The U.S. Army recently awarded 53 medals for valor to soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (2/503). These included eleven Silver Stars, the third highest award for valor, 17 received Bronze Star Medals for valor and 25 Army Commendation Medals for valor. These awards were for actions in Afghanistan last Summer in which U.S. troops, outnumbered three to one, defeated a Taliban attack.
On July 13th, 2008, the Taliban launched a surprise attack on a new base being established in the Afghan town of Wanat. A force of 72 U.S. and Afghan troops suffered 39 casualties (nine U.S. dead, and 26 American and four Afghan wounded). The 200 Taliban suffered about a hundred casualties (up to fifty dead, but it was difficult to get an exact count because smart bombs were used, which tend to blow bodies apart, and the Taliban will try to drag their dead away, to prevent identification.)
It took longer (95 minutes, compared to the usual 15) for MEDEVAC (medical evacuation) helicopters to arrive because the choppers had to wait until smart bomb and artillery attacks could finish. It also took nearly two hour (108 minutes) for the first reinforcements to show up. Before then, there was artillery support (over 90 shells), smart bombs, Hellfire missiles (from a Predator UAV) and a helicopter gunship. The UAVs and AH-64s arrived within 30 minutes. There are still questions about U.S. intelligence work, and how the Taliban were able to assemble that large a force, so close to U.S. troops, without being detected. Apparently the local police were working for the Taliban, or had been paid off or intimidated to say nothing to the Americans.
The Taliban attack was carried out early in the morning (4:20 AM) after the enemy has sneaked into town and told the locals to leave. These same civilians had warned the coalition force that the Taliban were going to attack. But those warning had been coming daily, since the troops moved into Wanat on July 8th and began building an FOB (Forward Operating Base) in an area about 300 meters long and 100 meters wide. There was also an outpost on small hill 50 meters away, manned by nine troops. Two thirds of the defending troops were American. The enemy attack was well planned, with the Taliban firing from three sides. The enemy tried to overrun the base, and at one point some of them entered through a breach in a wall, but were killed or forced back. The battle lasted four hours, ending when the Taliban survivors pulled out. U.S. troops moved out of Wanat on July 15th.
The Taliban tried to make this out to be a big victory, but there was never any video released, as is usually the case with real or imagined victories. Apparently their video guy was blown up, as no video cameras were found among all the debris.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade is stationed in Vicenza, Italy, where it was reactivated in 2000 (having been deactivated in 1972). The unit serves as a fire brigade for U.S. forces in Europe and nearby regions. The 3,300 member brigade has two paratrooper battalions.