'They Were Hunting and Killing Us': ABC News' Mike Boettcher Caught in Taliban Firefight With U.S. Troops in Afghanistan


'The Roar of Thousands of Flying Bullets Was Deafening'

Shortly after daybreak, when the rest of the No Slack task force descended into the valley from five separate landing zones, every American position was hit simultaneously from every direction. The roar of thousands of flying bullets was deafening.

A chilly mixture of rain, sleet and hail enveloped the valley and forced the troop's helicopter air cover to depart. The Taliban waited until the gunships were off station to begin the attack.

Mike Boettcher at the end of Day 1 of Operation Strong Eagle 3. Boettcher dove into a muddy mountainside when the Taliban began their attack. Photo by Capt. Justin Roberts, 101st Airborne

Situated behind Headquarters Company commander, Capt. Bankston, I hugged the muddy mountainside as closely as I could. He was on the radio answering calls from headquarters, which wanted to know what the enemy situation was. His reply was direct.

"The f***ing enemy station right now," he said, "is that they are shooting at us from a bunch of different locations."

Capt. Mott's platoon was pinned down 50 yards to our right.

"It sounded like the whole valley had erupted in fire at the same time," he recalled.

Mott's men were taking fire from three different locations, and one of his squads, led by Staff Sgt. Ofran Arrechaga, situated another 50 yards to Mott's right, was trapped in an exposed draw and taking fire from all sides.

Arrechaga was adored by the younger men and respected by his officers. He was thought of as as a "soldier's soldier." In the opening minutes of the battle, he lay wounded on the mountainside. Spc. Steven Trimm was shot in the hand, but kept firing his M-4 rifle at Taliban positions. An Afghan soldier had been shot in the leg.

Mott transmitted the news. "6, 3-6, I have an unconfirmed report over my net. I have three casualties. I'll give you more information as I get it."

Immediately, two sergeants, Jeremy Sizemore and Eric Mendez, along with a medic, Spc. Jameson Lindskog, only on his second combat mission, pushed out to relieve the cut-off squad.

"I was not thinking at all," said Mendez. "I just heard we had casualties. My guys are down. My men need help. So, it just clicked into my head. It's like muscle memory. You just run. You just run to them. If the enemy pops up, you engage them and hopefully you just destroy them as you continue to move."

A week earlier, I had spent three days sitting next to Lindskog in the back of an armored truck, called an MRAP. We were on a convoy protection mission and were being jostled up and down as the truck moved along Kunar's rutted roads.

Lindskog had joined the Army after his California physical therapy business went belly up in the recession. He saw that I was wincing. My back hurt and he urged me to come to the medic station after the mission for some "back work." I never had time to take him up on the offer and now he was in trouble.

He, Sizemore and Mendez were running through a wall of bullets to reach their surrounded comrades. Sizemore shouted to a wounded Spc. Trimm that "friendlies" were approaching.

"As soon as we were coming in we could hear them: 'Hey, we're right here. Don't shoot. We're coming in. Let us know what's going on,'" Sizemore said. "Trimm said Sgt. AC [Arrechaga] is shot. He's hit in the back. We stopped the bleeding. Trim said, 'I'm shot, but I'm good. I can carry on.' The Afghan Army guy is shot. He's laying out in the middle of the draw."

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