In September 2009, Capt. William D. Swenson was working with the Afghan National Army soldiers and Afghan Border Police. He was operating as an advisor to the ANA and police.
“With the Afghans, one cannot overtly lead — they are their military, independently run by their leadership, but you can also influence them with advice and your presence.”
Capt. William Swenson
Swenson was mentoring the ABP Mentor Team in conjunction with one other soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook working and a U.S. Marine training team.
Operation Buri Booza II
It was a routine mission into a village. One the men had done many times. The 106 troops walked toward a washout on the way to the village.
The Afghan National Security Forces split off into two groups. One went to the north and the other to the south.
Swenson and Westbrook moned straight toward the valley with the remaining 65 men. The group moved with care to Ganjgal, a mountainside village where they would have tea with some of the elders and see if they could improve the mosque.
“We were not there to fight, we were there to have the Afghan forces prove to an unreceptive audience that the government was fair, professional, responsible, and most importantly, it was Afghan.”Capt. William D. Swenson
The Marines leading the group were about 100 meters from the village when an RPG went off, and the men were hit with machine guns, RPGs, and AK-47s from the east.
There were about 60 insurgents in the village firing upon the soldiers from homes and buildings. Women and children were seen giving ammunition and supplies to the Taliban.
Swenson tried to get white phosphorous to shield their withdrawal, but his request was denied. So they began the withdrawal without it. Williams, the Marine leader, was hit in the arm, and Garza, his first sergeant’s eardrums, were ruptured by an RPG. Swenson called for helicopter support for Westbrook and the others who were injured.
Westbrook was taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment and fought hard to stay alive. However, he died a month after the battle and was posthumously presented the Silver Star. President Barack Obama gave Capt. William Swenson the Medal of Honor.