Completed painting for Command and General Staff College. Presented May 12, 2017 at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas. The prints are signed by Medal of Honor Recipient Clint Romesha and Major Aaron Dove who flew support missions for the Air Force over COP Keating during the battle October 3, 2009.
Background for the painting scene.
Established in 2006 as a base for a Provisional Reconstruction Team, Combat Outpost (COP) Keating was constructed in a deep bowl in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. Surrounded by high ground and along a river, the outpost had only partial overwatch protection from nearby Observation Post (OP) Fritsche.
In 2009, fifty-four Soldiers assigned to Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry deployed to COP Keating to conduct counterinsurgency missions. Although proficient in counterinsurgency operations, the “Destroyers” of B Troop conducted mostly base defense due to their meager numbers.
By mid-2009, the chain of command determined there was no tactical or strategic value in retaining the land or the base atop it. COP Keating was scheduled for closure in late-July 2009. However, brigade operations in support of Afghan forces in restive Barg-e Matal diverted vital backhaul equipment. Furthermore, the search for a missing US Soldier in the south reprioritized intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets away from the camp.
The imminent closure, diversion of assets, and small force occupying the base did not go unnoticed by enemy forces. Enemy fighters operating in Nuristan conducted approximately 47 probing attacks against COP Keating – often massing in large numbers beforehand in vicinity of nearby villages but then attacking the outpost with only a small force. Though with each engagement the enemy learned B Troop’s tactics, techniques, procedures, and the locations of generators, barracks, and key weapons systems.
Just before 6 a.m. on October 3rd, 2009, approximately 300 enemy fighters attacked from the high ground above, pinning down the outpost’s six primary fighting positions from a 360-degrees vantage. The guard force incurred immediate casualties, and the camp’s primary fire support was suppressed - OP Fritsche’s 60mm and 120mm mortars. Afghan soldiers guarding the eastern side of the camp fled their positions and were immediately executed or taken hostage. About 45 minutes after the attack was launched, the command post transmitted, “Enemy in the wire! Enemy in the wire!” COP Keating was breached at three points with enemy force setting fire to the camp’s plywood buildings.
After emplacing Claymores for a final stand, B Troop withdrew to a tight perimeter inside buildings and a vehicle where they formulated a hasty plan, and then fought back. For over ten hours they fought under concentrated and unremitting fire from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small arms.
Just over one hour into the attack, AH-64 Apache helicopters arrived and provided supporting fire, followed thereafter by often danger-close air support from US Air Force A-10s, F-15s, and a B-1 bomber. Aided by continuous aviation fires, OP Fritsche’s Soldiers reestablished control of their mortar pit and provided indirect fire support. Seizing the initiative, B Troop killed at least four enemy fighters who had breached the wire. The Troopers then regained control of the camp’s key buildings and neutralized enemy firing positions in the nearby village of Urmul.
As evening fell on October 3rd, 2009, the call went out, "Keating reports negative contact." Over 150 enemy fighters lay dead and COP Keating was under US control. 22 Soldiers were wounded - all but three returned to duty after the attack. Eight Americans made the ultimate sacrifice defending their comrades and their outpost - each of the eight was recovered.
The Painting “Warrior Ethos” features Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha and Specialist Mark Dulaney as they provided covering fire for Specialist Ty Carter and Sergeant Brad Larson – each exposed to intense enemy small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire as they rushed to save a gravely wounded Specialist Stephan Mace. Staff Sergeant (R) Romesha and Staff Sergeant (R) Carter were each awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during the battle. The scene commemorated in “The Warrior Ethos” portrays the only instance during the battle when both Medal of Honor recipients were in the same location. “The Warrior Ethos” memorializes the 15th anniversary of the Global War on Terrorism and is dedicated to the Veterans of the Battle of COP Keating. Their resolve, selflessness, and valor exemplify The Warrior Ethos and serves as an example for everyone who serves. Awards The Veterans of the Battle of COP Keating were decorated with the following awards for actions during battle: two Medals of Honor; twenty-seven Purple Heart Medals for wounds sustained in combat; thirty-seven Army Commendation Medals with "V" device; eighteen Bronze Star Medals with "V" device; three Bronze Star Medals; and 9 Silver Stars for valor. Six US Army and two US Air Force Aviators were decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal for their support of the ground troops.