Josh’s fire team reaches the front door just in time to receive a volley of 7.62 slung at them from a RPK set up on the other side of the shack’s mud wall. They do not hesitate. They act. They run into the throat of that monster, directly through the door that has the business end of a very large automatic weapon pointed right at it.
At the helm of that weapon is a man hell bent on their demise. The do not hesitate. They act. At this moment I notice someone running from the objective directly toward weapon squad’s position. The only thought in my mind was watching second squad disappear at the hand of a suicide bomber just seconds earlier.
I raise my rifle. It’s dark and he’s 75 meters away but the green infrared beam illuminating from my PEQ-2, only visible by night vision goggles, locks on his chest. Squeeze. Squeeze. I didn’t even realize it but I instinctively come to a complete stop to take those two shots. As the figure dropped I continue to run.
I’m not entirely sure why but I change directions. Instead of running toward the front door, I begin to run to the motionless body that just a breath ago was standing. I’m within 15 meters. BOOM. I feel that second blast. This one was much closer. My exposed face is peppered by what feels like tiny ball bearings. I stay on my feet, my eyes never lose focus of the white tunic laying 45 feet in front of me. I will later learn that this blast came from a frag grenade thrown by my good friend Allen in an effort to clear the back room of the shack. The sound of controlled pairs being squeezed off hasn’t stopped by the time I reach him. For the second time in the longest minute of my life my breath is stolen from me.
He’s a boy… and he’s still breathing.
I am going to be completely honest. I don’t remember the next few minutes. The world kept moving and I am assuming that I did too because the next thing I know I was kneeling over one of the members of second squad talking to John, my senior medic. He was okay. This guy just had a suicide vest detonate within spitting distance, how the hell is he alive?
As I look up I see Thomas, second squad leader. He is directing the rest of his guys. They are alive. They are all alive! How? I am at a total loss for words in this moment. I am not a pious man, but in this moment I would bet you a handfull of Chili’s coupons that those men were recipients of a little divine intervention. I begin to tend to some of their minor wounds as I realize that first squad took heavy fire upon entering the building. I hand over care to John and quickly make my way to the front door.
The mangled flatbed truck where the suicide bomber sat up and proclaimed “Allahu Akbar” is etched in my mind. I see what looks like his legs and most of his body. His head is completely gone. My best guess is that his vest was poorly constructed and the brunt of the blast traveled up rather than out. His head is found, intact, 30 meters away; popped off like a cork on a cheep bottle of champagne. He should have paid more attention in shithead school.
I reach the front door. The small room had already been cleared and the guys from first squad are in search mode. I ask if everyone is okay. All I get is a couple of uneasy laughs. Apparently one of the 7.62 rounds grazed the helmet of one of the younger guy’s helmet.
The room is small and filled with smoke from the gun fight. There is a hole just big enough for a man to crawl through in the back corner of the room. Apparently several men crawled through the hole to an adjacent room as first squad made entry into the first room. After eliminating the RPK threat, Allen tossed that previously mentioned frag grenade into the back room rather than chase the men on his hands and knees. I joke with him that nearly blowing me up in the process will cost him a beer when we get stateside. He just shrugs his shoulders.
There are a couple of lifeless bodies on the floor in the front room. One was slumped over the machine gun, the other must have drawn the short straw and got to be the last guy to get to crawl through the room’s only means of egress. Just as my desire to poke them with a stick draws me one step into the room, I hear my call signal called on the radio. It’s my platoon sergeant. Second squad is chasing someone that our eye in the sky spotted fleeing the target house. I immediately run to their location.
By the time I get there, the company commander is giving an order to my good friend, Nick. Nick and I had recently been promoted to Sergeant at the same time. Now Nick has always been a very good Ranger. He was promoted quickly because he is smart, well-spoken, and well-liked among the guys. He is also very good at taking orders… normally. They had one of the squirters pinned down in a sort of a reservoir.
The company commander wanted Nick to send one of the junior guys on his team down into the reservoir to grab the guy and try to pull him up the side. The reservoir was about eight feet high. In the kind of tone you would expect a Ranger NCO to address a superior officer, Nick asked, “Sir, you want me to send one of my guys that just got blown up by a suicide bomber into that hole and grab another potential suicide bomber, throw him on his shoulder and carry him up that eight foot mud wall?”
“Roger,” replied the Captain.
That wasn’t going to happen…
Continue reading Memoir of a Ranger Medic, Part 3