It was near dusk in Kandahar Province when an Afghan schoolteacher snapped.
The Taliban had previously accused him of being an informant for the American military, pulled his teeth out, bloodied his face and threatened to kill his family. He exacted revenge on Aug. 25, 2011.
Atop a hill in southern Afghanistan, the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army received a call that someone — the teacher, as it turned out, who was indeed an informant — had opened fire on a group of approximately 25 Taliban militants meeting inside a mosque in a nearby town. A handful were gravely wounded in the spree, and the Taliban began evacuating the others by taxi. Lieutenant Alejandro Villanueva, a 23-year-old former Army football player and rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, gathered his troops to act on the call.
Villanueva’s unit was part of a quick reaction response force charged with protecting Afghan civilians. About two dozen soldiers pulled on night optical goggles and ran down a rocky road to an intersection where the mosque and a school were located, intending to kill or capture the remaining Taliban militants.