How did LTC Benchoff’s build cohesive teams? see Operation Nashville b. Which factors of Mission Command were supported by the senior NCO’s in Operation NASHVILLE in support of Operation DRAGON STRIKE?

ANALYZE INFORMATION ATTACHED

Instructions:

a. Read the Learner Handout  “OPERATION Nashville” Case Study, and as a group be prepared to present your findings.

b. During your analysis, refer to the “Senior NCO’s Mission Command Support Role” slide on the M448 Mission Command attachment.

2. Answer the following questions:

a. How did LTC Benchoff’s build cohesive teams? see Operation Nashville

b. Which factors of Mission Command were supported by the senior NCO’s in Operation NASHVILLE in support of Operation DRAGON STRIKE?

Minimum of 300 words

Combat Studies Institute Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

UNCLASSIFIED

Victory on Highway 1:

Breaking the Taliban’s Stranglehold in Kandahar

In July 2010, GEN David Petraeus, the commander of the International Security

Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, designated the 2d Brigade Combat Team (2 BCT),

101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) as ISAF’s main effort. Commanded by COL Arthur

Kandarian, the brigade was responsible for conducting offensive operations in Kandahar

Province’s Zhari District, the birthplace of the Taliban. Since 2006, when a Canadian-led task

force defeated a large concentration of Taliban fighters preparing to assault nearby Kandahar

city, the Taliban had reasserted control over Zhari. They assassinated key tribal elders,

established a shadow government, erected the Taliban’s de facto “Supreme Court,” and

persecuted political prisoners in torture compounds. Economically, the Taliban had a

stranglehold over commerce. On Highway 1, the major thoroughfare connecting Helmand

Province to the west with the city of Kandahar to the east, the Taliban set up illegal checkpoints

throughout Zhari, stopping traffic and demanding exorbitant tolls. Drivers who refused to pay

were swiftly ambushed by insurgents staging out of the jungle-like terrain south of the highway.

With a growing insurgency on its western doorsteps, the second largest city in Afghanistan

teetered on the brink of anarchy, political instability, and economic uncertainty.

In order to break the insurgency’s iron grip on Highway 1, COL Kandarian planned a

series of synchronized offensive operations south of the highway. Christened as Operation

DRAGON STRIKE, the plan involved the 2 BCT’s two organic maneuver battalions (1st

Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment [1-502 IN] and 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment [2-502

IN]) and its Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) squadron (1st

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 2

Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment [1-75 CAV]) clearing the insurgent-dominated terrain south of

Highway 1. During the three-month combined arms operation, Kandarian expected his

subordinate commanders to take bold action, exercise disciplined initiative, and accept prudent

risks. Laying out these principles, his commander’s intent was to “defeat the insurgency in Zhari

… in order to secure the people, ensure Afghan FOM [freedom of movement] on Highway 1 and

improve governance and development.” Based on a rigorous pre-deployment training regimen,

Kandarian developed agile leaders that he trusted to independently fulfill his intent. LTC Peter

Benchoff, the 2-502 IN commander, described Kandarian’s command style as “draw[ing] a circle

[on a map], tell[ing] us task and purpose, and then let[ting] us go out there and achieve that intent

… it was very empowering.” Kandarian’s subordinate commanders were free to design schemes

of maneuver tailored to their tactical environments and unforeseen contingencies.

LTC Benchoff’s 2-502 IN served as the main effort of Operation DRAGON STRIKE.

Encompassing the western third of Zhari District, the battalion’s area of operations (AO)

included the Taliban’s birthplace and was described as “the most volatile and kinetic area in

southern Afghanistan.” The AO’s naturally defensible terrain favored insurgents. Eight-foot tall

earthen grape rows, marijuana and wheat fields, tree-lined irrigation canals, and abandoned two-

story mud huts facilitated insurgent cover and concealment south of the Highway. MAJ Curt

Rowland, the 2-502 IN operations officer (S3), stated that the irrigation canals were similar to

“World War I, trench style type defenses.” Running parallel to Highway 1, three canals provided

insurgents with east-west linear freedom of movement and positions to fire 82 millimeter

recoilless rifles at Highway 1. Even worse, the Taliban had prepared extensive improvised

explosive device (IED) belts on every north-south route connecting to Highway 1.

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 3

In mid-September 2010, LTC Benchoff planned Operation NASHVILLE, 2-502 IN’s

first offensive effort of DRAGON STRIKE. The plan’s objective was to clear “Objective

Nashville,” a kilometer-long corridor south of Highway 1 in the vicinity of Forward Operating

Base (FOB) Howz-e-Madad. By establishing a foothold south of the Highway, the battalion

would reduce violence on Highway 1 and secure the violence-plagued villages of Baluchan and

Pulchakhan, meeting two objectives in COL Kandarian’s intent. On 22 September, Benchoff

finalized his mission statement. It stated: 2-502 IN “clears the vicinity of Objective

NASHVILLE beginning on 25 Sep 10 in order to hold, creating freedom of movement along

Highway 1 … and safeguarding the people immediately south of Highway.”

NASHVILLE’s scheme of maneuver included air assaults and road cutting operations,

which were designed to bypass the impassible north-south routes. LTC Benchoff selected CPT

David Yu’s Bravo Company as his main effort. The operation involved Yu’s company air

assaulting into the village of Baluchan at night, seizing two objectives, searching compounds,

meeting village elders, and collecting the biometric data of fighting age Afghans. Two

kilometers to the west, two platoons from CPT David Forsha’s Alpha Company would stage out

of Strong Point (SP) Pulchakhan and moved dismounted towards Baluchan, clearing compounds,

and establishing temporary SPs. To the east of Bravo Company, two platoons from CPT

Timothy Price’s Delta Company, along with a company of British Armored engineers, would cut

a new road (Route TENNESSEE) running southwest from SP Spin Pir on Highway 1 to an

abandoned compound designated as Outpost (OP) Dusty. Benchoff intended to air assault CPT

William Faucher’s scout platoon into OP Dusty, located a kilometer southeast of FOB Howz-e-

Madad. Cutting the new road proved critical in diverting insurgents away from Baluchan,

trapping them to the north, and bypassing the dangerous north-to-south routes.

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 4

LTC Benchoff fully expected his subordinate commanders and senior noncommissioned

officers (NCOs) to take bold action and exercise disciplined initiative within the limits of his

Map 1: Objective NASHVILLE

intent. In addition to having previous combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, Benchoff’s

subordinates had trained rigorously using the battalion commander’s tactical standard operating

procedure (TACSOP) as a guide. Benchoff described the TACSOP as his “commander’s intent

for the close infantry fight.” By training his subordinate commanders and NCOs on the same

TACSOP, Benchoff fostered mutual trust and small unit cohesiveness. The restrictive Zhari

terrain put a premium on flexible and opportunistic small unit leadership and decentralized

command and control. “In difficult terrain where you have isolated units,” Benchoff stated,

“you’ve got to have that leadership with the drive and motivation and understanding of the

intent, and the desire to seek out opportunities to make success.”

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 5

On the night of 26 September 2010, the operation kicked off. CPT Yu’s Bravo Company

air assaulted just to the northwest of Baluchan. During the next two days, Bravo Company

searched compounds, spoke with village elders, cleared footpaths and dust trails, and scanned the

biometric data of Afghan males into the Biometric Automated Toolset-Handheld Interagency

Identity Detection Equipment (BAT-HIIDE). Remarkably, insurgent resistance was negligible.

CPT Forsha’s two Alpha Company platoons also faced minimal insurgent resistance as they

moved dismounted from SP Pulchakhan towards the east.

As Alpha and Bravo Companies cleared their objectives, CPT Faucher’s scout platoon air

assaulted into OP Dusty before sunrise. The scouts used C4 demolition charges to clear the

compound of IEDs and set up claymore mines on its perimeter. Encircled by a four-meter high

mud wall, the elevated compound offered a panoramic view of the surrounding terrain and

nearby roads. Comprised of three reconnaissance teams of five or six soldiers and a sniper

section divided into three teams of three Soldiers (a spotter, a sniper, and a security man),

Faucher’s team also included a seven-man Afghan National Army (ANA) reconnaissance

platoon.

Unlike Alpha and Bravo Companies, the scouts faced an immediate insurgent onslaught.

Concealed in Zhari’s maze of tree-lined irrigation canals, grape rows, and abandoned mud

compounds, insurgents on 26 September initiated eight coordinated attacks, using machine gun

fire and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). CPT Faucher tried to regain the initiative by radioing

for multiple close combat attack (CCA) helicopter gun runs, two dozen 120 millimeter mortar

strikes, and thirteen 155 mm artillery strikes. Air Force F-16s also dropped 3 Guided Bomb Unit

(GBU) 38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) and 5 GBU 12s, all within 300 meters of the

OP. At 1600, a Black Hawk helicopter delivered a resupply of ammunition. On the next day,

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 6

Faucher lost track of the number of coordinated attacks. Undeterred by the massive firepower

raining down on them, insurgents maintained the fight’s intensity.

As the scouts slugged it out at OP Dusty, CPT Price moved his team out. Leaving SP

Spin Pir before sunrise on 26 September, CPT Price’s command included 1LT Kyle Snook’s 1st

Platoon, 1LT Sayre Payne’s 2d Platoon, a company-sized element of British Armored engineers,

and a handful of sappers. Price’s objective was to blaze a new route through the jungle-like

terrain, opening up a line of communication between OP Dusty and Highway 1.

In the vanguard were the British sappers, followed in order by 2d and 1st Platoons. The

British sappers used two Trojan Armored Engineer Vehicles to bulldoze Route TENNESSEE.

As the Trojans smashed through the dense foliage, insurgents concealed in nearby irrigation

canals and tree lines blistered CPT Price’s soldiers with machine gun fire and RPGs. The IED

threat and thick terrain slowed down the operational tempo, making it dangerous to close with

and kill the enemy. Undeterred, Price’s team called in several CCA missions by Kiowas and

Apaches. “The way I saw my role was to keep [the insurgents] pinned down,” explained 1LT

Payne. The platoon leader worked feverishly to “pinpoint exactly those muzzle flash[es] … [and

relay them] to the aviation assets, to the helicopters. And they [were] my maneuver element,

because they can sweep across the objective.” By the end of 26 September, Price’s team

bivouacked for the night at the first irrigation canal south of Highway 1. They had sustained just

a single casualty: 1LT Snook triggered a pressure plate IED that ripped off one of his feet,

requiring a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC).

The intensity of the fighting along Route TENNESSEE and at OP Dusty surprised LTC

Benchoff. The battalion commander anticipated that the heaviest resistance would occur at

Baluchan in Bravo Company’s AO. Responding to the enemy’s actions, Benchoff shifted a

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 7

section of M1128 Mobile Gun System (MGS) Stryker variants from 3d Squadron, 2d Stryker

Cavalry Regiment (3-2 SCR) to CPT Price. (LTC Bryan Denny’s 3-2 SCR had been assigned to

2 BCT for Operation DRAGON STRIKE.) Armed with 105-millimeter cannons, the MGSs

carried eighteen rounds and had the ability to apply overwhelming precision firepower in support

of dismounted infantrymen. Knowing that Price had served as a Stryker platoon leader during a

combat tour in Iraq, Benchoff gave him complete freedom of action to employ the two MGSs in

fulfilling his intent.

As soon as the MGS section arrived on scene, CPT Price briefed the MGS commanders

of his intent. Under a continuous hail of gunfire on the second day, the advance of the British

engineers and CPT Price’s dismounted elements had slowed to a crawl. Machine gun fire from

dozens of insurgents perched in nearby wood lines repeatedly pinned down the engineers and

infantrymen. Price directed the MGSs to fire canister round volleys into the wood lines,

decisively tilting the battle in favor of US Soldiers. Crammed with 1,000 steel chunks that

fanned out in a shotgun-like pattern, the canister rounds flattened tree lines, hacking insurgents to

pieces and prompting others to leave the battlefield.

After gaining the upper hand, CPT Price was forced to make another crucial command

decision. Word arrived that the situation with CPT Faucher’s scout platoon during the morning

had “escalated and they basically became pinned down” at OP Dusty. Price realized that unless

the dozens of Taliban fighters surrounding OP Dusty were defeated, the battalion’s ability to

clear the kilometer-wide foothold south of Highway 1 would be compromised or delayed.

Weighing his options, CPT Price settled on a bold solution. He decided to launch a hasty

and unplanned “thunder run” down Route TENNESSEE with the MGS section flanking his M-

ATV, trapping or killing the insurgents surrounding Dusty. As the vehicles rumbled towards the

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 8

OP, CPT Faucher radioed the location of six insurgent positions that were in heavy contact with

the scout platoon. The dense vegetation negated the MGS’s thermal imaging technology,

preventing the MGS commanders from pinpointing the location of insurgents. In response, Price

ordered his crew to mark the locations of the insurgent firing positions with the M-ATV’s .50

caliber machine gun. He then ordered the MGS commanders to conduct a movement to contact

in a dramatic “show of force.”

The two MGSs raced towards the compounds as the dismounted soldiers remained in the

rear. Upon arriving outside the OP, the two MGSs unleashed a punishing barrage of High

Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) and High Explosive Plastic (HEP) rounds. Armed with AK-47s

and RPGs, the insurgents’ will to fight crumbled in the face of the overwhelming firepower. On

CPT Price’s order, the MGS crews methodically moved from compound to compound, flattening

doors and blasting holes through mud walls at point blank range. The carnage ended when the

MGS crews ran out of ammunition. Inside of the walled compounds, fresh blood splatter and

blood trails indicated the fate of many Taliban fighters. “Needless to say, the arrival of the MGS

on scene in the vicinity of OP Dusty completely ended the engagement and resulted in the enemy

withdrawing from the immediate area,” Price explained. His bold decision to seek out an

opportunity for success paid off. NASHVILLE culminated with “secur[ing] a foothold [south of

Highway 1] that we would maintain the entire deployment.”

LTC Benchoff stated that the intense fighting during Operation NASHVILLE killed at

least 20 insurgents, wounded dozens more, and nearly eliminated violence on Highway 1 in the

battalion’s AO. NASHVILLE was just one of dozens of operations launched by 2 BCT during

Operation DRAGON STRIKE. Yet its decisiveness struck a major tactical and symbolic blow to

the Taliban—especially because of the area’s proximity to Mullah Omar’s home village. Indeed,

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 9

by mid-October, Taliban commanders complained to New York Times correspondents that the 2

BCT’s deliberate combined arms breach south of Highway 1 had “routed” their fighters and

eliminated the insurgency’s Highway 1 stranglehold. Tactical victories do not always produce

strategic success, but NASHVILLE showed that a light infantry unit, led by empowered leaders

willing to take bold action and independently seek out opportunities for success, could triumph

against a determined adversary in difficult terrain.

M448: Mission Command-Command

Learning Activity, “OPERATION NASHVILLE”

Mission Command Case Study Analysis Handout

1. Instructions:

a. Read the Learner Handout “OPERATION Nashville” Case Study, and as a group be prepared to present your findings.

b. During your analysis, refer to the “Senior NCO’s Mission Command Support Role” slide.

2. Answer the following questions:

a. How did LTC Benchoff’s build cohesive teams?

b. Which factors of Mission Command were supported by the senior NCO’s in Operation NASHVILLE in support of Operation DRAGON STRIKE?

OPN-NASHVILLE-Vi

gnette.pdf

Combat Studies Institute Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

UNCLASSIFIED

Victory on Highway 1:

Breaking the Taliban’s Stranglehold in Kandahar

In July 2010, GEN David Petraeus, the commander of the International Security

Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, designated the 2d Brigade Combat Team (2 BCT),

101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) as ISAF’s main effort. Commanded by COL Arthur

Kandarian, the brigade was responsible for conducting offensive operations in Kandahar

Province’s Zhari District, the birthplace of the Taliban. Since 2006, when a Canadian-led task

force defeated a large concentration of Taliban fighters preparing to assault nearby Kandahar

city, the Taliban had reasserted control over Zhari. They assassinated key tribal elders,

established a shadow government, erected the Taliban’s de facto “Supreme Court,” and

persecuted political prisoners in torture compounds. Economically, the Taliban had a

stranglehold over commerce. On Highway 1, the major thoroughfare connecting Helmand

Province to the west with the city of Kandahar to the east, the Taliban set up illegal checkpoints

throughout Zhari, stopping traffic and demanding exorbitant tolls. Drivers who refused to pay

were swiftly ambushed by insurgents staging out of the jungle-like terrain south of the highway.

With a growing insurgency on its western doorsteps, the second largest city in Afghanistan

teetered on the brink of anarchy, political instability, and economic uncertainty.

In order to break the insurgency’s iron grip on Highway 1, COL Kandarian planned a

series of synchronized offensive operations south of the highway. Christened as Operation

DRAGON STRIKE, the plan involved the 2 BCT’s two organic maneuver battalions (1st

Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment [1-502 IN] and 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment [2-502

IN]) and its Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) squadron (1st

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 2

Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment [1-75 CAV]) clearing the insurgent-dominated terrain south of

Highway 1. During the three-month combined arms operation, Kandarian expected his

subordinate commanders to take bold action, exercise disciplined initiative, and accept prudent

risks. Laying out these principles, his commander’s intent was to “defeat the insurgency in Zhari

… in order to secure the people, ensure Afghan FOM [freedom of movement] on Highway 1 and

improve governance and development.” Based on a rigorous pre-deployment training regimen,

Kandarian developed agile leaders that he trusted to independently fulfill his intent. LTC Peter

Benchoff, the 2-502 IN commander, described Kandarian’s command style as “draw[ing] a circle

[on a map], tell[ing] us task and purpose, and then let[ting] us go out there and achieve that intent

… it was very empowering.” Kandarian’s subordinate commanders were free to design schemes

of maneuver tailored to their tactical environments and unforeseen contingencies.

LTC Benchoff’s 2-502 IN served as the main effort of Operation DRAGON STRIKE.

Encompassing the western third of Zhari District, the battalion’s area of operations (AO)

included the Taliban’s birthplace and was described as “the most volatile and kinetic area in

southern Afghanistan.” The AO’s naturally defensible terrain favored insurgents. Eight-foot tall

earthen grape rows, marijuana and wheat fields, tree-lined irrigation canals, and abandoned two-

story mud huts facilitated insurgent cover and concealment south of the Highway. MAJ Curt

Rowland, the 2-502 IN operations officer (S3), stated that the irrigation canals were similar to

“World War I, trench style type defenses.” Running parallel to Highway 1, three canals provided

insurgents with east-west linear freedom of movement and positions to fire 82 millimeter

recoilless rifles at Highway 1. Even worse, the Taliban had prepared extensive improvised

explosive device (IED) belts on every north-south route connecting to Highway 1.

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 3

In mid-September 2010, LTC Benchoff planned Operation NASHVILLE, 2-502 IN’s

first offensive effort of DRAGON STRIKE. The plan’s objective was to clear “Objective

Nashville,” a kilometer-long corridor south of Highway 1 in the vicinity of Forward Operating

Base (FOB) Howz-e-Madad. By establishing a foothold south of the Highway, the battalion

would reduce violence on Highway 1 and secure the violence-plagued villages of Baluchan and

Pulchakhan, meeting two objectives in COL Kandarian’s intent. On 22 September, Benchoff

finalized his mission statement. It stated: 2-502 IN “clears the vicinity of Objective

NASHVILLE beginning on 25 Sep 10 in order to hold, creating freedom of movement along

Highway 1 … and safeguarding the people immediately south of Highway.”

NASHVILLE’s scheme of maneuver included air assaults and road cutting operations,

which were designed to bypass the impassible north-south routes. LTC Benchoff selected CPT

David Yu’s Bravo Company as his main effort. The operation involved Yu’s company air

assaulting into the village of Baluchan at night, seizing two objectives, searching compounds,

meeting village elders, and collecting the biometric data of fighting age Afghans. Two

kilometers to the west, two platoons from CPT David Forsha’s Alpha Company would stage out

of Strong Point (SP) Pulchakhan and moved dismounted towards Baluchan, clearing compounds,

and establishing temporary SPs. To the east of Bravo Company, two platoons from CPT

Timothy Price’s Delta Company, along with a company of British Armored engineers, would cut

a new road (Route TENNESSEE) running southwest from SP Spin Pir on Highway 1 to an

abandoned compound designated as Outpost (OP) Dusty. Benchoff intended to air assault CPT

William Faucher’s scout platoon into OP Dusty, located a kilometer southeast of FOB Howz-e-

Madad. Cutting the new road proved critical in diverting insurgents away from Baluchan,

trapping them to the north, and bypassing the dangerous north-to-south routes.

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 4

LTC Benchoff fully expected his subordinate commanders and senior noncommissioned

officers (NCOs) to take bold action and exercise disciplined initiative within the limits of his

Map 1: Objective NASHVILLE

intent. In addition to having previous combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, Benchoff’s

subordinates had trained rigorously using the battalion commander’s tactical standard operating

procedure (TACSOP) as a guide. Benchoff described the TACSOP as his “commander’s intent

for the close infantry fight.” By training his subordinate commanders and NCOs on the same

TACSOP, Benchoff fostered mutual trust and small unit cohesiveness. The restrictive Zhari

terrain put a premium on flexible and opportunistic small unit leadership and decentralized

command and control. “In difficult terrain where you have isolated units,” Benchoff stated,

“you’ve got to have that leadership with the drive and motivation and understanding of the

intent, and the desire to seek out opportunities to make success.”

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 5

On the night of 26 September 2010, the operation kicked off. CPT Yu’s Bravo Company

air assaulted just to the northwest of Baluchan. During the next two days, Bravo Company

searched compounds, spoke with village elders, cleared footpaths and dust trails, and scanned the

biometric data of Afghan males into the Biometric Automated Toolset-Handheld Interagency

Identity Detection Equipment (BAT-HIIDE). Remarkably, insurgent resistance was negligible.

CPT Forsha’s two Alpha Company platoons also faced minimal insurgent resistance as they

moved dismounted from SP Pulchakhan towards the east.

As Alpha and Bravo Companies cleared their objectives, CPT Faucher’s scout platoon air

assaulted into OP Dusty before sunrise. The scouts used C4 demolition charges to clear the

compound of IEDs and set up claymore mines on its perimeter. Encircled by a four-meter high

mud wall, the elevated compound offered a panoramic view of the surrounding terrain and

nearby roads. Comprised of three reconnaissance teams of five or six soldiers and a sniper

section divided into three teams of three Soldiers (a spotter, a sniper, and a security man),

Faucher’s team also included a seven-man Afghan National Army (ANA) reconnaissance

platoon.

Unlike Alpha and Bravo Companies, the scouts faced an immediate insurgent onslaught.

Concealed in Zhari’s maze of tree-lined irrigation canals, grape rows, and abandoned mud

compounds, insurgents on 26 September initiated eight coordinated attacks, using machine gun

fire and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). CPT Faucher tried to regain the initiative by radioing

for multiple close combat attack (CCA) helicopter gun runs, two dozen 120 millimeter mortar

strikes, and thirteen 155 mm artillery strikes. Air Force F-16s also dropped 3 Guided Bomb Unit

(GBU) 38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) and 5 GBU 12s, all within 300 meters of the

OP. At 1600, a Black Hawk helicopter delivered a resupply of ammunition. On the next day,

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 6

Faucher lost track of the number of coordinated attacks. Undeterred by the massive firepower

raining down on them, insurgents maintained the fight’s intensity.

As the scouts slugged it out at OP Dusty, CPT Price moved his team out. Leaving SP

Spin Pir before sunrise on 26 September, CPT Price’s command included 1LT Kyle Snook’s 1st

Platoon, 1LT Sayre Payne’s 2d Platoon, a company-sized element of British Armored engineers,

and a handful of sappers. Price’s objective was to blaze a new route through the jungle-like

terrain, opening up a line of communication between OP Dusty and Highway 1.

In the vanguard were the British sappers, followed in order by 2d and 1st Platoons. The

British sappers used two Trojan Armored Engineer Vehicles to bulldoze Route TENNESSEE.

As the Trojans smashed through the dense foliage, insurgents concealed in nearby irrigation

canals and tree lines blistered CPT Price’s soldiers with machine gun fire and RPGs. The IED

threat and thick terrain slowed down the operational tempo, making it dangerous to close with

and kill the enemy. Undeterred, Price’s team called in several CCA missions by Kiowas and

Apaches. “The way I saw my role was to keep [the insurgents] pinned down,” explained 1LT

Payne. The platoon leader worked feverishly to “pinpoint exactly those muzzle flash[es] … [and

relay them] to the aviation assets, to the helicopters. And they [were] my maneuver element,

because they can sweep across the objective.” By the end of 26 September, Price’s team

bivouacked for the night at the first irrigation canal south of Highway 1. They had sustained just

a single casualty: 1LT Snook triggered a pressure plate IED that ripped off one of his feet,

requiring a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC).

The intensity of the fighting along Route TENNESSEE and at OP Dusty surprised LTC

Benchoff. The battalion commander anticipated that the heaviest resistance would occur at

Baluchan in Bravo Company’s AO. Responding to the enemy’s actions, Benchoff shifted a

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 7

section of M1128 Mobile Gun System (MGS) Stryker variants from 3d Squadron, 2d Stryker

Cavalry Regiment (3-2 SCR) to CPT Price. (LTC Bryan Denny’s 3-2 SCR had been assigned to

2 BCT for Operation DRAGON STRIKE.) Armed with 105-millimeter cannons, the MGSs

carried eighteen rounds and had the ability to apply overwhelming precision firepower in support

of dismounted infantrymen. Knowing that Price had served as a Stryker platoon leader during a

combat tour in Iraq, Benchoff gave him complete freedom of action to employ the two MGSs in

fulfilling his intent.

As soon as the MGS section arrived on scene, CPT Price briefed the MGS commanders

of his intent. Under a continuous hail of gunfire on the second day, the advance of the British

engineers and CPT Price’s dismounted elements had slowed to a crawl. Machine gun fire from

dozens of insurgents perched in nearby wood lines repeatedly pinned down the engineers and

infantrymen. Price directed the MGSs to fire canister round volleys into the wood lines,

decisively tilting the battle in favor of US Soldiers. Crammed with 1,000 steel chunks that

fanned out in a shotgun-like pattern, the canister rounds flattened tree lines, hacking insurgents to

pieces and prompting others to leave the battlefield.

After gaining the upper hand, CPT Price was forced to make another crucial command

decision. Word arrived that the situation with CPT Faucher’s scout platoon during the morning

had “escalated and they basically became pinned down” at OP Dusty. Price realized that unless

the dozens of Taliban fighters surrounding OP Dusty were defeated, the battalion’s ability to

clear the kilometer-wide foothold south of Highway 1 would be compromised or delayed.

Weighing his options, CPT Price settled on a bold solution. He decided to launch a hasty

and unplanned “thunder run” down Route TENNESSEE with the MGS section flanking his M-

ATV, trapping or killing the insurgents surrounding Dusty. As the vehicles rumbled towards the

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED 8

OP, CPT Faucher radioed the location of six insurgent positions that were in heavy contact with

the scout platoon. The dense vegetation negated the MGS’s thermal imaging technology,

preventing the MGS commanders from pinpointing the location of insurgents. In response, Price

ordered his crew to mark the locations of the insurgent firing positions with the M-ATV’s .50

caliber machine gun. He then ordered the MGS commanders to conduct a movement to contact

in a dramatic “show of force.”

The two MGSs raced towards the compounds as the dismounted soldiers remained in the

rear. Upon arriving outside the OP, the two MGSs unleashed a punishing barrage of High

Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) and High Explosive Plastic (HEP) rounds. Armed with AK-47s

and RPGs, the insurgents’ will to fight crumbled in the face of the overwhelming firepower. On

CPT Price’s order, the MGS crews methodically moved from compound to compound, flattening

doors and blasting holes through mud walls at point blank range. The carnage ended when the

MGS crews ran out of ammunition. Inside of the walled compounds, fresh blood splatter and

blood trails indicated the fate of many Taliban fighters. “Needless to say, the arrival of the MGS

on scene in the vicinity of OP Dusty completely ended the engagement and resulted in the enemy

withdrawing from the immediate area,” Price explained. His bold decision to seek out an

opportunity for success paid off. NASHVILLE culminated with “secur[ing] a foothold [south of

Highway 1] that we would maintain the entire deployment.”

LTC Benchoff stated that the intense fighting during Operation NASHVILLE killed at

least 20 insurgents, wounded dozens more, and nearly eliminated violence on Highway 1 in the

battalion’s AO. NASHVILLE was just one of dozens of operations launched by 2 BCT during

Operation DRAGON STRIKE. Yet its decisiveness struck a major tactical and symbolic blow to

the Taliban—especially because of the area’s proximity to Mullah Omar’s home village. Indeed,

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by mid-October, Taliban commanders complained to New York Times correspondents that the 2

BCT’s deliberate combined arms breach south of Highway 1 had “routed” their fighters and

eliminated the insurgency’s Highway 1 stranglehold. Tactical victories do not always produce

strategic success, but NASHVILLE showed that a light infantry unit, led by empowered leaders

willing to take bold action and independently seek out opportunities for success, could triumph

against a determined adversary in difficult terrain.