The reality of war is that victories are often won in the unseen areas, the gritty underbelly of a place far away where Special Forces execute their missions with precision, bravado, and an unyielding dedication to their countries. This is the story of Operation Viking Hammer, an unsung story of heroism that spotlighted the unparalleled mettle of the U.S. Special Forces.

Time for a quick snapshot en route to Objective Yahtzee.

Against the backdrop of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, while international headlines were captivated by the broader war narrative, a small team of Green Berets was tasked with a mission critical to the success of the more extensive campaign. Tasked from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), these soldiers were entrusted with Operation Viking Hammer: the destruction of a formidable Ansar al-Islam base entrenched in the problematic mountainous region of Northern Iraq.

The objective was daunting; elements of Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group linked to Al-Qaeda, were well-fortified in the rugged landscape. They boasted a force nearly twice the size of the Green Berets. The element of surprise, the deft execution of unconventional warfare, and an alliance with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters was the U.S. team’s strategy to level the playing field.

Operation Viking Hammer
Searching ruins of AQ chemical facility. That’s right; we found a chemical plant. (Source: Kurdee2130/Wikimedia Commons)

The operation, launched in late March 2003, saw the Green Berets and their Kurdish allies advance through the treacherous terrain under a cloak of darkness. The opening salvo was a hailstorm of precision airstrikes, tearing into the enemy’s defenses and sowing chaos in their ranks. This was the cue for the ground forces to spring into action.