On October 3, 2009, 300 members of the Taliban attacked one of our Combat Outposts (COP). The COP was located near the town of Kamdesh which is part of Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan. During the battle, the COP was nearly overrun and was utterly destroyed. At the exact same time, nearby OP Fritsche was also attacked, which meant there was no chance of support from them. This was the bloodiest battle for the U.S. since the Battle of Wanat; when the fight ended, eight Americans had been killed and 27 were horribly wounded. Among the survivors were two men whose stunning heroism resulted in their each being awarded the Medal of Honor. One of those men was U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Ty Michael Carter, and today we tell his story.
Carter’s Early Years
Our story begins in 1980 when our courageous soldier was born in Spokane, Washington. Although his family moved to California briefly while Carter was still in grade school, they returned to Washington by the time he reached junior high age. Carter ended up graduating from North Central High School, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do: he wanted to be a Marine.
Carter enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998 and spent five years as a leatherneck. Towards the end of those years he got into a fight with his roommate, and the Marine Corps demoted him. A few months later, he decided not to re-up and was given an honorable discharge. He was done with the military, so he set about settling into the civilian life – or so he thought.
The civilian portion of Carter’s life covered yet another five-year stretch. At this point he’d been married and had a daughter, and somewhere in there he ended up divorced. He moved from job to job doing everything from repairing yachts to driving a tow-truck. He says he must’ve worked in at least a dozen different jobs in those five years. It wasn’t a happy time for him; his one bright light was his daughter.
“There was no motivation, there was no purpose,” Carter said. “I felt like a drone.”
Exactly 10 years had passed since his time as a Marine, and it was time to go back to the military. This time, though, he was going to do things differently: this time he was going to join the U.S. Army and serve as a soldier. And so, in 2008, Carter enlisted as a cav scout.
Training at Fort Knox
After going through training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Carter was assigned to Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. He was then deployed to Afghanistan from May of 2009 to May of 2010, and that’s when the Battle of Kamdesh took place at COP Keating.
COP Keating was located at the base of a bowl-shaped valley known to be of tactical importance. In that area three major valleys intersected. It was well known al-Qaeda ran weapons through the area, and by placing COP Keating and OP Fritsche in that spot, there was some hope our forces could do something to stem the flow of arms and ammunition into Afghanistan. However, the troops were unable to make headway with the locals and were met with open hostility. On October 1, 2009, the decision was made to close both the COP and the OP. Just two days later, as luck, irony, or a sick twist of fate would have it, both came under attack.
At approximately 3am October 3, 2009, insurgents moved into nearby villages and took up attack positions. This was no small gang of Taliban, either. It was a platoon-sized swarm of trained, bloodthirsty terrorists hell-bent on spilling American blood. Sadly, they would get their wish.
Immediately prior to 6am, Pfc. Jordan Wong, who had pulled duty at the troop command post, was approached by an interpreter. The interpreter gave the troops what turned out to be barely a moment’s notice: the police chief of nearby Urmol had alerted him that somewhere between 50 and 100 insurgents had gathered in Urmol and were planning to attack COP Keating. Following procedure, Wong logged the information and alerted the Sergeant of the Guard, but there was simply no time. At 5:59am, six minutes after the interpreter arrived to deliver the warning, the hills around COP Keating came alive with the battle cries of not 50 but hundreds of insurgents. The Battle of Kemdesh was underway.
The attack had been coordinated with stunning detail. It was not a sloppy, ham-handed attempt at ruining their morning; it was a well-planned assault that was carried out in an incredibly complex manner. The result was catastrophic.
Taliban fighters were firing on the COP from all directions using a variety of rifles and Degtyaryov-Shpagin Large-Calibre, DShK, which are heavy machine guns capable of inflicting enormous damage. The COP had been partially guarded by Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, and when they began to suffer casualties, it became clear just what kind of attack was being carried out against them, and about fifteen ANA members simply ran away. Their cowardice left a large quadrant of the COP unguarded, and American soldiers rushed to attempt to fill the gaps.
In one corner, soldiers were engaging enemy fighters using the .50 cal machine gun that was mounted in the bed of a Humvee as well as a ground-mounted, belt-fed M240 machine gun. Another soldier nearby fought using his M4 carbine.
Running the Gauntlet
Something they fail to show in the movies is the way real battle happens. Details like running out of ammo and the way guns heat up and malfunction tend to be left out, but this was real life, and those details were all too real. It was at this point that Ty Michael Carter ran from the barracks to join the battle. Just the 100-yard sprint from the barracks to the battle position was rife with danger; Carter was taking concentrated fire with every step.
Reaching the southern battle position, Carter immediately began to address the soldiers’ needs. He’d carried two bags of 7.62x51mm rounds with him for the M240; arriving at his position, he gave the ammo to the soldier manning the machine gun. Seeing the soldier fighting with his M4 was running low, Carter handed over the majority of his own loaded M4 mags. It was then that the soldier manning the .50 cal told Carter he was in need of lubricant and more ammo. Thinking of nothing but the task at hand, Carter prepared to run the gauntlet a second time.
The enemy had already taken notice of Carter, and that meant fire was being directed at him as he bolted across the open ground for the second time. Upon reaching his platoon sergeant he was able to grab two bottle of lubricant, and then he had to race to the ASP (Ammunition Supply Point) for ammo. He reached the ASP, only to find the doors securely bolted shut. Without a moment’s hesitation, Carter used his M4 to blow the locks off. Ammo secured, Carter prepared to run back to the southern battle position.
Back at the battle position, it didn’t take long to run low on ammo once again. Noticing the slowing of suppressive fire from their position, the insurgents gave them extra attention, firing multiple RPGs in their direction. The men, including Carter, were forced to take cover inside the Humvee. The soldier manning the .50 cal took a round to the head which was mercifully deflected by his helmet, and he, too, sought cover in the Humvee. At that moment a series of RPGs struck the vehicle; one hit the .50 cal, which blew apart, spraying the men with shrapnel. Three soldiers were injured at that point; Carter was one of them.
It was now 6:30am. The crew-served weapons were down and the soldiers inside the Humvee were taking heavy fire from approximately 30 remaining insurgents in the hills above their position. One soldier decided to move out and head for the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) with two others; Carter said he’d stay with the remaining soldier and provide cover fire.
The trio of soldiers moved out, and Carter and the other man exited the Humvee to provide suppressive fire while the trio bounded back. Within moments, the soldier on point was hit by enemy fire and killed. Of the other two men, one was shot in the leg and the other was injured by RPG shrapnel. The soldier with the gunshot wound crawled under the nearby laundry trailer while the shrapnel-wounded soldier managed to crawl back to the Humvee.
Moments later, reinforcements arrived in the form of another Humvee. Three soldiers were in the second Humvee, and as they headed for the embattled Humvee where Carter and the others were pinned down by enemy fire, they themselves took heavy fire. The approaching Humvee took eight RPG hits in a row; two soldiers were wounded by shrapnel and the third was seriously injured and stumbled out of the vehicle. As soon as he did, he was killed by incoming fire from an enemy PKM.
The enemy had breached their defenses. The Taliban was inside COP Keating.
Carter and one of the men near him immediately engaged the insurgents, killing two of them and severely wounding a third. The enemy fighters had not only been targeting them but had been angling to overrun soldiers in a nearby mortar pit, and if not for the fast, accurate shooting of Carter, they would have done it. However, seeing their comrades cut down and further rounds coming their way, the remaining insurgents turned tail and ran.
The two soldiers from the second Humvee now attempted to cross the same 100-yard bullet-ridden ground Carter himself had already crossed three times. One soldier made it, but the other was killed.
Seeing his brothers dying around him and not knowing if there were any other men trapped inside that second Humvee, Carter took action yet again. As the susurrus of gunfire reverberated through the air and bullets narrowly missed him, Carter crawled through the sand and dust towards the second Humvee. It was empty – which he’d had no way of knowing – but he was able to grab an M249 with a partial drum of ammo and an M203 grenade launcher before crawling back to his original position at the first Humvee.
Times running and crawling the bullet-ridden gauntlet: four.
Upon returning to the Humvee and his waiting brother-in-arms, Carter realized there were at most only 50 rounds left in the SAW’s drum. He suggested to the other soldier that they de-link the ammunition and instead use it to feed their individual M4s, which would keep both men armed. They did, and the battle raged on.
Fully aware he was dangerously low on ammunition, Carter took great care to fire with the utmost precision. He took out a two-man RPG team and then two more insurgents attempting to overrun the COP. Carter was wounded and under extreme duress, and yet he continued to manage stunningly precise fire. Not a single round could be wasted, and it wasn’t. Without the fantastic marksmanship and amazingly clear thinking of Ty Michael Carter, the southern flank of COP Keating would surely have been breached.
It was at 7:30am that Carter’s valor shined the strongest.
About 30 meters away from the first Humvee, a fellow soldier was attempting to move to safety. Carter saw him and immediately wanted to help, but was temporarily deterred by the soldier who was still at the Humvee with him. The other soldier told Carter he wouldn’t do the crawling man any good if he was dead, and, for the moment, Carter stayed put and tried to lay down cover fire. Then the crawling soldier began to scream for help.
Bravery in the Face of Danger
Without a single thought for his own life, Carter sprinted from the Humvee towards the fallen soldier. He miraculously reached his side without being shot, despite the constant rain of gunfire, and quickly moved to staunch the other man’s bleeding. His leg had been horribly shattered, and Carter applied a tourniquet. And then, even as the barrage of bullets intensified as insurgents sought to kill both soldiers, Carter – who was wounded himself – lifted the other man and carried him back up the hill to the first Humvee. He placed the man on the seat of the Humvee, and, unable to do more, returned to the firefight.
Carter was nearly out of ammunition and took care with each shot he fired, working to make them count. He and the other soldier who was fighting with him were beginning to think the COP had been overrun; their radios were inoperable and they’d received no word in hours. And in the Humvee, the critically wounded man was clearly in need of immediate medical attention. Carter had another choice to make.
One More Time
One more time, Carter headed out across the open ground where several of his fellow soldiers had been killed right before his eyes. Somehow he made it and found a radio. Hearing chatter, he headed back to the Humvee, and the two men called command to let them know they were alive – but pinned down. At this point, buildings on the COP were burning, and the enemy had breached the perimeter in two locations. Carter let command know they needed help with an urgent casualty, and soldiers some distance away moved to cover their withdrawal from their current battle position.
Carter uncovered a litter in the debris of the Humvee, placed the wounded man on it, and prepared to head across the lethal open ground – again. He and the other soldier carried the litter across under constant gunfire; they made it, and Carter handed the litter off to medical.
For the remainder of the day, Carter fought, serving as a sniper to provide cover fire for teams moving out to retrieve the bodies of the fallen. If not for his actions on that day, others surely would have died, and that battle position would have been overrun. Who knows what would have happened at a third breach; it’s possible dozens more would have been killed.
During the battle, Carter was clad in his PT shorts and tee. It’s what he’d been wearing when they came under attack, and he simply pulled on his boots, threw on his body armor, and joined the fight. He crossed open ground under heavy fire six times that day, exposed himself to sure death to save a fellow soldier, and performed countless other acts of bravery throughout the day. To say he is an American Hero is an understatement of epic proportions.
Medal of Honor
Ty Michael Carter was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day. And in an act of bravery off the battlefield, he has spoken openly about his struggles with PTSD. As a result of his fight with PTSD, he’s now working to help other soldiers suffering from it. If not for the help of friends, Carter says he would have taken his own life after returning stateside.
This is an American Hero: the soldier who risks his own life to save a fallen man, the soldier who risks his life repeatedly to aid others, the soldier who does whatever needs doing, no matter what, with utter disregard for his own safety. The soldier who comes home and, instead of letting PTSD win, faces it and battles on.
Maybe the Army should be Ty Carter strong.
Hooah, SSgt. Carter.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.