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In Their Own Words – Erik Crouch and Ryan Schloesser on the battle for Mullah Wasir

They had a whole trench network laid out, they had bunker complexes. They were prepared for us….

It was probably only a couple seconds before one of the enemy from on the hilltop was able to get a shot off and shot the other medic in the head….

…we were taking rounds just over my head and it was hitting a wall beside me, so I had to move the patient again into one of the buildings.

I mean, it’s crazy. You have Bala Murghab where there’s business as usual, the bazaar is open, and the government is functioning to some degree, and then six or eight kilometers to the south you have a battle….

I was pretty proud of it, and the civilians were really happy. They’d been displaced for so long because of the enemy in the area. It meant a lot to me that I could directly contribute to them coming home.


This week, Learning From Veterans launches a new online feature, “In Their Own Words,” with an extended account of a May 25th, 2010 firefight in Afghanistan in the words of two soldiers whose actions that day earned them both the Bronze Star for Valor: Sergeant Erik Crouch and Captain Ryan Schloesser.


Accompanying the soldiers’ narrative is an analysis of the battle as a microcosm of critical military issues, drawing five lessons to be learned for national security policy:

#1. Winning “hearts and minds” takes guns and bombs

#2. U.S. ground forces depend on airpower – maybe too much

#3. We have too few infantrymen

#4. Foot troops need wi-fi

#5. Guerrillas can stand and fight


Click below for the narrative and the lessons-learned in printable PDF files. Also available is the entire package in a single file.

Crouch & Schloesser – narrative – 2011-05-13

Crouch & Schloesser – lessons – 2011-05-13

Crouch & Schloesser – complete – 2011-05-13


Also available online are relevant past articles, written by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. for National Journal, going into greater depth on some of the issues raised in this feature:

Hybrid Warriors: learning to do hearts-and-minds and combat at the same time.

Intimate Killing: the experience of close combat.

Training Up is Hard to Do: how the U.S. is building up the Afghan police and army.

The Afghan Air War: the power and limits of American airpower in Afghanistan

Supplying the Surge: how Afghanistan’s harsh terrain limits U.S. logistics and maneuver.

The Army looks beyond Afghanistan: the struggle to modernize the ground force.

Wi-fi Infantry: better communications for the battlefield.


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