Hammerhead Six Book Review


Hammerhead Six: How Green Berets Waged an Unconventional War Against the Taliban to Win in Afghanistan’s Deadly Pech Valley

By Ronald Fry with Tad Tuleja

Hardcover in dustjacket, 382 pages, photographs, notes, and index

Published by Hachette Books January 2016

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0-31634-143-6

ISBN-13: 978-0-31634-143-1

Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches

Afghanistan’s Pech Valley lies along the border with Pakistan, roughly between Kabul and Islamabad.  It is a major infiltration route for Taliban fighters.  In 2004 a twelve-man team of Green Berets set up operations at a site in the valley known as Camp Blessing, backed up by a platoon of Marines.

The Green Berets were led by Captain Ronald Fry, who authors this account.  Their call sign was Hammerhead Six.  They belonged to the Utah National Guard, and were their unit’s dive team, specially trained in underwater operations.  The Green Berets are also required to be conversant in foreign languages, for Hammerhead Six the team members were all trained in various Asian languages.  In the logic of the U.S. military, Afghanistan was the natural place to deploy them.

The mission and skill set of a Green Beret team is very different from the rest of the Special Operations community.  A Green Beret team lives among the indigenous community.  Their goal is to recruit and train local fighters as allies and to win the “hearts and minds” of the people in the area, thus denying the enemy a safe operating area and support.  They do this by working directly with local leaders, offering medical help to the population, and engaging in various infrastructure improvement projects.  They also “go native”, observing and respecting the local customs and traditions. In many ways Captain Fry became the local warlord of the area and quasi-governor, settling disputes and negotiating an unfamiliar culture with very different rules and expectations.  This book is part military history, part management and governance, and part anthropological study of the Afghani society.  It is also an engaging and educational read on several levels, I can recommend it with only one reservation.  I have at least a dozen recent military books from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which have the call sign of the unit or individual as the title, and there are easily a few dozen more.  In time it will be difficult to remember that “Hammerhead Six” is the good book about Green Berets in Afghanistan.