On April 23, 2018, “Task and Purpose” reported that Air Force Tech Sgt John Chapman will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Battle of Robert’s Ridge. You can read all about the battle and Chapman’s actions in this profile.
By James Kitfield
The night was frigid as the MH-47E Chinook approached Objective Ginger, a knife-like ridge that ran along the spine of an 11,000-foot mountain called Takur Gar. It was March 4, 2002, and the US military was heavily engaged in Operation Anaconda, rooting out remnants of al Qaeda holed up in a series of cave complexes and bunkers lacing the hillsides of the Shah-e-Kot Valley, in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan. The joint special operations reconnaissance and targeting team inside the helicopter knew Objective Ginger represented valuable high ground with a commanding view of the entire Anaconda battlespace.
The al Qaeda fighters secretly dug in atop Takur Gar knew it, too.
As the Chinook – dubbed Razor 3 – approached the snow-covered landing zone, Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, a combat controller, and the Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) team he was accompanying felt a mixture of cold air and engine backwash pouring through the open rear door. Before the aircraft could tough down, machine gun fire erupted and the thud of impacts raked the fuselage. Then came an explosion and a sickening lurch as a rocket-propelled grenade scored a direct hit, severing hydraulic lines and severely damaging the helicopter. The pilots from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment veered sharply away from the hot landing zone and struggled to get the aircraft back under control, scanning the terrain through night vision goggles as they searched for some place to bring the crippled helicopter down. Even before they could land at an alternate site, the entire team realized that in the chaos and confusion, one of the SEAL team members – Petty Officer 1st class Neil C. Roberts – had been knocked from the helicopter and had fallen into a hot landing zone under control of the enemy.
Thus began a sequence of events that led to the deadliest military engagement in the war on terrorism up to that point, involving countless acts of heroism and, ultimately, the deaths of seven U.S. troops. Informed by a Predator drone operator that Al Qaeda fighters had already captured Roberts and had taken him away, Chapman and the SEAL team made a fateful decision. They decided on the spot to retrieve their fallen comrade Roberts. That decision would lead to Chapman being posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, as reported on April 23, 2018.
Read the entire profile of Champan and his actions on Robert’s Ridge free at the Air Force Magazine website, at the link below:
James Kitfield is the former senior national security correspondent for National Journal Magazine, and a three-time recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He is also author of the books “Twilight Warriors,” “Prodigal Soldiers,” and “War & Destiny.” This article originally appeared in Air Force Magazine, “To the Top of Takur Gar.”