I first met Kap when I was a Team Leader in 1st Platoon, A/co, 3rd Ranger Battalion and truth be told, I thought he was a pretty abrasive dude at first. What I gradually came to realize was that he was simply standoffish because he didn’t know me, and rightly didn’t trust me yet. I was the new guy and untested in his eyes as a Squad Leader. Deploying to Iraq, I found a new respect for Kap and for the platoon as a whole. That was probably the best job I ever had in the Army and I was just lucky to serve with them.
We conducted a hell of a lot of Direct Action missions that summer, usually rolling outside the wire every day or night to hit multiple targets. Through all the crazy firefights in Mosul and Tal Afar we didn’t have any friendly casualties. Mostly this was because the platoon was tactically sound, had strong leaders, and previous combat experience, but there is also an element of luck involved in all of this, and it couldn’t last forever.
About a week before we were schedules to redeploy back to Ft. Benning, Georgia we were rolling around town in our Stryker armored vehicles looking for a High Value Target, a terrorist leader who was cruising around Mosul. Our six Stryker patrol was split in half. I was the TC, Tactical Commander, of the lead Stryker with Sergeant F’s assault team inside. The second Stryker was the MEV or medical evacuation vehicle. Our two man sniper element was also in MEV, including fellow SOFREP writer Isiah Burkhart. The third Stryker contained our Platoon Leader and Sergeant Kap with a assault team.
We stopped for a few moments underneath an over pass to “let the situation develop.” The interior of the Stryker was so packed full of Rangers that I was actually sitting on the roof of the vehicle with my legs hanging inside the hatch. I flinched hard as a massive explosion rang out from my six ‘o clock position. We were surrounded in sulfur smelling smoke. Seconds later I heard some horrible screaming. The snipers went up to the overpass to secure the area but the trail Stryker had been hit hard.
Insurgents tossed grenades down on our convoy from overhead. Several landed on the roof of the Stryker and detonated relatively harmlessly, but one fell through the air guard hatch and blew up inside the vehicle. The blast also disabled the Stryker’s ramp so it had to be opened manually. Our Platoon Leader and Sergeant Kap took the worst of the blast. We drove them back to the FOB for medical treatment as fast as we could.
Kap had a long hard road ahead of him to recovery, but despite his serious injuries I had no doubt he would come back to work. He was absolutely determined, determined enough to convince me that he’d be back on his feet before long. I went in another direction, going to Special Forces selection and then the Q-Course. One day I was working out in the 5th Special Forces Group gym and I saw this dude taking off a prosthetic leg and putting on one of those blade runner type legs used for running. This amputee was about to jump on the treadmill for a run.
Looking a little closer, I smiled. It was Kap, doing his thing as we all knew he would. Unfortunately, they had to take his leg but he had completely qualified to come back to his job as a Ranger. In fact, at this time he was leading Rangers in combat as a Platoon Sergeant! I could not be happier for Joe Kapacziewski and his wife Kim. Just recently, Kap released a book about his experiences called “Back in the Fight,” which I know I’m looking forward to reading and I hope you will too.