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Taking Fire from the Taliban

Behind the Scenes of 'Chasing the Enemy'

Afghanistan: A soldier fires a rocket at the Taliban.

Fire fight (View larger version)

Photograph by National Geographic Channel

Published

By Eric Wiener, Segment Producer

One of the more interesting backstories in our series comes from the day before “Chasing The Enemy” took place. One day before the footage in our episode was shot, SPC. Brandon Lewis and PFC. Coy Huntzinger were in the Mata Khan District of Afghanistan, clearing roads for IEDs. They were both in their vehicle: SPC. Lewis was driving, and PFC. Huntzinger was positioned in the gunner hatch on the .50 caliber machine gun.

A number of soldiers were in front of their convoy, walking with mine detectors, when Taliban firefighters began shooting at them from only 150 to 200 meters away.

“The day before that initial video, we were rolling into this village, not ready, we haven't seen anything all year, we had ground troops walking in front of the vehicles,” PFC. Huntzinger explained. “The next thing you know you start hearing these little tut, tut, tut sounds, and look on the ground and you could see dust flying everywhere, and I stand up and start noticing that we're in a firefight.”

The Taliban fired a PKM, the modernized version of Mikhail Kalashnikov's general purpose Soviet machine gun. As SPC. Lewis told us, “The Taliban started unloading with PKM, which is a, a pretty good size machine gun.”

SPC. Lewis and PFC. Huntzinger saw everyone in front of them hit the ground; and though they couldn’t see the enemy, PFC. Huntzinger returned fire in the direction the enemy bullets came from.

“We took fire from maybe 500 rounds before the Taliban escaped on their motorcycles,” SPC. Lewis told us. “And it turns out it was just a couple of Taliban on motorcycles just trying to see up an ambush.”

“We don't know if they were unprepared or, why they tried to attack us. But that was one of those days where people were lucky they didn’t get hurt because they had about 20 Americans on the ground right in front of them, in a covered position, and everybody's on the ground… There was nothing to cover behind, and everybody got down and fired back... I saw rounds bouncing all around my buddies.”

So after narrowly escaping that attack, the U.S. forces went into the nearby village and told the local people to contact them if there were any signs of another impending ambush.

“You know, we didn't really bully the locals, but we definitely made it clear that we were not going to put up with people who helped the Taliban,” SPC. Lewis said. “So, the next day… as soon as we were done clearing for IEDs in that specific area we got a call from the locals. They were calling the police that were attached to us, the Afghan Police, and had told them that there was an ambush being set up for us again.”

That’s where the video starts and their story picks up… as SPC. Lewis and PFC. Huntzinger begin to chase the enemy.

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