U.S. troops recuperating from battle for Musa Qala
By LES NEUHAUS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 11, 2007
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — American troops wounded in the battle for a southern Afghan town this week are recuperating at a military hospital and telling of heavy fighting in the city.
Operation Zafar involves British, American and Afghan troops and seeks to take back the town of Musa Qala, known as the last sizeable Taliban-controlled town in Afghanistan.
Two NATO soldiers have died in the fighting, along with two Afghan civilians, a NATO spokesman said Monday.
At Bagram air base, soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were being treated for wounds sustained in the battle. Doctors and nurses from Bagram’s Task Force Med, a unit comprised at Craig Joint Theater Hospital, are treating them.
“I woke up to complete chaos ... and a stinging sensation,” said Sgt. Jon Moldovan, 25, from Greenville, S.C.
Moldovan had a severe cut in his leg from flying shrapnel.
“The plan is to keep an eye on him and if he does OK, he’ll be sent back to work,” said U.S. Air Force Col. (Dr.) Robert Moore, 60, from Annapolis, Md. “The idea is to get them back into the fight.”
“We had air assaulted into Helmand, but were dropped something like 14 kilometers away from Musa Qala ... then we had fought the enemy for five or six hours after walking to the outskirts of the town,” Moldovan said.
He and the other soldiers said they walked at night for hours, with all the troops carrying around 100 pounds of gear and ammunition.
“I ran about 20 meters in the fight to try and help out, and then dropped to the ground because of the pain,” Pvt. Jason Strickland, 20, of Fredericksburg, Va., told U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson, a deputy commander of the 82nd.
“I noticed then that my right boot had been blown off.”
Anderson was on hand to award the Purple Heart to the soldiers, many of whom were on their way to Germany for further medical treatment.
Other wounded servicemembers at Craig Hospital who received Purple Hearts and Combat Action Badges were: Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas Malone, 27, of Tucson, Ariz.; Sgt. Tuyen Doan, 32, of Seattle; Spc. Steven Martinez, 21, of Fayetteville, N.C.; Spc. Adam Blackburn, 24, of Granite Bay, Calif.; and Spc. Mike Lowe, 22, a native of San Antonio.
Malone, an Apache attack helicopter pilot, was shot midflight while supporting the 82nd’s troops on the ground.
“They (Taliban) shot an engine out, but I managed to land it,” said Malone, a husband and father of two.
Several of the soldiers said they had reached the district center in Musa Qala, but were unsure if fighting still persisted.
See more photos from the Bagram hospital here.
Spc. Adam Blackburn, 24, of Grant Bay, Calif., shakes the hand of Brig. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson after being awarded the Purple Heart Medal on Monday. Blackburn, wounded in combat in southern Afghanistan, is with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
LES NEUHAUS / S&S