Battle Company

by wjw on February 26, 2008

Did anyone see Elizabeth Rubin’s wonderful, heartbreaking article in this week’s New York Times Magazine?

It deals with the Airborne fighting in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, trying to do a job that has already defeated the Marines and the 10th Mountain Division.

It’s got every element of military tragedy you can imagine. A poorly conceived mission. A company trying to do a brigade’s work. The US military being sucked into a local feud. An enemy that hides behind the civilian population. Officers in distant bunkers who have the power to veto air support called in by troops on the ground and under fire. Heavily medicated soldiers kept from total breakdown by an onslaught of pills.

An intractible enemy that hasn’t lost a war in 2300 years.

Noble soldiers suffer. Noble soldiers die.

Christ, it’s sad.

Anonymous February 27, 2008 at 3:23 am

Don’t you know to take everything in the media with a grain of salt? My husband’s in that company and there’s a lot more to it than your few words of summation to 15 months of torture.

Christ it’s not sad, it’s a bloody nightmare and one that all will be glad is over in 5 months.

dubjay February 27, 2008 at 3:47 am

My best wishes to your husband and his comrades, Anon. May they return safe to their loved ones.

Do you mean to say that the situation in the Korengal Valley is actually worse than described in the article?

My God.

S.M. Stirling February 28, 2008 at 2:54 am

BTW, the Mongols came through there rather less than 2300 years ago. So did Timur the Lame and Nadir Shah.

Anonymous February 28, 2008 at 9:04 am

Yeh it’s worse. Elizabeth does a pretty good job detailing a lot of the stuff, but she focuses on Cpt Kearney and the leadership.

Since they’ve deployed we’ve lost 30 guys, that’s probably the highest number for a single unit in a long time.

Sure there are guys that are medicated and such, but then there are guys that are just trying to cope, get through another day and not kill whatever is moving just because they’ve had a rough day.

There’s the inevitable straw that breaks the camel’s back, like the flood that swept through and took all the soldier’s belongings, or the internet crashing right when they get to a computer after waiting in line for 2 hours.

There’s a lot more to it obviously because it’s a whole company’s worth of tales, but it’s a lot of blood, nightmares, sadness, sleep deprivation and fire fights.

It’s worse, a lot worse than anything that the media can convey, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, for Battle company anyway.

dubjay February 28, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Anon, thanks for posting. You’ve added a welcome personal dimension to a discussion that is all too often waged in the abstract.

Once again, my best wishes to your husband and his outfit. May the next five months pass quickly.

Thai McGreivy February 29, 2008 at 2:24 am


I want to extend a personal thanks to your husband and his unit

I wish him/them all home safely soon

marion March 10, 2008 at 2:14 am

HI Anon – Bless you.

My grandson, that lived with me most of his life, is in the unit too – I think the writer did a decent job, but I suspicion she didn’t write the hit piece NYT wanted – the question she was sent to get was why so many civilians were getting killed, something anyone with half a brain already knows: the Tallies put them in harms way on purpose. The Times didn’t seem to want to know “What are the troops going through and why are so many of them being lost?” We don’t call them the NYSlimes for naught.

It seems that maybe the writer, after having been with the guys and seen what really is happening and what incredible men they are and what they endure, saw things a bit different than perhaps going in.
The editors had to scan hard to pick out JUST the few phrases that could be negative to put on the cover. What a sniggling, cowardly thing to do.

But it seems, from comments I’ve seen on other sites, that most of the readers can see past that…can see that this is one hel*ava fine group of Sky Soldiers of which any country at any time could be proud of.

But they have had more than their share – more. At last, though, it seems the big brass is getting a heads up – per the visit this past week from Admiral Mullen and his being apprised that they are/have been in desparate need of perimeter detectors and quick air support. Hopefully, his orders will be obeyed quickly.

Manus Deus March 16, 2008 at 3:55 pm

I am in Battle Company, typing this in the Korengal Valley right now. Is it bad here? Yes. Are more of us going to die this spring? Almost certainly. Would I go home if they said I could? Not a chance. Not one of my men, to include myself, are medicated, nor has any false ideas about the valley. I’m not some desk jockey that hides in headquarters, I’m a line squad leader that goes on patrol every single day. You’re not going to get an unbiased opinion about the Korengal, no matter who you ask, but I can tell you this: we’re doing good things, our work has to be done by someone and I don’t know of a single time an enemy was shot that didnt have a rifle or a radio in his hands. I’m proud that Battle company is leading this fight, and winning. The improvements we’ve made in the last ten months are just the beginning. Thank you for your time.

dubjay March 16, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Thank you, Marion and Hand of God, for your contributions.

Manus, strength to your Hand and, um, the rest of you. May Battle Company thrive and leave the Korengal Valley a better place.

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