More US Troops In Niger Were Nearly Wiped Out During Ambush And Chaotic Rescue

Bullet Points

The full transcript of a video shown to Congress about the Niger ambush that killed four soldiers last October makes it clear that ISIS came close to massacring the other 38 U.S. and Nigerien troops that day.

The entire video, which runs more than 20 minutes, was shown to members of Congress ahead of the Pentagon’s May 10 news conference about the findings of an investigation into the Oct. 4, 2017, ambush near Tongo Tongo. Reporters saw a truncated 10-minute version of the video ahead of the briefing, and the transcript was distributed to reporters Thursday on CD-ROMs.

  • Although the team’s mission was characterized as civil-military reconnaissance, the goal of the U.S. and Nigerien troops was to “capture — or, if necessary, kill” an ISIS commander believed to be in the area, the video’s transcript says.
  • The team consisted of eight Special Forces soldiers, two special operations support soldiers, one intelligence contractor, on Nigerien interpreter, and 34 Nigerien troops, the transcript says. The U.S. troops traveled in three vehicles equipped with mounted M240 machine guns.
  • During the ambush, two of the U.S. vehicles became immobilized. In the one working vehicle, five passengers suffered gunshot wounds, including the driver, who was shot through the elbow but continued to drive. The team commander was riding in the back of the truck until he was thrown off. The driver circled back to pick him up and they continued on until the truck got stuck in the mud.
  • After the team established a defensive position, “They wrote short messages to loved ones on personal devices, believing they would soon be overrun,” according to the transcript.
  • Two French Mirage aircraft arrived, but unable to tell friend from foe, they only flew show-or-force missions, which eventually prompted the enemy fighters pursing the team to retreat.
  • A Nigerien reaction force arrived on the scene about four hours after the team radioed for help, but they initially fired on the friendly team for 48 seconds because they mistook the U.S. and Nigerien troops for enemy fighters. “Fortunately, no one was injured further,” the transcript says.
  • Sgt. La David Johnson’s body was found around noon on Oct. 6. As U.S. officials have repeatedly stated, he was never captured alive, the transcript says.


U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Chris Bowerfind

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab. No one knows that better than service members and we have the pictures to prove it. Here are eight of the worst places to sleep:

1. In a tent in the Arctic

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes

If you love that feeling where you can't quite warm up and you're convinced you're going to die overnight from extreme temperatures even though you're wrapped in foil like a burrito packaged with the expertise of a seasoned Chipotle employee, then we can't recommend the Arctic enough. Let's be honest here: Even with your long johns and your heat mechanisms and your advanced survival training you're just lying to yourself. You're so damn cold you want to cry but you know your tears will freeze.

2. In the torpedo room

U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Darryl Wood

Nothing says "home away from home" like a temporary rack on a ship. "Join the Navy, see the world," really should have been, "Join the Navy, see the water." Sure, on paper, sleeping between strangers on a ship cruising the open seas sounds like a new app we should develop, but sleeping right next to five coworkers and that one mouth-breather isn't probably what you had in mind. And if that wasn't quite enough, add the knowledge that you're in a room with several thousand pounds of bombs. Sweet dreams, kid.

3. On a metal folding chair

U.S. Army photo by Robert Timmons

There's nothing quite like waking yourself with a massive head bob after dozing off while sitting straight up. You know the kind: when the weight of your giant brain falls forward too quickly and bounces at the bottom with enough force you have to wonder if you may have permanently damaged your neck. You play it off with a neck roll and look around to see if anyone noticed. Spoiler alert: They did. And, don't worry, you'll do it again in three minutes. Kudos to this dude who probably did that six times before he put his backpack on his lap to prevent it from happening again.

4. On the rocks

​U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair

That might be how you want your bourbon, but definitely not how you want your nap. Just looking at where this guy is sleeping makes us uncomfortable (and not only because of the sunburn you know he's going to have on his face). There's something about gravel digging into that inch of exposed skin above your collar and tiny boulders in the small of your back that just screams nope.

5. On a stretcher

​U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Erica Knight

Pretty sure that bad boy is for the patient, but sometimes you just have to fold your body completely perpendicular to catch a few zzz's. That's gonna feel realll nice in about 20 minutes. Nothing says "hazmat suit" like throwing your back out.

6. On the top rack

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Allison M. DeVries

If you ever rock, paper, scissored over who got the top bunk as a kid, then wow, do we ever have a treat for you. Now available on select C-130s in the New Zealand fleet: the top "rack." We use that term super loosely because it's more like sleeping on a web of lies that your time as a Marine would be spent doing actual things, not just training exercises.

7. On coke cases

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Chris Bowerfind

Soda or pop? We're just calling it ingenious and horrible. Nothing about 39g of sugar in those tiny little cans of brown water is appealing. But if you haven't slept in a grocery store, have you ever even done a relief mission?

8. On the floor of the Department of Agriculture

U.S. National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire

Sure, the ground, the racks, the snow, the stretcher - it all sucks, but can you really beat the floor of the Department of Agriculture? It might be the knowledge that every defeated farmer - who just that morning waded through pig and cow manure – used those same shoes to walk where you're sleeping in order to talk about the Farm Bill that makes this one the worst. Oh you're still okay with it? How about the countless bureaucrats who took the red eye in to make it to their 9:00 briefing and had those same shoes on in the Delta lavatory and then at Dulles? Add in some spilt coffee, regret and broken promises and the only thing you're dreaming about is getting the hell off the floor.

We've all been there … the point where you're so tired you will literally sleep anywhere. And when you're in those moments, you don't care how many people walked where your face is resting. It's also why it's so important that the times you are able to sleep in a bed, you not only cherish them, you enjoy them. We're proud to partner with Casper mattress to offer Task & Purpose readers $75 off their Casper line and $150 off their Wave mattresses. You deserve a good night sleep and a discount. Use coupon code TASKPURPOSE at check out to apply the offer. Fatigue might be the best pillow, but Casper has the best mattresses.

This post sponsored by Casper.

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