The ODA and a company of Afghan Army Commandos, was part of Operation Mountain Condor III. The 77-man force expected to face an estimated 300 enemy fighters.
Landing in the valley around 2200, the team moved west toward its objective. Navigating a labyrinth of walls and irrigation ditches, the force, which was supported by AC-130 gunships and AH-64 Apache helicopters, moved unop- posed through the valley arriving at their objective area around 0600.
Establishing themselves in two compounds barely suit- able for command and control, they prepared alternating patrols to seek out the enemy, unaware that the enemy was within hand-grenade range before the first patrol set out. As dawn came, the valley erupted.
For the next three hours, the ODA and the Afghan Commandos played a lethal game of cat-and-mouse with the enemy. Groups of Taliban fighters massed together to attack friendly positions, only to be killed or scattered by close-air support. Buildings in the surrounding area were assaulted and cleared, only to be re-occupied when the small force moved to clear a different location.
At one point, Master Sgt. Ritter took an element to flank an enemy ambush that had been identified some 300 meters away, only to be engaged by an ambush 50 meters away.
While maneuvering against the near ambush, one of the Afghan Commandos was hit. With air support temporarily out of the fight, Master Sgt. Ritter and four Commandos moved to recover the casualty. Ritter killed two enemy fighters and silenced a PKM machine gun with a grenade. As the Afghan soldiers began to drag the casualty to safety, the PKM started firing. Sure of where the PKM was positioned, Ritter’s attempt to take out the gunner was thwarted when the gun was turned on him. Ritter was hit by three 7.62 mm rounds, two through his leg and one through his back, which destroyed his Brachial nerve complex and perforated an artery.
Still, he took a knee, demanded his weapon and directed fire against the enemy, allowing the element to return to the command post. For the next two hours, the team fought to get Master Sgt. Ritter, who was bleeding internally, evacuated.
Eleven units of blood and two surgeries later, Master Sgt. Ritter was back in the United Satates. He was released from the hospital on a Friday and was back in the gym on Monday While recovering, he besieged his battalion commander with weekly updates of his progress, and within two months, he returned to Afghanistan for the fifth time.