Army Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers
Died July 13, 2008 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom
24, of Snellville, Ga.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy; died July 13 of wounds sustained when his outpost was attacked by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades from enemy forces in Wanat, Afghanistan. Also killed were 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling and Pfc. Sergio S. Abad.
Hard-hit C Company suffers another agonizing blow
By Michelle Tan
It was the single deadliest attack since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.
More than 200 enemy fighters swarmed a small, remote combat outpost near the village of Wanat, near the country’s porous border with Pakistan.
They brought with them machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. The U.S. and coalition soldiers were outnumbered by at least 2 to 1.
The battle was fierce. Enemy fighters fought their way onto the newly established base known as Combat Outpost Kahler. The Americans and Afghans, numbering fewer than 100, fought back, defending their post and calling in airstrikes.
When the fighting stopped, the enemy had suffered heavy casualties, with reports of more than 100 killed or wounded.
But the Americans had suffered, too.
Nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 15 others were wounded. Apart from helicopter crashes, the bloody July 13 battle inflicted the deepest wound on a single U.S. battalion of any attack since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan almost seven years ago.
The soldiers, from 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, of Vicenza, Italy, were supposed to be coming home soon. The brigade deployed to Afghanistan in June 2007 and about 680 soldiers are already home in Vicenza, with the last of the soldiers expected home by the first week of August.
But this final attack on the battalion’s C Company soldiers would make it the hardest-hit company to have served in Operation Enduring Freedom. The company has lost 15 men since deploying to Afghanistan, the most for one Army company in both operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In total, 24 men from the battalion have been killed during this deployment.
After the fierce combat that 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry endured in the past 15 months, several of its soldiers earned valor awards including the Silver Star, the third highest award for valor, and the Bronze Star with V device, said Maj. Nicholas Sternberg, spokesman for the 173rd.