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Oct-13-2013 15:30printcomments

Army Captain Will Swenson to Receive Medal of Honor for Role in Ganjgal Ambush

Four years after the Ganjgal ambush, where the U.S. Army refused to rescue four Marines, a soldier is honored at the highest level for his heroism.

Army Captain Will Swenson
Army Captain Will Swenson

(CARLSBAD, NM) - Most Americans who pay attention to the news are familiar with the name, Dakota Myer. He's the U.S. Marine who won the Medal of Honor for heroism during the 2009 Ganjgal ambush in Afghanistan. His actions were unquestionably above and beyond the call of duty, but the same holds true for a former Army Captain named Will Swenson who risked his life in a similar manner that morning trying to save and recover the men who took part in a mission called Dancing Goat 2 that led them to a village called Ganjgal - which was a death trap.

Swenson at Ganjgal, shown at left

There are more questions about the behavior of the military during this mission than I can list in a single article. It seems fairly clear that somebody wanted to end the lives of four Marines who headed this group of roughly 45 US soldiers and Marines and Afghan National Army troops.

A McClatchy reporter named Jonathan Landay was embedded with the unit as well. It appears that Landay is on a mission to discredit Dakota Myer, relying on the testimony of Afghan soldiers, most of whom can not even read or write, yet their credibility is placed higher than the Marine hero? In fact Landay's assault on Myer's character has been ongoing since 2011. (see: Marine Commandant Defends Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyer)

The discrediting of a Marine hero is an odd mission for a reporter to take, particularly when most of Myer's actions happened out of site of both Landay and the various participants from the Afghan National Army, or ANA. Additionally, at best Landay is working with minor details. It seems that Landay is attempting to pit Swenson against Myer, when in fact Myer suggested years ago that Swenson deserves the nation's highest award for heroism.


This is a mission that was set up from the inside. Landay is missing the entire story, or perhaps he is producing a smokescreen to ease pressure over the real questions connected to this story. Even the Washington Post admits in regard to Ganjgal, "Overmatched and quickly separated from one another, the coalition troops fought for hours as insurgents rained down gunfire in the U-shaped mountain pass."

Landay's handiwork is reflected in this excerpt from a Washington Post article:

    ...for Swenson, the award stands for more than his personal bravery during the seven-hour battle in the Ganjgal valley, near the Pakistan border, on Sept. 8, 2009. It is also a measure of vindication.

    After returning from the battlefield, Swenson engaged in a lengthy and bitter dispute with the military over the narrative of one of the Afghan war's most notorious firefights.

    The questions he raised resulted in reprimands for two other officers and what he believes was an effort by the Army to discredit him. His account also cast doubt on the exploits of another Medal of Honor winner from the same battle, Dakota Meyer of the Marine Corps. (see: Medal of Honor Will be Given in Controversy)

If this is true, why isn't Swenson quoted saying it?

Camp Joyce, photo by Tim King Salem-News.com

If the mainstream media was paying any attention at all, they would know that Peter Grainger, a major who was directly involved in the logistics of the Ganjgal ambush, was one of the officers "reprimanded". In fact, Grainger was promoted to lieutenant colonel. not much of a setback.

The combat team was based out of Camp Joyce in the Pesh Valley, in Afghanistan's Kunar province. The four Marines (one was a Navy Corpsman) were killed and one soldier who was wounded later died of his injuries in another suspicious incident where he allegedly died from a blood transfusion. Several Afghan soldiers were killed but many were rescued by Myer and Swenson.

It is noteworthy that on this particular day, the military communication center at Camp Joyce was replaced by a team who had never worked there before, it was more than unusual and suspect. This is the team of soldiers who refused to send air or artillery support and asked the dying Marines repeatedly over the radio, "Are you Army or Marines?"

It is revealed in the book by Myer and another former Marine named Bing West, Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, that drones flying the day of the attack observed two teams of anti-coalition militia moving from Pakistan to Ganjgal armed with heavy weapons like rocket launchers only hours before the attack. This information was withheld from the team sent into the village that morning. That took place, along with the Army's refusal to send air cover or artillery. These facts define the deadly nature of the Ganjgal ambush. The Soviets knew all about Ganjgal and the fact that its location, in the pocket of a valley with three sides, lined with buildings with gun parapets, was a nearly impenetrable location.

Swenson Was Outraged by Army's Refusal to Aid Americans Under Attack

This is a story that screams corruption at the highest levels of the U.S. government. As I detailed in a previous article, one of the Marines who was killed at Ganjgal, Aaron Kenefick, was twice named "Marine of the Year" in his relatively brief ten years of service. He worked closely with one of the most controversial figures in American politics, former Army General Mark Kimmitt. In the article, Aaron M Kenefick: A Marine Who Knew Too Much I detail the relationship between Kenefick and Kimmitt. I was recently informed that Kenefick, who was also a CIA asset, dispatched two memos to Joe Biden detailing the criminal activities that Kimmitt was involved in. The memos shortly preceded his death at Ganjgal.

Army Captain William 'Will' Swenson ran up to the mouth of the wash and grabbed at two askars (Afghan soldiers) who were running away. As he yelled at them, bullets hopped the stones at his feet. Altogether, more than 100 enemy were shooting from entrenched positions to the north and east. Swenson was carrying a radio called an MBTR 148 with a long whip antenna He called to the Operations Center repeatedly requesting support, and accused the government of leaving the team alone and unprotected, it was an unprecedented act that claimed the lives of five Americans, ten Afghans and wounded dozens.

"The f----- won't shoot the arty."

Dakota Myer receives the MOH from President Obama

"This is Highlander 6," Swenson screamed that morning at Ganjgal. "Heavy enemy fire. Request immediate suppression. Fire KE 3354. Will adjust. And get that air in here!" Fifty meters behind Swenson, Army Captain Raymond Kaplan, the 1-32 intelligence officer, took up the cause, yelling over his radio that KE 3365 was the proper target. "Fire. Fire, g--d-----. Smoke. Smoke." Kaplan sent the message seven times. Everyone was trying to talk over the same frequency, cutting each other off in mid-sentence. Kaplan was sure his requests were heard loud and clear. "The TOC (tactical operations center) won't clear a mission." Kaplan radioed to Swenson, "The f----- won't shoot the arty."

Four years after this brutal and bizarre firefight in a remote Afghan village, former U.S. Army Capt. William Swenson will be awarded the Medal of Honor in an elaborate ceremony at the White House. It happens this Tuesday.

The 34-year old officer is recognized for having risked his life in the act of saving his fellow troops and recovering bodies of the fallen. President Obama will recount Swenson's heroism when he presents Swenson with the nation’s highest military decoration.

But there is far more to the story. There are many sources and references that corroborate the allegations that the U.S. government set up the Marines at Ganjgal. For example, it was revealed to Salem-News.com that the U.S. State Department was in Ganjgal the day before the deadly ambush.

It is important to note that at least one more American deserves the Medal of Honor for his role at Ganjgal, that is Staff Sergeant Juan Rodriguez-Chavez. Knowing the odds were totally against his survival, Rodriguez-Chavez volunteered to drive Myer into the fray of deadly bullets at Ganjgal to rescue Americans and Afghans pinned down under intense fire. This Marine was actually born in Mexico, and one has to wonder if that has prevented him from being properly recognized and ranked among the bravest Marines in U.S. history.

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Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com.

Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)

With almost 25 years of experience on the west coast and worldwide as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor, Tim King is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.

Tim King reporting from the war in Iraq

Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu

In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005. Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide.

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