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Matt in TN

2018 Legion 9/11 Memorial Run N Gun, Rockcastle Shooting Center, Park City, KY

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Stage 4 (10k only):  THE MANBIJ POCKET

In 2016, the reach and control the Islamic State had established in Northern Syria was staggering.  It would take US Special Forces and their partners numerous operations and countless munitions to stem IS’s spread and retake key terrain, to turn the fight against IS.  The Manbij Offensive, code-named Operation Martyr by the Syrian Democratic Forces was a 2016 military offensive to finally break through IS lines—at the time this was a small, critical pocket IS forces had established in Manbij city.  Surrounding the "Manbij Pocket" in the northern Aleppo Governorate, Special Forces and the SDF saw the opportunity to cut off IS's last smuggling and supply routes from Turkey and shorten the battle.  During the first 5 days of the offensive, the US-led coalition conducted over 55 airstrikes to support friendly maneuver.  Desperate IS fighters used suicide attacks, improvised “mad max” vehicles, and drones to attempt counterattacks.  After capturing Manbij city on 12 August, the SDF announced that the offensive would continue east from Manbij to crush IS.

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Stage 5 (10k only):  THE MIND IS THE BEST WEAPON

Nicknamed "Texas 12", a Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha designated “SFOD-A 574” was a 12-man team of U.S Green Berets.  They worked side-by-side with irregular militia led by Hamid Karza, to capture the Islamic spiritual center in the city of Kandahar, and thus win over a critical center of gravity within the population of Afghanistan.  The 12 Americans of ODA 574, assisted by U.S. close air support and 35 Afghans, successfully defended Tarin Kowt against 1,000 Taliban insurgents delivered by 100 trucks.  Assisting the local militia, they helped to defeat the Taliban further along the Arghandab River and at Shawali Kowt and Sayyd Alma Kalay. These victories were the key to the Kandahar Campaign, ending when Kandahar was occupied by Marine Expeditionary Units.

The battle and the overall defeat of the Taliban came at a heavy price.  Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald "Donnie" Davis, Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, and SFC Daniel H. Petithory and twenty members of Karzai’s militia were killed.  Five other members of ODA 574 and Karzai were wounded.  Despite this incredible loss, members of SFOD-A 586 soldiers from Bravo Company, 3rd BN, 5th SFG, with reinforcements from adjacent units, were able to usher Karzai and new leadership into the center of power at Kandahar.  President Karzai was able to negotiate the surrender of Taliban forces around Kandahar, drastically shortening the length of the war.

Edited by Matt in TN

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Stage 4 (5k)/Stage 6 (10k):  HORSE SOLDIERS

In the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Defense Department sent two teams of Army Special Forces soldiers to Afghanistan to bring down the Taliban.  SFODA 595, the “Horse Soldiers,” went on missions that were extended for weeks and months.  They did it all without body armor or tactical vehicles, living with Afghan partners and following an Afghan plan—often using horses and pack animals.  595 was charged with leading the Northern Alliance and the men of former (assassinated) Ahmed Shah Massoud to unite Afghanistan against Taliban rule.  These Green Berets were among the first to deploy to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Some of them rode into battle on horseback alongside fighters from the Northern Alliance.  There were no guarantees that General Dostum of the Afghan Northern Alliance would safeguard the team, and many members had never ridden horseback before.  The team found itself uniquely postured to react to the Nation’s call to duty after the 9/11 attacks.

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Stage 5 (5k)/Stage 7 (10k):  HIGH VALUE TARGET

As early as January in eastern Syria, one of two operations in less than a month, Coalition forces targeted senior IS leaders in the Hajin region in Syria's eastern Deir Az Zor province near the Iraqi border.  Included among those killed was the messenger for IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to the Iraqi government official release.  Three houses linked by an underground tunnel were also destroyed, the statement said.  The Iraqi press release added that the air raid was carried out based on "intelligence" and at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.  Hajin, located about 50km from Iraq's border, is the largest populated hub still under IS control in Syria.  Coalition forces rely on each other and common goals to share actionable information quickly—some of the most important details to one element may seem inconsequential to another.  

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Final Run:  NO GREATER LOVE

Ayman Taha was born in Sudan, into an academically accomplished international family. Both his parents hold doctorates—after secondary school in England, Ayman received a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's in economics from the University of Massachusetts, where he was working toward a PhD.  Athletic, a speaker of many languages, and a friend to all who met him, he had only to write his dissertation to earn his PhD, before he decided to serve in the Special Forces.  

On his second deployment to Iraq, Taha was hastily preparing a cache of munitions for demolition in the town of Balad when the explosives he found detonated and he was killed.  The intense firefights faced by his teammates indicate the explosives, if not destroyed, would have been used by enemy combatants to target American soldiers.  His teammates were able to recover his remains only under pressure from enemy attack.

Ayman "lived in many cultures," his father said, was Muslim, and spoke English, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese.  More important than his formidable intellect or ability, were his personality and character. "If he has a five-minute conversation with you, that would be the beginning of a lifetime relationship." Ayman Taha demonstrates the character and integrity crucial to service in the Special Forces, and a love far greater and more important than any single combat-skill.

Edited by Matt in TN

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