The battle occurred just after dawn at a temporary vehicle patrol base called Bella. A platoon-sized element of Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) soldiers and a smaller Afghan National Army force were occupying a hastily built area as they had done many times over the 15 months they’d been in country, Preysler said. The soldiers were there on a reconnaissance mission to establish a presence and find a good location to connect with the local government, populace and Afghan National Police, he said.
The small outpost had been built just days before the attack and consisted of protective wire and observation posts surrounding strategically placed vehicles. “That’s all it was, a series of vehicles that went out there,” Preysler said, adding that Bella had no road access, was difficult to resupply, difficult to reinforce and difficult to defend.
“People are saying that this was a full-up [forward operating base]/combat outpost, and that is absolutely false and not true. There were no walls,” Preysler said, latter adding, “FOB denotes that there are walls and perimeters and all that. It’s a vehicle patrol base, temporary in nature.”
But that doesn’t mean the soldiers were not prepared to take on the enemy, he said.
“Now, obviously when you halt, you start prepping your defenses, and in this case we had [observation posts] and protective wire, we had the vehicles deployed properly to take advantage of their fields of fire, and we set up like that all over the place, and we do it routinely,” he said.
The Army did not “abandon” the base after the attack, as many media reporters have suggested, Preysler said.
He said the decision to move from the location following the attack was to reposition, which his men have done countless times throughout their tour, and to move closer to the local seat of government.
“If there’s no combat outpost to abandon, there’s no position to abandon,” he said. “It’s a bunch of vehicles like we do on patrol anywhere and we hold up for a night and pick up any tactical positions that we have with vehicle patrol bases.
“We do that routinely…. We’re always doing that when go out and stay in an area for longer then a few hours, and that’s what it is. So there is nothing to abandon. There was no structures, there was no COP or FOB or anything like that to even abandon. So, from the get-go, that is just [expletive], and it’s not right.”
He also didn’t like the media’s characterization that his men were “overrun.”
“As far as I know, and I know a lot, it was not overrun in any shape, manner or form,” an emotional Preysler said. “It was close combat to be sure — hand grenade range. The enemy never got into the main position. As a matter of fact, it was, I think, the bravery of our soldiers reinforcing the hard-pressed observation post, or OP, that turned the tide to defeat the enemy attack.”
So this “military installation” was nothing like a Combat Out Post or Joint Security Station or Foward Operating Base as those term are understood in Iraq. It sounds more like what an old tanker would call a laager, maybe an assembly area. And it wasn’t “abandoned” after the battle. The mobile unit that occupied the position got up and left. Mobile units do that.
First reports are always wrong. Remember that.
The FOB and the OP were at the same location. Wanat was intended to replace nearby Bella and was still being set up. It wasn’t much more than c-wire around some vehicles and fortified fighting positions. It can be set up again at the time and place of our choosing.
After spending the past few days at the hospital with these guys, I was dismayed to come back to “reality” and discover this fight has been portrayed back home as “the FOB which got overrun/abandoned”.
Instead of “45 badass paratroopers hold off organized attack by hundreds of heavily-armed Taliban/AQ.”
Sky Soldiers! Airborne!
UPDATE 200812191817: Dire sunrise at Wanat
UPDATE 20110101: Final Report on Battle of Wanat- A victory with a high cost