. The Battle of Takur Ghar is a battle that is rarely mentioned. I assume most people don’t even know of its existence. It did happen, and the events that transpired did change the way our current wars are being fought. Now yes we do still infill directly on target sometimes but not nearly as much as we used to. The aftermath of Takur Ghar brought with it new policies and tactics that have changed the way SOF operates and in my opinion not for the better.
Defence, D. o. (2002). Executive Summary of the Battle of Takur Ghar. Washington DC: Department of Defence.