FOB Tillman, Paktika Province, Afghanistan – After spotting Taliban forces on a distant ridge line, U.S. Army mortar teams engage with 60mm mortars. A simultaneous airstrike is called in which accidentally drops a 500 pound bomb on a U.S. Army infantry outpost, mistaking the position for Taliban fighters.
Luckily there were no friendly casualties in this incident. It is still unclear what caused the pilot to target the wrong position, but I’m going to go out on a limb and assume the fire support officer got his friendly/target grids switched when he sent them to the pilots.
Q: What events led up to this bomb drop, and what was going through your mind after the bomb hit?
A: We had been taking harassing sniper fire for a little over a month and could not find out where this guy was, so we were up in the OP, took a few rounds and battalion heard we were in a TIC. Then about a minute prior to being cleared hot we heard they were in route. We heard weapons free, they told us to get small, and I replied with “Yeah, I get small” sarcastically, and then it landed about 15m behind us.
Honestly we had dropped so many bombs up to that point that the thought never even crossed my mind that this could even happen, especially with all the checks put into place. About a half second before impact you could hear the bomb screaming in like I hadn’t ever heard before, and I definitely knew at that point something was off. After the initial realization that it had hit behind us, we were so scatter brained trying to figure out what happened. It hit so close to the guys in the tower it actually knocked the fill out of radios.
Then we went up to check on the rest of the boys. Luckily our First Sergeant called up and put everyone on stand to, inadvertently saving the lives of at least 3 soldiers who would have been in the bay that had shrapnel sent through every inch of it including shearing holes into weapons. Once the smoke had cleared and we realized that no one was seriously injured, we were just sitting there in awe as the anger started to build.
If it hadn’t been for the decision of the First Sergeant to bring everyone to “stand to”, three of our guys would have died in that wood building. His decision saved three of our men.
It is still unknown how this mistake happened or why the friendly location was mistakenly targeted.