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Hammerhead Six: How Green Berets Waged an Unconventional War Against the Taliban to Win in Afghanistan's Deadly Pech Valley Hardcover – January 19, 2016
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"The story told by Captain Ron Fry is not one you hear often when people talk about the war in Afghanistan--and that is precisely why everyone should read it. Through him, his men get to tell their history, in their own words, and anyone who cares about the truth should care about this. Hammerhead Six took a lot from them because it goes against their ethos as "quiet professionals," but as you will discover when you read this, integrity can be one of the most powerful weapons of war-and nothing but that can prepare you for the unintended consequences or the moments you wish had never happened . . ."―Lara Logan, 60 Minutes
"Amidst torrents of hot brass and the smell of burnt gunpowder in Ron Fry's Hammerhead Six are nuggets of wisdom that can only come from a warrior leader who has lived outside the wire, among those he fought and those he sought to help. Riveting, compelling, transparently honest and emotional, Hammerhead Six is a must read for anyone wondering what could have worked in the 'graveyard of empires.'"―Tony Schwalm , author of The Guerrilla Factory
"Hammerhead Six is a raw, hard-hitting and authentic war story that will become one of the most important books to emerge from the war in Afghanistan. Captain Fry tells a deeply human story that captures the remarkable courage of America's elite Special Forces soldiers. Reading it plunged me back into the exhilarating, heartbreaking experience of combat. Mr. President and Members of Congress, read this book immediately. If we do what Fry and his men did, we win the war in Afghanistan. Honestly it is that simple."―Sean Parnell, New York Times-bestselling author of Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan
"Hammerhead Six is the compelling story about a small team of brave men who were sent into the most hostile area of Afghanistan. They did what Green Berets have always done: They stood up for human rights, made friends and trained people to protect themselves. Taliban activity dropped dramatically and the surrounding area thrived. The unconventional victory of Captain Ronald Fry's unit provides inspiration and a way forward into the troubled and uncertain future. It is a textbook on how to get it right the next time."―Lt. Col. Marcus Custer, USA (Ret.)
"In the Special Forces tradition of combining exhilarating edge-of-your-seat suspense and challenging intellect, Hammerhead Six takes you down the treacherous road of what it is like to be a Green Beret in an ancient land, tasked to work by, with, and through the Afghan people to fight an elusive and brutal enemy." ―Rusty Bradley, author of Lions of Kandahar
"In this thrilling tale, the reader gets to learn about a more positive war battle that was fought by relying on understanding instead of ammunition."―Deseret News
About the Author
A third-generation veteran, US Army Captain Ronald Fry served in the 82nd Airborne Division and as a Special Forces team leader in Afghanistan. He has completed the military's Survival School and the Ranger, Pathfinder, Jumpmaster, and Combat Diver trainings. Fry lives with his wife and five children near San Jose and works in sales management.
Tad Tuleja, author of 32 books, has taught courses on war and conflict at Harvard, Princeton, Oklahoma, and American University.
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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.
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