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Hammerhead Six: How Green Berets Waged an Unconventional War Against the Taliban to Win in Afghanistan's Deadly Pech Valley Audio CD – Unabridged, January 19, 2016
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Two years before the action in Lone Survivor, a Green Berets A-Team conducted a very different, successful mission in Afghanistan's notorious Pech Valley. Led by Captain Ronald Fry, Hammerhead Six applied the principles of unconventional warfare to ''win hearts and minds'' and fight against the terrorist insurgency.
In 2003, the Special Forces soldiers entered an area later called, ''the most dangerous place in Afghanistan.'' Here, where the line between civilians and armed zealots was indistinct, they illustrated the Afghan proverb: ''I destroy my enemy by making him my friend.'' Fry recounts how they were seen as welcome guests rather than invaders. Soon after their deployment ended, the Pech Valley reverted to turmoil. Their success was never replicated. Hammerhead Six finally reveals how cultural respect, hard work, and the occasional machine gun burst were more than a match for the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
About the Author
Tad Tuleja, author of over thirty books, has taught courses on war and conflict at Harvard, Princeton, Oklahoma, and American University.
- Publisher : Hachette Audio and Blackstone Audio; Unabridged edition (January 19, 2016)
- Language : English
- Audio CD : 1 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1478910399
- ISBN-13 : 978-1478910398
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.4 x 0.9 x 5.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,200,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on July 31, 2017
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I am sending along two books: “Hammerhead Six” and “Pale Horse.” Both about Afghanistan, the former is set in the Pech Valley in Kunar Province (NE Afghanistan) in 2003, and “Pale Horse” set in the same valley in 2009.
Sadly, that’s the point. From 2003, to 2009, to today, nothing has changed. Nothing is different despite American dead, wounded, crippled or damaged, and despite billions of dollars spent on arms, fraud, and theft in “winning the hearts and minds” of Aghans. Afghanistan in 2017 is the same as Afghanistan in 2003. This was years of inexcusable, pointless waste and incomprehensible arrogance, at every level.
That takes nothing away from the guys who wrote these two books. “Hammerhead Six” is about a Special Forces detachment from the Utah National Guard (!), most of whom are Mormons. They are sent out to set up an outpost (“Forward Operating Base Blessing”) in the heart of Indian Country. Viewed from close up, their story is interesting, nerve-wracking, and inspiring. These guys are trying to win the “hearts and minds” of the local Afghans. They did their best. Fry, the author, is blunt and straightforward about his time there. It is a good read.
“Pale Horse” is written by an Army “lifer “ who commands an air cavalry squadron. They arrived in 2009 to fly helicopters in support of U.S. soldiers operating in the valley. The flying descriptions are outstanding, riveting; the bigger picture about the U.S. effort in Afghanistan gets in there too, although the colonel does not address it directly. This book is “technical,” as there is a lot of Army flying jargon, and acronyms. Being career military (different from the National Guard green berets, i.e. reservists like me), the author is not critical of the Army idiots who were running the war. The book does contain a fair description of the debacle known as Combat Outpost Keating (October 2009), in which 300+ mujis overran a thinly defended firebase way up the valley. The base was accessible (by Americans) only by helo. The author is careful not to malign the Army boobs who put this suicide firebase at the bottom of a valley, with no plan to occupy the hills that looked down on it. Evidently Army officers are trained differently than we, and terrain is not significant for them. You will gasp when you see the photos of Keating. The “Pale Horse” squadron evacuated the Keating base just before they rotated home.
The U.S. abandoned Camp Blessing in 2010. I believe the last Americans were pulled out of the Pech Valley in 2010; it belongs to the Taliban now. “Hammerhead Six” and “Pale Horse” and all the rest were for naught.
I am reading “the Last Punisher” now. Only about a third of the way through, but so far it is less interesting than “Hammerhead Six” and “Pale Horse.”
Instead, the officer in charge quickly realized that he had to get, and stay, on the good side of the locals to win his local war. And to do so, he had to be genuine and honest in his interactions with them.
Unfortunately, there is no sign that the lessons learned were put to any use by the US command - the region quickly reverted to a mess after their departure.
It might be tempting to dismiss it as another "if they'd all done things like I did, we'd have won" narrative.
Two things speak against that: first, Captain Fry does not spare himself in revealing what must have been a very, very, distressing event, directly caused by him, in his tour. Second, not one of his US soldiers dies - if you're aware of the significance of his unit's location right next to Pakistan and the Korangal, you might come to the conclusion that he must have been doing something right.
What it’s not: action packed. Nothing wowanting to read those. But this not it.
I so enjoyed reading this book that I finished the whole thing on a long flight to Asia. It's an easy read, and keeps you interested the entire time. It worried me to think that when they left Afghanistan their successful approach might not be followed by other military units. Respect for other cultures and people, and other's way of life brought them respect, and success on their mission. Way to go guys. Now if only those at the top in our government followed this same advice perhaps this world would be a better place.
Captain Fry and his team was the topic of a whole chapter in the book “The Hardest Place” by Westley Morgan. This is not the last time that Hammerhead Six will be in the bibliography of a major work on the Afghanistan war. I think in the years to come that Hammerhead Six will become one of the foundational books referenced on the U.S. role in Afghanistan.