The year was just shy of 2008, it was two weeks until Christmas and I was a month into the winter rotation in Mosul, Iraq with the 5th Special Forces Group. My team and I were a part of a unit known as A/1/5 CIF, or the Commanders In-extremis Force, and we were young.

A/1/5 was a Green Beret unit specifically trained in advanced direct action missions to capture or kill high-level terrorist targets as well as hostage rescue. We were combined into a joint task force consisting of a company of Rangers, SEALs, and elements of Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC) elite Delta Force to hunt down and destroy al-Qaeda and its leadership in the Iraq insurgency, mostly in and around the city of Mosul and within the Nineveh Providence.

It was 4 p.m. local time, which meant it was 4 a.m. to us, due to the team adopting what we called the “reverse sleep cycle.” We rested during the day so we could own the night while we hunted bad guys.

I had yet to do my morning rituals as I reached for the satellite phone on its charger; I had just messaged my then-girlfriend to ask if she was free for a quick call. We made pleasantries and she asked me how my night had been.

That mission instantly flooded into my thoughts.

We were on what we call a “time-sensitive target.” A high-value target (HVT) had popped up for some fresh air and the powers-that-be located him and confidently sent the coordinates to the task force, who then put the wheels in motion for The Legion CIF to adjudicate the target. The HVT was a known suicide-vest facilitator and what we dubbed a “true believer,” that might not be too keen on giving up. We chose to surreptitiously secure the perimeter and conduct what is known as a “call-out.”

A call-out is dangerous, simply because you are literally using a bullhorn with an Iraqi interpreter to, well… call them out of their stronghold or home. It’s loud, and once the trap is sprung, you are effectively letting everyone in the neighborhood know that the Americans are here. That can be dangerous in some of the worse off neighborhoods, and this “hood was up to no good.” It didn’t take long for the bad guys in the area to start taking offense to our intrusion, and a smattering of automatic gunfire soon erupted.

And just like that, we were in another gunfight.