Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom commenced against
the al Qaeda network centered in Afghanistan. The 3rd Brigade of the 101st, the Rakkasans, was deployed to Afghanistan in
Operation Anaconda began late Friday evening on March 1, 2002 in the mountainous Shahi Khot region south
of the city of Gardez in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. forces including the insertion of Special Operating Forces from several
other nations set up observation posts. The 10th Mountain Division and the 101st Airborne Division along with Afghan forces
had units inserted into the objective area covering some 60 to 70 square miules. Rough terrain, an altitude of 8,000 to 12,000
feet, and a temperature in the evenings between 15 and 20 degrees °F, makes a very tough operating environment for soldiers.
Operation Anaconda is a force of about 2,000 soldiers of which more than half are U.S. conventional forces, Special Forces,
and Special Operating Forces commanded by Major General Buster Hagenbeck of the 10th Mountain Division, headquartered at Fort
Drum, New York. Coalition forces from Austrlia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, and Norway joined United States troops in
Operation Anaconda, part of the ongoing effort in Afghanistan to root out Taliban and al Qaeda forces holed up in the Pakita
Province area of the country.
When the Shahi Khot battle opened early March 2 (Afghan time), al Qaeda troops entrenched along ridges and mountainside
caves used heavy machine-gun, mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire to immobilize allied Afghan forces and to pin down
U.S. soldiers as they disembarked from helicopters.
At the time Operation Anaconda was the largest offensive of the five-month-old war.