The Green Berets woke up at 2 a.m. on April 6, 2008, to take an early look at the target area.
Cold, snow-capped and perched at more than 10,000 feet, the objective wasn’t ideal. But intelligence said a high-value target aligned with the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin insurgent group was up there.
By the time they were hovering over Nuristan province’s Shok Valley in CH-47 Chinook helicopters, it was clear that Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 wasn’t going to be landing.
“It was just a little more treacherous than we thought,” said Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams, the ODA’s weapons sergeant who will receive the Medal of Honor on Wednesday for his actions during the 2008 mission.
The jagged terrain and sheer cliffs were too steep for the Chinooks, so ODA 3336 and their Afghan National Army Commandos jumped into a fast-moving, waist-deep river running through the target.
“The helicopters could not land,” said Lt. Col. Kyle Walton, the ODA commander. “We had to jump, sometimes into the river, sometimes into jagged rocks about 10-12 feet off the back end of the helicopter — and that was at the beginning of the mission.”