COP Keating was a company-sized Combat Outpost in the Nurestan Province of Afghanistan, about 5-10 miles from the Pakistani border, designed to observe and interdict Taliban supply and infiltration routes. OP Fritsche, a platoon-sized Observation Post that was about 2.2 kilometers away (straight line distance) from COP Keating, was tasked with providing indirect fire support to the COP with organic mortars. The COP was in a valley, with steep mountains on all sides. A river ran through the valley, and a small village was near the COP. The OP was at a much higher elevation, but was still commanded by higher ground nearby. Both the COP and the OP had been subject to attacks on a weekly basis in the months leading up to the major attack. Contact generally lasted minutes to about an hour, and often included crew-served weapons, B-10 recoilless rifles, and RPGs.
On October 3, 2009, B TRP 3-61 CAV from 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division was occupying the COP when approximately 300 Taliban fighters attacked COP Keating, and another 85 simultaneously attacked OP Fritsche, in a complex attack beginning at approximately 0600. The Troop Commander, Stoney Portis, was at nearby FOB Bostick, and command on the battlefield devolved to Andrew Bundermann, one of Stoney’s platoon leaders, supported by Cason Shrode, the fire support officer. Soon after the attack started, much of the equipment for communicating with higher headquarters was knocked out, forcing the defenders to rely only on the TACSAT for contact with the outside world. As the attack intensified, the Brigade, Task Force Mountain Warrior (4-4ID), alerted the quick reaction force (QRF) led by Jake Miraldi. At the COP, Andrew Bundermann and Cason Shrode were busy directing air strikes against enemy targets. At FOB Bostick, Stoney Portis was attempting to return to the COP by any means available, including two attempts on MEDECAC helicopters, and he finally, arrived with Miraldi’s QRF. The QRF was unable to land at the Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ) outside of COP Keating, and instead had to be inserted at OP Fritsche. Under ideal conditions, travel time between the OP and the COP was about three hours, but under heavy contact, the journey took about five hours, supported by aviation assets clearing the way ahead of the ground movement. By the time the QRF arrived at COP Keating, the battle had culminated. At the end of the interview, Jake Miraldi, Andrew Bundermann, and Stoney Portis discuss what each of them has taken away from their experiences in this battle.