Eastern Syria, 26 October 2008
Syria's lengthy border with Iraq has long been a conduit for foreign jihadists entering Iraq to fight Coalition forces. At the height of the insurgency, over one hundred jihadists were entering Iraq across the border every month. Much of this activity was coordinated by an Iraqi-born al Qaeda facilitator known as Abu Ghadiya who had been working for the terrorist network since 2004. Along with his brother and several cousins, Abu Ghadiya headed a small al Qaeda cell of Iraqi Sunnis and a team of Syrians who carried out much of the logistics work for the jihadists. They maintained their headquarters and a safehouse for foreign fighters in the Syrian village of Sukkariya, five kilometers across the Iraqi border in eastern Syria.
Abu Ghadiya's cell had long been on the CIA and JSOC's High Value Target list and in October of 2008, a combination of electronic intercepts and overhead surveillance pinpointed their location in Sukkariya. The capture/kill mission was handed to the special operators of the Joint Special Operations Task Force known at the time as Task Force 88. Due to the time sensitivity of the target, a daylight raid was launched in the late afternoon of 26 October 2008 with four MH-60K special operations Blackhawks and two AH-6 Little Bird gunships entering Syrian airspace.
Historically, this proved to be a one-sided bloodletting, with reports of 8 al Qaeda members killed and possibly another 7 wounded. Gameplay showed art imitating life in this instance. Only 8 TF 88 operators start out on the ground (TQ d12/Morale d12) split into two 4-man fire teams, facing a total of 25 AQ members (TQ d8/Morale d10) broken up into four cells. The TF 88 operators, however, have dedicated helicopter support from the Little Birds and the minigun-equipped door gunners on the MH-60s, as well as a sniper team on one of the MH-60s.
TF 88 forces start out having just landed in an HLZ, moving toward a construction site where Abu Ghadiya and Cell 1 were located.
|Abu Ghadiya and AQ Cell 1. He's the fellow in the middle of the front row. He has a suicide vest bomber next to him.|
|AQ Cell 2, located behind a building and away from the TF 88 LZ.|
|TF 88 Team B advances toward AQ Cell 1 and Abu Ghadiya. High drama would ensue.|
|TF 88 Team A advances toward AQ Cells 3 and 4, using a building to cover their approach.|
TF 88 Team B continued its advance toward and fire upon AQ Cell 1, downing Abu Ghadiya and the rest of the cell, with the exception of the RPG gunner and suicide vest bomber. The suicide vest bomber made a rapid move toward the TF 88 team and detonated his vest, killing one of the operators.
|One of the TF 88 operators gets blown out of his shoes.|
|TF 88 Team A wipes out AQ Cell 4 in a vicious round of fire.|
TF 88 Team A came off of the roof it had used for a firing position and advanced while firing, inflicting 3 casualties on AQ Cell 3. Team B wiped out the rest of Cell 1.
|TF 88 Team A continues its rampage. Hard to tell from the photo, but there's a pile of bodies stacked up down the alley.|
|TF 88 Team B drives on to the Ranger objective. CSAR was already en route to police up the body of their fallen comrade.|
TF 88 Team A moved to secure AQ Cell Team 4's position, hoping to find Abu Ghadiya among the downed terrorists. Team B moved toward the downed Little Bird as the CSAR bird touched down at the original LZ. Helicopter support inflicted another AQ casualty while a Fog of War card produced an AQ technical pickup sporting a DShK machine gun at the far end of the board.
|AQ receives some unexpected assistance - a technical with an HMG mounted. Although it came on the map blazing, it missed its first target - the downed Little Bird.|
TF 88 Team A did not find Abu Ghadiya among the wounded and dead at AQ Cell 4's location, but picked up a handful of live prisoners after administering first aid. The newly arrived AQ technical exchanged fire with TF 88 Team B, winning initiative and making casualties out of the two US operators within LOS. The CSAR team, however, came within LOS of the technical and dished out a punishing amount of small arms fire, destroying the vehicle and taking the lives of two of its three occupants.
|The CSAR team proves its mettle by destroying the AQ technical.|
|One is the loneliest number... if you're an AQ terrorist facing Task Force Wrath of God.|
The first aid check showed that the two US casualties from the AQ technical fire were - surprisingly - light wounds. TF 88 Team A rounded the corner from AQ Cell 4's position and wiped out the last members standing from Cell 3.
|TF 88 Team A turns the last of AQ Cell 3 into ground chuck.|
Helicopter support killed the last member of AQ Cell 2 (previously the loneliest RPK gunner, now just dead), and we called the game at this point. AQ had ceased to act as a fighting force, having been swept from the field by TF 88's superior ... everything.
US: 18 points for 18 x AQ KIA; 40 points for 8 x AQ captured; 10 points for capturing Abu Ghadiya
AQ: 5 points for 1 x US KIA; 10 points for forcing a US helo to land; 3 from a Fog of War card
Result = US decisive victory, 68 to 18
Because it took only a couple of hours to run the game, we re-set all elements and ran the scenario with the players having switched sides. Here's iteration #2:
TF 88 disembarked as before, and Team B exchanged fire with an AQ cell, resulting in 1 US and 5 AQ casualties. Team A inflicted a couple of casualties without loss, and helo support took out the RPG gunner in AQ Cell 4, while that cell's small arms fire proved ineffective. A Fog of War card prevented any AQ movement. In all, a pretty bad turn for AQ.
The first aid round revealed that the US casualty from the previous round was a serious wound. As an exception to normal play, Team B left the wounded man for the CSAR crew to pick up, as they would land next round. Team B rounded the corner and wiped out the rest of Cell 1, while helo support inflicted another AQ casualty.
|One more round of merciless small arms fire. TF 88 Team B pulps AQ Cell 1.|
The CSAR bird arrived as the RPG gunner in Cell 4, who was stationed on a rooftop, took aim at the LZ. The on-board sniper team, which had not yet been used, won the opposed initiative roll and shot the RPG gunner before he could get a rocket off. TF 88 Team A then mounted the top of the building between Cell 4 and the LZ, and killed all but one of the remaining AQ Cell 4 members in short order. 3 members of AQ Cell 3 were delighted to find that they had LOS on Team A, and decided to engage. They lost the opposed initiative roll and two out of three were gunned down for their trouble.
|If this looks shockingly similar to what happened last round, that's because it is shockingly similar to what happened last round. Same TF 88 team, same building, same dead AQ across the street.|
The AQ player was delighted to see two members of Cell 4 make their first aid check and return to combat. Team B, meanwhile, had occupied Cell 1's footprint at the construction site where Abu Ghadiya was located. The first aid check, conducted on the Advanced First Aid chart, resulted in Team B having 5 prisoners in varying states of health. One of them was the suicide vest bomber with that squad. The AQ player checked to see if he could muster the gumption to trigger his vest. He didn't, but the D-Boys in the room shot him for thinking about it. Team B now had 4 prisoners in varying states of health.
|The last man in AQ Cell 2 felt lucky and took a shot at the CSAR bird that was still on the ground. Things didn't go his way.|
This last brutal round of fire had wiped AQ from the map, but left us scratching our heads - three hits on the bird, one with an RPG, and no damage. More on that later.
We tallied the results for the second round. Point Total:
US: 21 points for 21 x AQ KIA; 15 points for 3 x AQ captured; 10 points for capturing Abu Ghadiya; 5 for boarding the evac helos by game's end
AQ: 3 points for 1 x US Serious WIA
Result = US decisive victory, 51 to 3
Both iterations gave the same result - AQ got curb-stomped by a superior force. Don't expect to play AQ in this scenario and think that this is anywhere near an even match. Andy, Steve and I discussed this - it seemed pretty accurate to us, as we're sure that direct action task forces don't look for ways to give their targets a sporting chance. Still a fun time.
- Helicopters on the ground should use the ground vehicle damage table. The helo damage table assumes that the bird is in flight, with results of Jink! and Ping! Will definitely put this in the house rules.
- We made one small modification to the scenario: because we were playing on a 4' x 4' map instead of 2' x 2', game duration was extended to 8 turns instead of 6. Recommend you do this if playing on the larger map.
- AQ forces should get victory points in this scenario just for driving off a US helicopter with ground fire. They already get 15 for a destroyed chopper, 10 for a forced landing; they should get 5 for damage to a helicopter or forcing the bird to depart the scene.
- It's pretty hard to overstate the impact that TQ d12 troops have on the battlefield. Just about every exchange of fire they had proved devastating to the enemy, and the Advanced First Aid table makes them durable in the face of superior numbers.