On Sept. 8, 2009, approximately 15 kilometers south into the Ganjgal Village, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, Embedded Training Team (ETT) 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7 joined together with elements of 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 201st Corps of Afghan National Army (ANA) and 2nd Kandak of the Afghan Border Police (ABP) for a joint operation to conduct a key leader engagement with village elders to discuss security development plans. Marine ETT advisers were allocated in groups of four to pair with ANA/ABP forces. At the time, Sergeant (then-Corporal) Dakota L. Meyer was serving with his four-man ETT including 1st. Lt. Michael Johnson, Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, and Petty Officer Third Class James Layton. The joint operation unit was organized into four elements: an observation post, a quick reaction force (QRF), a dismounted patrol and a security element at the objective rally point (ORP). Meyer was tasked to the security element at the ORP while his ETT team, now joined by Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, served as the forward element of the joint operation unit.
The joint operation unit, consisting of American Soldiers, Marines and ANA/ABP forces, dismounted at the ORP, leaving behind the vehicles with Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez and Cpl. Meyer. From his position, Cpl. Meyer watched the patrol make way to the village on foot. As they approached, the lights in the village went out and the patrol was ambushed at approximately 0530 by more than 50 insurgents in well-fortified positions along a premeditated one-kilometer-long, U-shaped kill zone within Ganjgal Village and from the mountains above Ganjgal Valley. The American Soldiers, Marines and ANA/ABP forces took cover, returned fire and made multiple attempts to call for artillery and air support. Meyer was instructed to remain at his post at the ORP. The forward element, his ETT, had been pinned down at their position and encircled by enemy fire. As casualties mounted, the joint operation unit remained pinned down without support for two hours. Upon listening to 1st. Lt. Johnson yell over the radio, “If [you] don’t give me this air support, we are going to die out here,” Meyer requested permission to enter the kill-zone and was denied the four times he asked. After four denials, he took it upon himself to leave his relatively safe location at the ORP. Meyer mounted a gun truck with Rodriguez-Chavez as the driver.
With contact to the forward element lost, Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez drove the kilometer of the ‘kill zone’ and entered into the heaviest zone of fire, without the aid of supporting arms, in order to aid wounded American Soldiers, Marines and ANA/ABP forces. The two Marines became the focus of enemy fire, as a barrage of mortars, rocket-propelled-grenades (RPGs), machine gun and small arms fire were sent their way. Without hesitation, Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez evacuated wounded, provided essential aid and recovered bodies of the joint operation unit taking them back to the casualty collection point (CCP), then ventured back into the kill-zone four more times, still in search of the forward element. Upon reentry, Rodriguez-Chavez warned Meyer that they may get stuck in the rough terrain ahead. In spite of this risk, Meyer remained steadfast, remarking, “I guess we’ll die with them.” As forward movement resumed, the two continued to be the target of attack by the enemy. Rodriguez-Chavez maneuvered the HMMWV while Meyer staved off the enemy with effective fire atop the turret. An artillery malfunction forced the two Marines to return to the ORP to swap vehicles for a working heavy machine gun. Along the route back, more wounded were discovered, retrieved and transported to safety. In the course of the exchange, Meyer sustained a laceration to his arm from RPG and mortar fire, but it would not deter him.
Still in search of his ETT, Meyer led a fifth and final charge back into the kill-zone accompanied by Marine 1st. Lt. Ademola Fabayo and Army Capt. William Swenson. Air support finally came hours into the fire fight in the form of a UH-60 helicopter providing much needed cover. The PARARESCUEMEN aboard the helicopter informed Meyer of spotting what appeared to be four bodies. Meyer dismounted the HMMWV and ran to the identified location. Even with the helicopter keeping an eye on him from above, Meyer was in a riskier position now than he would have been if he had stayed close to the vehicles with other members of his group. He was out in front of the group, moving near buildings and terrain and drawing a high volume of enemy fire. Meyer, disregarding continuing small arms and RPG mortar machine gun fire, ran into the direction of the helicopter until he came upon the four lifeless bodies of the four missing Marine advisors – his ETT. Moving out of the ditch, across the danger zone, he transported the bodies with the assistance of Swenson and the ABP commander.
Over the course of a six-hour fire-fight, without regard for his own personal safety, Meyer entered the kill zone five separate times to evacuate the wounded, provide essential aid and, ultimately, saved the lives of 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers in addition to 23 Afghan soldiers. Meyer personally killed at least eight Taliban insurgents, while providing cover for his team to fight their way out and escape certain death. Still after all his valiant effort, Meyer does not consider himself a hero. “The heroes are the men and women still serving,” he said. For his actions on Sept. 8, 2009, his selfless valor that day in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Services, Sgt. Dakota L. Meyer has earned the distinguished recognition of being awarded the Medal of Honor.
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