By Eric Wiener, Segment Producer
Antenna Hill is basically the highest point in the area between the Maidan Wardak Province and the Ghazni Province in Afghanistan. According to Joshua Brewer, the base elevation is over 8,000 feet. Likewise, the peak of the hill offers a vantage point to the entire valley, and because of this elevation, it also has antennas on it to broadcast local radio to the whole region. Thus the nickname.
But while we were interviewing Joshua Brewer, Steven “Doc” Wilburn, and Augustine Cortinas about their fight to take the hill, we found out there’s a lot more to the Antenna Hill story than simply what we see on the footage – and accordingly, in the episode. There’s an entire first half of that day leading up to the beginning of our story. Unfortunately, no one happened to be filming as the events unfolded, but it is a story that also needs to be told.
It turns out, Brewer and his team originally began with a different mission on May 26th, 2012, the day of the fight for Antenna Hill…
Another platoon had been sent out on an indirect fire patrol to stop the enemy from shooting at their base, when the enemy ambushed them. This platoon’s sniper section got pinned down away from their trucks, and quickly, they found themselves in an all out firefight.
Brewer and his team rushed out as part of what they call a QRF, Quick Reaction Force, to help their sister platoon. With the engaged platoon in real danger, getting to them as quickly as possible was imperative. But as they sped to the firefight, Joshua Brewer’s vehicle, the lead truck, drove over a pressure-plated IED. The entire front-left side of the vehicle exploded.
“I only remember certain details,” Brewer told us, “but the, the things I do remember is all of a sudden being weightless and flying through the air. I don’t remember any sound but I remember watching my, my radios and my equipment fly up around me in the truck. And then we crashed down.”
He recalled his driver and interpreter bleeding and screaming out in pain. His gunner was unconscious. They were no longer on the rescue mission. Now, with three guys injured and a broken vehicle, they needed rescuing. So another team and a MedEvac hurried to them, bringing the injured men back to base, as Brewer collected himself and his belongings to continue on! He got into another vehicle and reloaded his team with three new men, including Steven “Doc” Wilburn and Augustine Cortinas.
But meanwhile, the pinned-down platoon originally engaged by the Taliban managed to fight their way out of the ambush by calling in tens of thousands of pounds of bombs onto the enemy positions on Antenna Hill. They no longer needed support.
Instead, someone now needed to take that hill, conduct a battle damage assessment, and most importantly, ensure there were no more enemy survivors. And that’s when Joshua Brewer turned on his helmet cam and began the Battle for Antenna Hill…
Tune in to Eyewitness War: Battle for Antenna Hill tonight at 9P.