This article is sponsored by Screen Media Films.
For the defenders of a remote outpost in Afghanistan's Nurestan Province, Oct. 3. 2009 was "A Day for Heroes." Combat Outpost (COP) Keating was relentlessly attacked by 400 Taliban fighters and protected by 53 soldiers from Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
For 12 hours, Bravo Troop fought to keep the enemy from overrunning the base. The bloody fighting cost both sides dearly.
In the end, an estimated 200 Taliban fighters died trying to destroy the base. In all, eight American soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded. The defenders of COP Keating were awarded 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals for valor, 3 Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars for valor, 7 Silver Stars, and 2 Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos and 1st Lt. Andrew Bundermann's Silver Stars were later upgraded to Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Clinton "Clint" Romesha and Spc.Ty Carter received the Medal of Honor for their actions that day.
The battle is the subject of the new movie, The Outpost, directed by Rod Lurie and starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones and Orlando Bloom, now in theaters and on demand. The film is based on CNN correspondent Jake Tapper's book about the Battle of Kamdesh, "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor."
The Outpost - Official Trailer
COP Keating was not a place the soldiers should have been in the first place. Their limited reach and manpower turned their counterinsurgency mission into a constant need to defend the base itself, according to the Army's after-action report on the battle.
To make matters worse, defending that base was a nightmare. Positioned at "the bottom of a bowl," it was surrounded by high mountains, ceding the high ground to the enemy. It made the base an "attractive target," according to reports. The Taliban attacked COP Keating 47 times during the soldiers' five-month deployment there.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Brad Larson)
But they weren't just randomly attacking the COP. Taliban fighters were probing the base, gathering information on key areas, and learning the soldiers' defensive tactics in preparation for a larger strike.
Worse still, there was not much help that could come to their rescue in case of an attack. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets were being used in the search for a missing soldier elsewhere. Other forces that could have been used to reinforce the defenders or speed up the closure of the base were being used on a mission for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The soldiers soon became accustomed to the probing attacks.
Until the morning of Oct. 3, 2009, when the base became a Taliban shooting gallery.
Just before 6 a.m. local time, the soldiers woke up to a high volume of fire coming from the surrounding hills. Using the information from their probing attacks, Taliban fighters overran Keating's 60mm and 120mm mortar support and began to hit COP Keating in force, taking the Army by surprise.
Incoming attacks from the surrounding mountains laid a punishing fire on the base and its defenders, the Taliban were closing in and the Army was losing ground. Soldiers defending the base withdrew into a tighter perimeter and began to call down close-air support from Air Force aircraft and AH-64 Apache helicopters, often inside the base's original perimeter.
Things looked bleak, but there was still a lot of daylight left.
(Screen Media/'The Outpost' Film)
By the afternoon, the Bravo Troop was angry and ready to hit back. Inside the TOC, the soldiers listened to the din of battle; explosions, bullet hits, and near-constant shouting from outside. According to Mark Seavey's account of the battle for the American Legion, Staff Sgt. Clinton "Clint" Romesha suddenly spoke:
"'Ro' said in a very stern and demanding voice – just as there was a moment of odd but haunting silence – 'I'll tell you what we are going to do. We are going to take this f***ing COP back!'"
After enduring hours of withering fire and fighting off the invaders, the Army began to turn the tide. A quick-reaction force landed three kilometers to relieve the defenders of COP Keating. Even if the base was secured, they still had to focus on bringing the fight to the enemy outside of the valley using air support to neutralize Taliban positions in the nearby hills and villages, including a local police station.
The Taliban lost half of their attacking force and sustained scores of wounded. The base was still in American hands, but it was more clear than ever that it was in an unsustainable situation. Soon after the fight for COP Keating, the base was abandoned and destroyed by American aircraft to keep it from the enemy.
The soldiers from Bravo Troop displayed incredible heroism and valor in the face of an enemy onslaught that could have totally wiped them out and destroyed the base. Every medal citation from the Battle of Kamdesh reads like a Homeric epic.
To learn more about the Battle of Kamdesh or the story behind COP Keating, check out Jake Tapper's exhaustively detailed book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, and catch the new movie, The Outpost, in theaters and on demand now!
This article is sponsored by Screen Media Films.