July 2, 1863: The 20th Maine, commanded by Col. Joshua Chamberlain, arrived at Little Round Top just ten minutes before facing its first attack from the 15th Alabama Infantry. If Chamberlain’s regiment gave way, there would be nothing to stop the Confederate forces from racing over the crest and attacking the Union Army massed at the center. The Union’s left flank at Gettysburg would collapse.
They were the end of the line.
2005: Two Special Forces units, accompanied by 20 Afghan forces, were alone in the Khas Oruzgan region of Afghanistan, high in the mountains and several hours away from supporting forces.
They were the end of the line too, and help was over five hours away.
But instead of fighting for three days, the Special Forces teams stayed for four months. Their mission was to “secure the legitimacy of the Afghan government” through interaction with the locals and the rebuilding of infrastructure.
They were on their own to solve their own problems, take care of their own wounded, come up with their own plans to obtain the confidence of the population, and protect themselves and the civilian population from insurgent attacks.
In the course of history, many units have found themselves at the end of the line. They knew that their performance, good or bad, would have a tremendous impact on a war’s outcome.
At Gettysburg, and in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, they came through. The good ones always do.
The Special Forces in Afghanistan are our heroes of the week.
The Army Major in this story remains anonymous for security purposes. He was awarded two Bronze Stars for his performance during two different deployments. To read the full story, click here.