Monster of Chowkay
(March 27, 2011)
Taking a moment to relax in his room on Combat Outpost Fortress, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin A. Amsler, a platoon leader from Titusville, Pa., assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Slack, poses for a photo
on March 20, 2011 in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province. Amsler has received phone calls from Taliban leaders trying to recruit him to fight on their side.
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (3/24/2011) – He's
10 feet tall. When he walks through the valleys,
he makes bombs fall from the sky and controls
helicopters. After a failed attempt to recruit
him, the Taliban put a reward on his head:
$25,000 dead or alive.
Some of this is
true, some of it exaggerated by
hyper-imaginative insurgents. One thing is sure
- U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin A. Amsler is
rattling Taliban leaders in Chowkay District in
eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province.
"They fear our platoon basically. They've
created this character, I represent it, but it's
my guys, it's not me. It's this Lt. Ben guy,"
explained Amsler assigned to Company B, 2nd
Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force
"When we first got here you
couldn't really get into the valley without
getting hit and beat up a little bit," said
Amsler. "So we made it a point to kind of say
who we were, specifically me. I put my name out
there, this is me and this is why I'm here. I'm
in support of the government and I'm here to
support the governor because he's unable to get
up here. I have the armored trucks and guns. I'm
here to help the people and kill the Taliban."
Amsler said that his platoon makes contact
with the enemy about 85 percent of the time they
head into the Dewegal Valley in Chowkay. Yet,
that hasn't stopped him from continuing to push
farther into the valley to further the influence
of the Government of the Islamic Republic of
"We've gained a lot of
support for us and the government, which is
ultimately our goal," said Amsler. "We try to
build support for the government, but first you
have to be trusted by the people before they're
going to listen to you. I think we've gained the
people's trust and that shakes the Taliban up a
When Amsler, a recent graduate from Ranger school who took
over the platoon in August 2010, visits elders and local
leaders, he isn't shy about passing out his contact
information. He gives Afghan National Police and Afghan
National Army troops his personal cell phone number. He
let's everybody know that he's not in Afghanistan to hide
behind the walls of Combat Outpost Fortress.|
afraid to give my cell phone number out to anybody that
could possibly need me at any point or to possibly contact
me for [information]," said Amsler and folded his arms
Then one day, he got a phone call.
"Lt. Ben? Lt. Ben?"
"Yes, this is him," he said.
Then the caller started to speak in Pashtu and Amsler
passed the phone to his interpreter. It was a Taliban leader
calling to propose a compromise.
Amsler explained the
Taliban commander said, "We respect you as a fighter and you
have good men. You're a good leader and have excellent
fighters. So we're going to give you one chance."
young lieutenant was willing to listen to the Taliban if it
meant helping the people in his district.
him I'd be willing to sit down and talk about our
differences and just try to provide for the people, but they
didn't want that," said Amsler. "They wanted me to covert to
Islam and fight for them, [it's] so not going to happen."
Shortly after that, Amsler started hearing rumors about
a bounty placed on his head.
"It's a matter of
getting underneath their skin," said Amsler. "All my guys
fighting, they feared our platoon. We rattled them."
Though Amsler laughs at the mythical proportions of the
situation, he knows it's not a game out there and has been
It's just one more thing to worry
about as a platoon leader.
"My guys have joked about
turning me in for [the reward money] if I make them climb
one more mountain," said Amsler as he was preparing to go
out on yet another patrol. "It's funny, and it's a game, but
at the same time, it's not a game. If they truly are trying
to target me and or us, then we'll have to be more careful."
After patrolling into the Dewegal Valley for hours and
taking enemy fire, Amsler came upon an Afghan villager.
Immediately, the villager recognized Amsler and said
that he was doing a good job in getting rid of the Taliban.
He explained one last thing to his interpreter about a
villager before heading out, "If he's not going to tell me
anything about the enemy, then I'm not going to treat him
good. Cause I know that the enemy was talking about using
this as a staging point to attack me. So that means that
he's friends with the Taliban. If he's friends with the
Taliban, he's not friends with me."
Amsler, about 5
feet 9 inches tall, is broad-shouldered, has a set jaw and
piercing eyes. Though he has been in the military for less
than two years and is on his first deployment, he doesn't
back down from much, especially not the Taliban.
Article and photo by Army SFC Mark Burrell|
Comment on this article