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Roberts Ridge: A Story of Courage and Sacrifice on Takur Ghar Mountain, Afghanistan (Anglais) Poche – 25 juillet 2006

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Description du produit

Extrait

1

Chief Warrant Officer Al Mack sat behind the left controls of a Chinook helicopter, heading southeast along a crest through a brilliant moonrise. As he flew through the night, the terrain reminded him of Mordor and Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. He told people, "Imagine landing on that at night without a light. And if a landing zone isn't big enough, what you do is set the aircraft's aft gear down, hover, and several thousand feet below you is the bottom, with no visual reference. Put the ramp down. Guys get out."

Take away some of the bluster and that was what Mack was about to do on the 10,240-foot peak of Takur Ghar.

He was happy to be moving again after frustrations that aggrieved even a sixteen-year Army veteran. Earlier, he had ferried his Chinook, code-named Razor 03, down from Bagram Air Base near Kabul to a temporary special operations airfield. He was working Operation Anaconda, the largest military offensive thus far in America's fight against al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, which had kicked off, depending on who was doing the counting, either the previous day or two days before. He'd been dropping off special operations teams in the mountains on both sides of the Shah-i-Kot valley, often relying for guidance on outdated maps and imagery.

Since before midnight, he had been trying to deliver MAKO 30, his "customers," to a landing zone at the base of Takur Ghar, the highest mountain in the area. On his first try, only six minutes away from the LZ, he had asked a nearby Spectre gunship circling over the valley to take a look with its sensors at the landing zone to see if it was clear of hostile forces.

"I can't look at your LZ," the Spectre's fire control officer told him. "There's a B-52 strike coming in," and the gunship, with a wide, looping orbit, had to push off until it was safe to return, probably in less than an hour.

"OK," Mack had replied, with no real good choice but to suck it up and return to where they had picked up the SEALs. He was aware of the importance of delivering his customers to their offset LZ in a timely manner, and what it could mean for the revised plan for Operation Anaconda. In mission preparation, he'd been vested in the ground/air tactical plan and knew exactly what his customers--and his higher commanders--needed from him. That was why his frustration peaked when a glance told him that he was running low on gas. He always planned his missions with precision, calculating a gas supply sufficient to get him through a task with fifteen minutes to spare for emergencies, and nothing more.

Over all the hours Mack had flown Chinooks, he had achieved a nearly perfect spiritual fusion of man with machine. It came as no surprise that he admitted to a deep fondness for the bird. He saw charm and personality in its homely design. Veterans like him sometimes compared the helo to a "Winnebago with rotors," and indeed it was little more than a rectangular box with big fans in front and back, about 50 feet long and weighing in at around 40,000 pounds. To anyone else's eye, it was not sleek and it was not pretty. It had bumps and a weak chin, spindly legs, and a hay stalk sticking out the corner of its "mouth." Mack's version of the Chinook was a model (the MH-47E) made by Boeing and specifically configured at a significant cost for special operations missions. Several enhancements helped the twenty-four copies ever made to fly where and when other helos could not.

Instead of circling and wasting fuel until the B-52 pointed for home, Mack flew 22 miles back to the grubby and nearly abandoned airstrip where they had started, outside Gardez. He sat on the ground and waited in the dark, keeping the rotors at flat pitch to burn less fuel, like idling the engine of a car. Finally, the bomber pulled off and the Chinook took off, but it had not gained more than a thousand feet when Mack was told, "Razor 03, there's an air assault coming in. You need to abort and go back to Gardez and wait."

Saving on gas, this time Mack shut down the aircraft with the expectation that they would be on the ground for a while. Slab put out security around the aircraft. He understood the urgency to "put a cork stopper in that valley," but reaching the peak from an offset location, as planned, increasingly looked like it was going to require more time than prudence allowed, given these delays. Even in the best of circumstances, without the holds, they were starting to cut the time short. They probably would have been able to crest the peak, after an extremely long early morning climb, as the sun was coming up. To do it in stealth, they would have been on the margin of daylight in any case. Time was eating at Slab. The last thing he wanted was to get stuck out in the open on low ground in the middle of the day.

Two of his teammates were sitting back to back outside by the aircraft in the dark. One, named Turbo, a biker fanatic who had decorated his body from neck to ankles and wrists with a riot of tattoos, was listening through earbuds to a portable CD player, rocking to the sounds. The other teammates were talking quietly. Slab told them to tweak their gear, and with his combat controller, he used the delay to go over the list one last time to see that they had everything they might need.

Ninety minutes passed before Mack told Slab they had clearance to go. The SEALs got back onto the helo, and as usual, they did not bother to snap in their safety harnesses. Slab plugged in the inter-crew communication system (ICS). He heard a voice say, "You are cleared to go."

Up front, Mack hit the switches. The number-two engine spooled up and ran away, like a car accelerator that was stuck on the floor. The engine spike damaged a computer. Flames like the thrust of a rocket shot out of the engine and lit up the night, catching the wary attention of the SEALs in the cabin. The turbine blades would have disintegrated if Mack did not shut down the aircraft. He had no choice but to declare the machine non-mission-operable.

It was that kind of a night.

"Team leader," Mack alerted Slab, who was plugged into the ICS on the right side of the helo by the ramp hinge, "I can't take you in this helicopter." A spare would take two hours to arrive from Bagram, what with preparation and the hour flight south. That would push them up against daylight. The occupants of Mack's helicopter dreaded being out in the light of day.

Eavesdropping on Mack's radio net, the other pilots of his Razor cohort, flying in the area with their deliveries and pickups of special operations teams to and from the mountains of the Hindu Kush, proposed an easy solution to the broken helicopter and the onward rush of daylight: a front-end swap in which the pilots, who were briefed on the operation, and their passengers would switch to a healthy aircraft. The crews would stay behind. Mack talked to Slab, who was designated the mission commander.

"Here's the deal," Mack told him. "Best case, I can get you to the LZ by 2200 Zulu."

The original timeline had called for Mack to drop off the team three and a half hours earlier at the base of Takur Ghar. From there, the team needed at least four hours to climb 2,000 feet to an upper ridge and find a defensible position in which to hide and observe the peak before taking it over. With the delays--the B-52 sortie, the engine failure--they would be climbing up the mountain against a light sky. The timing did not mesh, and Slab did not like what he was hearing. It wasn't that he and his team couldn't ascend the mountain with the agility of young goats, night or day. As members of SEAL Team 6 and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron, MAKO 30 was trained to operate in any environment on earth. Making them even more specialized, the operators of Team 6, who were fewer in number than 150, did not answer to the Navy's regular chain of command. They, a handful of Air Force combat controllers like MAKO 30's Tech Sergeant John "Chappy" Chapman, and the Army's fabled DELTA force took orders from a shadowy military organization known by its initials, JSOC--Joint Special Operations Command, based at Pope AFB adjacent to Ft. Bragg, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. These "black" commandos did not officially exist on the Pentagon's roster. In Afghanistan they had been assigned to Task Force 11 to hunt down and kill or capture "high-value targets" like bin Laden and his top lieutenants. Trained to a fine point, they were described as "Tier 1 operators" for their single-minded dedication and their ability to make hard choices in dynamic, dangerous settings and scenarios. They often operated independent of higher command to accomplish quietly what nobody else in the United States military was able--or, frankly, wanted--to do.

Slab conferred in the dark of the cabin with his point man, Randy,* and his combat controller, Chapman, the oldest team member, who both offered analyses that Slab knew to trust. Slab and Chapman, despite their age difference, were similar, both taciturn and deeply emotional. Slab could enter and leave a room as softly as a cat. Looking at his clean, open face, any suggestion that he was a commando of the highest order could provoke incredulity. Indeed, the same could be said of Chapman, a gentle family man and proud dad who carried his daughters' hair ties in his pocket as mementos.

Slab was further trained as a medic. He had served in the Navy for sixteen years, eight of them with JSOC, and as a reconnaissance team member and leader for six years. He'd been a SEAL since graduating from Navy boot camp, enlisting not long after graduating from high school. He had tried college for a short time, but with relationships at home deteriorating, he felt that he had to get away. Slab's father had spent four years as a SEAL when the organization was still called Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT). He had gone through Class 13 in 1953, and his influence was always present. He took Slab to the reunions and talked about his exploits. He had regretted getting out when he did, and that dissatisfaction often turned to sourness that had served to push Slab to get away and finish for him. As a teenager Slab wanted to do something hard. He was mad at the world. He wanted to just go out and do something.

Slab had already distinguished himself in Afghanistan. Two weeks earlier, he had been sitting aboard a Chinook flying in the Kush, and the KC-130 refueling tanker from which they had just filled up with gas suddenly plowed into the side of a snow-covered mountain. Slab's helo dropped down and landed beside the tanker. Slab and two SEALs slogged through waist-deep snow to help pull out the survivors. One crewman was trapped in the wreckage. Slab went inside the broken fuselage and crawled amid CO2 hoses and spilled fuel, expecting the aircraft to blow up any second. The trapped man was facedown in snow, with a foot wedged under a structural beam. Slab strapped a Maglite on his SIG Sauer pistol. He aimed the light at the crewman, who thought he was going to take care of the problem by shooting him.

"Don't shoot! Don't shoot me!" he screamed.

Slab, in his own inimical way, tried to calm him down. "Dude, I gotta cut your foot off to get you out of here," he told him--sardonically, he thought--and the crewman started screaming again. "I'm just kidding," Slab reassured him, thinking, Hey, we could all be dead in a minute, so what else is there to do but put some humor in it? Finally, after trying other approaches, he poured hydraulic fluid on the crewman's foot and ripped it out, tearing up muscles, but the crewman kept his foot. Slab was awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Lifesaving Medal for his effort.

That was nothing like this now. That had been simple; this was complex, and far more was at stake.

His first option was to push for a twenty-four-hour delay. He knew the urgency; he knew what his commanders expected of him. He felt under increasing pressure to ignore the rules, which would put him and his team in danger. He finally decided that the risks of going now were greater than the rewards, no matter what the tide of battle in the valley. He called back to Bagram to his highest commander, Air Force General Gregory Trebon, who was deputy commander of JSOC and the commander of Task Force 11. Chance alone put Trebon at Bagram that evening, instead of at JSOC's staging base on Masirah Island, off Oman in the Hormuz Straits.

Slab said, "Hey, I really--we're not going to be able to get up there by the time the sun comes up. I want a twenty-four-hour push. Let's do this tomorrow night."

By way of reply, Trebon never told Slab yes, and he never told him no. He said, "We need you to rethink that. We really need to get you in there tonight." Trebon was giving Slab latitude to decide for himself while letting him know his strong feelings in favor of continuing despite the onset of daylight. He did not think to tell Slab that another special operations team had tried to reach Takur Ghar the day before, but the presence of al-Qaeda fighters in the southern draw had turned them back. After that delay, a further twenty-four hours seemed somewhat inappropriate, especially considering that JSOC had "chopped" Slab's elite team to Operation Anaconda, arguing that it was underused in Task Force 11. Trebon knew that Takur Ghar was going to be occupied as an observation post sooner or later, and later meant further casualties inflicted on Army troops in the valley. He reasoned that Takur Ghar was simply too valuable not to occupy right now. And if for some unforeseen reason the team encountered resistance, it would happen regardless of whether they went to Takur Ghar that night or the next night.

No matter what words Trebon chose to use with him, Slab was hearing him say, "You got to go."

He walked up to the cockpit to talk with Mack. He knew that what he was preparing to ask the pilot was born of necessity, and he rationalized it with each step up the cabin floor toward the cockpit. Our offset LZ is only 4 kilometers away from the peak, and if there are enemy there, they will hear us anyway up top. The pressure is on us to get bombs on targets by sunup. Only one way that can happen. He looked at Mack and asked, "Can you take me to the top?"


From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

“A true story of courage that captures–over the course of seventeen hours–all the drama and sacrifice of war. Impossible to put down. Highly recommended.”—James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys

“At once a terrifying and compelling narrative, Roberts Ridge strikes awe for its unflinching and honest portrayal of the courage, determination, and capability of American fighting men. This true tale resonates with vitally important lessons of success and failure on the field of battle.”—Eric Haney, author of Inside Delta Force

"In the tradition of Black Hawk Down, Malcolm MacPherson vividly brings to life this harrowing story of courage, pathos, and war at its grittiest. For military history buffs, or those interested in the front lines of the war on terror, Roberts Ridge is a must read."—Jay Winik, author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America

"[MacPherson] is at his best when he uses his access to the special-forces fighters and spills details, such as the smell of a bullet-shredded pine tree and the slow icing of the sweat and blood that soaked the men's clothing.... a story with a strong heart."—The Hartford Courant

"Roberts Ridge is a reminder that combat, despite America's huge technological advantages, always boils down to the basics: Men, machinery, maps and mojo.... Like Black Hawk Down, there is no happy ending .... Ultimately, Roberts Ridge is a study in courage and comradeship. How some of America's finest young men, in the crucible of combat, refuse to surrender their buddies in the face of gut-clenching firepower, grinding cold and the bewildering fog and friction of war."—The Flint Journal

“An impressively detailed account of one heart-wrenching battle in the invasion of Afghanistan. MacPherson gives readers a rare, behind-the-scenes look … A Great read.” — St. Petersburg Times

“A real-life thriller. . . that bridges the breach between the military and a civilian culture possessing little knowledge or experience of the military.” —Booklist

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Par Latour07 1ER COMMENTATEUR DU HALL D'HONNEURTOP 1000 COMMENTATEURSMEMBRE DU CLUB DES TESTEURS le 7 février 2007
Format: Poche Achat vérifié
Ce livre est un honneur aux commandos américains à la faveur d'une bataille livrée sur une montagne en haute altitude, dans la glace, le vent, la nuit, en Afghanistan. Très bel ouvrage.
Remarque sur ce commentaire 3 personnes ont trouvé cela utile. Avez-vous trouvé ce commentaire utile ? Oui Non Commentaire en cours d'envoi...
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Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Un très bon ouvrage sur les opérations d'une équipe du DevGru à Takur Ghar en Afghanistan, montrant autant les défaillances de la chaîne de commandement que le courage des hommes sur le terrain. Un très bon ouvrage en anglais sur une bataille ardue menée par une équipe dévouée à son travail ; et une histoire sur le sacrifice qu'un soldat peut faire pour l'un de ses frères d'armes.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta) (Peut contenir des commentaires issus du programme Early Reviewer Rewards)

Amazon.com: 4.6 étoiles sur 5 254 commentaires
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A gripping read, truthful, gritty and realistic... 30 avril 2017
Par openheimer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche Achat vérifié
*20-year vet, grunt, SNCO.
Where this book succeeds is in showing the character of Nate Self, in controlling the fatal outcome of the series of errors that led to the Battle for Takur Ghar.
This book is detailed and works hard to include all the detail from the after-battle report. Sometimes, it gets a little confused at times with the kinetics of the firefight. The author does not glorify the action and appears to try to maintain an honest portrayal of the factors that contributed to the Operators, Rangers, FAC/PJs and Aircrew involved in the contact.
It reads well. For a nonservice person, I would recommend pausing and googling some of the gear and acronyms to better enjoy the book.

Spoiler********************************************************************

A lot of people will be familiar with this event, given it was the biggest loss of US forces in Afghanistan to that date. All the guys involved deserve respect and our thanks for being there, feet in the mud doing their job. What this book will do for the serving and retired reading this is show the SNAFU that has accompanied soldiers since Gaius Julius Caesar, George Washington, Patton and Westmoreland.
The author leads the reader through the critical failures that led to this engagement. From mechanical failures delaying the DEVGRU team to force the insertion at the hot LZ; to the inability of command chain to provide CASEVAC.
Overall, it is a worth reading, when any of the past documentaries on the topic paint the engagement as something planned versus an accidental, series of events putting US forces in an uphill attack, against suppressive fire, without the correct equipment and support.
25 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Great Account of Battle But Missed The Big Picture 29 décembre 2009
Par Steve Dietrich - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche Achat vérifié
I really wanted to like this book as those who fought there did so with great courage and skill and made such incredible sacrifices. However, I felt the author let them down in two primary areas-a lack of background for the original insertion decision and the decisions made from afar during the fight.

I was also disappointed with the very limited indexing. There are also some critical inconsistencies in the book.

The Seals came to the area looking for a mission on very short notice. It was apparently not their decision, but from far up the food chain and thousands of miles away in a flat land. There was a failure to appreciate the need to adapt to the altitude.

Control of Takur Ghar was not seen as essential in the plan for the operation prior to the arrival of the Seals. However, the author appears to start with the premise that control was essential, but in the end accepts the view that it was not essential.

The decision imposed on the Seals to make a direct aerial assault on the position after experiencing delays, rather than delay 24 hours, was an imposition from above. One of the grave risks of the new information age is that those (both military officers and politicians) receiving satellite, UAV data and perhaps battlefield video will abandon their roles of strategic planning and information dissemination in favor of making tactical decisions without situational awareness. It's a recipe for disaster.

There's a reason that a great football coach is down on the field while the spotters and perhaps those who recommend plays are high above the stadium.

In some respects the limitations of the book are a reflection of that lack of shared information and situational awareness which plagued the fighters during the events. According to Blaber (The Men, The Mission and Me) he was in contact with the Seal team during their fight and also in contact with the AC-130. This account treats Blaber as being out of contact which appears most unlikely given his role in the overall operation. He was uniquely qualified to provide the Rangers with much needed situational awareness.

Overall it is a worthwhile read but I recommend reading three other books Not A Good Day To Die , The Mission, The Men and Me , and First In to get a better perspective on the war in Afghanistan in 2001-02
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A Tale of Two Books 9 juin 2011
Par Kevin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
"Roberts Ridge" is the story of the battle for Takur Ghar, a mountain peak that dominates Afghanistan's Shahikot valley. The American military chose to invade that valley (Operation Anaconda) to trap and root out Taliban and Al Qaeda forces that, unknown to them, were deeply entrenched in the surrounding mountains. Relying on technological means, American commanders determined this strategic high ground was - against all military wisdom - unoccupied by the enemy. One helicopter after another tried to deliver assault, and then rescue, teams on what was actually a heavily defended enemy bunker complex. The book is primarily about what happened on that mountaintop over the course of about 17 hours.

I put this book down thinking I had just finished two books, one subpar and the other outstanding. The early sections of "Roberts Ridge," are very weak and in fact caused me to stop reading it for a while. One problem is evident right away: the author drops you right into the action of the first helicopter going onto the mountain, with barely any context at all. He provides a very brief introductory section on the grand plans of Operation Anaconda, but no lead up of events to this insertion. In fact, about 1/3rd of the book goes by before the author backtracks and provides the context that would've helped make more sense of the action. I understand wanting to grab the reader's attention with action right off, but the author waits far too long to explain the twisted circumstances that led to Takur Ghar.

For that issue alone, I would highly recommend that a potential buyer first read "Not a Good Day to Die," which gives all the context on the battle that you'll ever need. That brings me to my second criticism. Once he does delve into the background of the events, the entire section feels either hurriedly written or badly edited. He skips around and glosses over what a reader of "Not a Good Day..." knows are critical points. Some of the transitions between section are head-scratchingly abrupt. What was there felt, to me, like the author summarizing - badly - what he just read in "Not a Good Day..." Since I read that book just before this one, some of the dialogue and descriptions in the contextual sections sounded overly familiar. Presumably, "Not a Good Day..." had not been released while MacPherson was doing his research (indeed, it's not cited as a source here), so I'm not in any way accusing him of plagiarism, but rather it seems the two relied on many of the same sources, leading to what seems like a lot of repetition.

Just as MacPherson described one of the Rangers developing sharply-focused tunnel vision once the bullets start flying, the author does the same. The accounting of the battle on the ground as it unfolded covers the bulk of this book and is by far the best part. The author did numerous interviews with many of the participants and these first-hand accounts really pay off by bringing the reader down into the firefight. You get into the heads of some of the Rangers and other troops on the scene - what they were doing and feeling and why. Even though I knew what happened, it made for exciting reading. It is the skill with which the combat is told that saves this book for me.

One of the things I liked about this that I didn't like about "Not a Good Day to Die" was that he finishes the book out by exploring what happened after the battle. He tells you, in brief, about the outcomes of some of the main characters, and, more importantly, what the meaning of the battle was and what impact it had. He concludes that Takur Ghar was irrelevant to the success of Anaconda, but that the battle for it drew an inordinate amount of resources and attention away from the main effort. In other words, the assault was done for no military gain and was in fact a failure for the Americans, despite overall success in the battle. His conclusions were drawn largely from an after-action report and study done by the military, from which MacPherson quotes at length and is even included in part at the end of the book.

Because of its problems, I hesitate to recommend this book, but if you gloss over the weak parts and watch the guys in combat like a circling Predator drone, you'll enjoy it a lot more.
4.0 étoiles sur 5 I understood my son's deep grief better after reading the book and valued better his own ... 23 avril 2017
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche Achat vérifié
I can't speak to all elements of the account. However, the author has accurately captured the colorful language, speech patterns, and behavioral impressions of one of the Rangers who climbed up the mountain: my son. He portrayed him correctly right down to his boot soles and SAW. If he did his portrayal of the other men on that mountain as realistically as my son's then he at least captured the thinking and actions of the men involved from their perspectives including background information.

If you want tight action description and an armchair tactical analysis of the battle, then this is not it. However, if you want to understand the deep confusion and chaos of a small unit action on a tall mountain surrounded by savage enemies, then this is the right account. All the Ranger dead were my son's friends. I understood my son's deep grief better after reading the book and valued better his own contributions to try to save his friends.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Read it and weep because you will. 24 novembre 2015
Par armaghman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Clear, concise account of the entire operation surrounding the death of Roberts as part of Operation Anaconda. If you have military experience, it will surely sadden you and frustrate you since the entire mission that led to this story was ill conceived and improperly planned. It exposes the command and control issues resulting from senior officers in far away places trying to command and control operations for which they do not have situational awareness. If the commanders had only consulted the men on the ground, in the area of operations, who knew the situation, Roberts Ridge would never have occurred and all those who died trying to save Roberts could have been spared. Great story of heroism on the part of the special operations forces but also an equally great story of the failure of several command and control headquarters to do their jobs.
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