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Robertson: An ambush that can't be forgotten

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  • Soldiers tell story from remote front of war on terror
  • Afghan, U.S. troops fell victim to ambush
  • Some survivors feel forgotten in the mountains of Afghanistan
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By Nic Robertson
CNN
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Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. Here, Nic Robertson writes about an ambush that still haunts the soldiers fighting along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

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CNN's Nic Robertson says he felt he had to tell the story of an ambush in the remote mountains of Afghanistan.

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- I've been on many military embeds. But when I stepped off the Black Hawk Helicopter at Forward Operating Base Keating, I knew it was like no other I'd been to.

We'd landed on boulders in the middle of two fast-flowing rivers, in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, just 15 miles from the Pakistan border on September 12. Mountains towered over us, incredibly steep and imposing, on all sides. The sun sets early here.

As the bird lifted off, leaving us behind on the razor-wired base, I felt exposed and not very safe. I instantly realized how strange it was -- this combination of utter remoteness, along with the penetrating gaze of an unseen enemy on these dark mountain slopes.

Keating is a small base, with rough-hewn rock huts thrown together in a tight gaggle on the only flat ground between the foot of the mountain and the river.

I'd been told by Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Chris Kolenda what a tough posting this was. Most days it gets attacked. Kolenda told me about an ambush that wounded two dozen American and Afghan troops and claimed the lives of two men, Capt. Tom Bostick and Sgt. William Fritsche.

As it turned out I must have brought some strange mountain luck with me. During my five days, I didn't hear a single bullet, rocket or mortar fired in anger.

But that gave me a chance to get to know the soldiers at Keating. And when I saw the tags on their battle fatigues, I saw the names of the men in Kolenda's ambush story: Newsom, Meyer, Wilson. Capt. Joey Hutto, too. He'd been a very close friend of Bostick. I could tell he was still cut up by the loss.

Some men had been given medication to get over the trauma of the ambush. A few had even been reassigned to help them cope. But what came across to me time and time again was how much these men didn't want their friends forgotten.

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The more I heard them tell what happened during that day, July 27, I knew I had to tell their story: Put it on the record, so it could never be lost.

I left Keating humbled by those men. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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