I had been in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, for about a whole two weeks and was probably as “green” as I could possibly be. The region was still engaged in a heated conflict with IS and attacks of all kinds were occurring daily. I had just arrived at the Peshmerga‘s 9th Brigade, one of the only known Kurdish military units taking in foreigners in Iraqi Kurdistan. 9th Brigade was located in Daquq, a city just outside Kirkuk, and had a main forward operations base located about 5 kilometers from the front lines with the Islamic State. Little did I know that when I woke up, I would be involved in the most significant firefight of my life that following night.

We were given a summarized brief by our elected “platoon leader” the previous night. Our objective as a unit would be to assault and gain control of two Islamic State controlled villages consecutively. While we did this, other Peshmerga units would do the same on our right and left flanks across some several kilometers of terrain. We were broken down into two squads and would move out in our two armored pick-up trucks when the green light was given in the morning. Well, Murphy’s Law is a thing and unfortunately no plan survives first contact.

The next morning we all got up early and shuffled around the base restlessly, squaring gear away and stuffing food into our faces. Now, the Kurdish people are not known for their punctuality but holy shit is it time to go when the powers that be say it’s time to go! When the little Kurd that was the PSD (Personal Security Detail) Chief for the General of 9th Brigade opened the door to our room out of nowhere and said something to the effect of “let’s go now,” we got our kits on and hurried to the trucks. That’s when I noticed we were missing a few of our guys, so I ran back to gather them up. Having found them, we came running back to the trucks only to watch them haul ass out the front gate without us. Those of us left behind were partially to blame for this, but the Kurds gave zero warning of when mission launch would actually be.