An excerpt from The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor recounts a Taliban ambush that killed four U.S. army soldiers.
Staff Sergeant Chris "Cricket" Cunningham, 26, led the kill team for 3-71 Cav.
After high school, Cunningham had been looking for a way out of Whitingham, Vermont, when one of his older brothers told him to join the Army. "Don't sign any papers until they give you one that says 'Ranger' on it," his brother told him, advice that Cunningham took.
For a few months now, Cunningham had been angling to team up with Sergeant First Class Jared Monti, 30, on a mission. Cunningham respected how skilled the forward observers from Monti's team were, and the two men had become friends. At the end of each day back at Forward Operating Base Naray they would sit on a bench in a garden, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze. Missions, commanders, family -- they talked about it all. After they got out of the Army, both were thinking about enrolling in the Troops to Teachers program, a partnership between the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of Education that helped eligible soldiers start new careers as public school teachers in high poverty areas.
Monti, a fellow New Englander, came from the working-class town of Raynham, Massachusetts, where he'd been a champion wrestler who always had a smile on his face. That changed after the Army sent him to his first deployment, to Kosovo, where he was given a crash course in what had once been, to him, unimaginable barbarism. He would regularly witness a town of Christian adults throwing garbage at Muslim children walking to school. To Monti, what was morally right far exceeded the importance of Army rules, so he started driving the kids to school in his Humvee. But there was too much horror there for him to make a difference -- too much hatred, too much killing, too many neighbors turned murderers. He came back from the Balkans a different man, haunted.