MSgt John A. Chapman
March 4, 2002
Takur Ghar, Afghanistan
Operation Enduring Freedom
In March 2002, a combined task force began Operation ANACONDA to trap and destroy Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Shahi Kot valley in eastern Afghanistan. During this campaign, a small United States force fought a 17-hour battle against enemy forces on the mountaintop of Takur Ghar, which came to be known as Roberts Ridge. At about 0100 local, on March 4, Razor 3, a Army MH-47E helicopter tried to insert a special operations team on top of an enemy stronghold. While landing, it was hit by RPG rockets and gunfire, causing Navy SEAL Neil Roberts to fall from the helicopter. With the MH-47E heavily damaged, the aircrew made an emergency landing about three miles away. Combat Controller Technical Sergeant. John Chapman, a member of the team, began coordinating close air support and a rescue effort to retrieve Roberts. Another helicopter, Razor 4, picked up the team and took them back to rescue Roberts on the 10,000-foot mountaintop.
After landing, Chapman advanced on an enemy position, killing two of the enemy. When the team became pinned down by fire from three directions, Chapman broke cover to rush another enemy position, but was killed. In less than a minute, at a 10,000 feet altitude Chapman charged a 3 foot snow covered 16 degree slope and advanced 216 feet, engaging the enemy throughout. His action saved the lives of the team by allowing them to break contact and move down the mountain away from the ambush. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross.
About an hour later, another helicopter, Razor 1, arrived at a slightly different landing zone, carrying a Ranger team and four Air Force personnel--Staff Segeant. Kevin Vance (who was attached to the Rangers), Staff Sergeant Gabe Brown, Technical Sergeant Keary Miller, and Senior Airman Jason Cunningham. As the helicopter landed, Razor 1 was hit with multiple RPG warheads and riddled with machine gun fire that killed or wounded several of those onboard.
Cunningham immediately began administering trauma care and moving the wounded out of the burning helicopter. For several hours, and without regard for his safety, Cunningham returned fire and repeatedly moved casualties out of the line of fire. His actions to save others made himself vulnerable, however, and he was mortally wounded while carrying an injured helicopter crewman. Cunningham was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross for his selfless acts.
Though hit with mortar rounds, RPGs, and small-arms fire, the team on the ground continued to battle the enemy for hours. With the essential support of air power, they slowly silenced the enemy. At 2015 local, helicopters arrived, and all personnel, including the dead, were taken off the mountaintop.
In terms of Chapman's background, he was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and raised in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Chapman joined the Air Force in 1985, and after graduation from basic and technical training, he served as an information systems operator at Lowry AFB, Colorado. In 1989, Chapman began training to become a combat controller, and later earned his red beret in March 1990. Chapman's first assignment was to the 1721st Combat Control Squadron, Pope AFB. From there, he moved to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan. In 1995, he returned to Pope AFB, this time as an Integrated Survey Program and Special Tactics Team Member with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. In addition to the Air Force Cross, Chapman's awards include the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal (with 1 device), the Joint Service Achievement Medal (with 1 device), and the Air Force Achievement Medal (with 1 device).
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