“Hey, Hey, wake-up, some bad shit happened last night.” “What’s up?” I notice that the sun is rising as Kase explains to me what happened, and that I should go help clean the blood and used medical supplies out of the Strikers. I knew it must have been really bad if we had to load casualties into other vehicles besides the designated medical Striker called the MEV. I quickly threw on my DCUs and boots and ran out to the blood splattered vehicles.
As I cleaned out the Strikers I realized that a bad night in Tal Afar, Iraq had left many of my brothers in arms laying in hospital beds in the Mosul CASH. Grenades and 7.62 had reigned down upon the Rangers in the courtyard as they were breaching an HVT’s house in the heart of that city 50 kilometers west of Mosul.
The target house was highly fortified and among other devices, had chutes installed to drop grenades down into the courtyard below. One young Ranger, who had only been in Battalion for a matter months, had an enemy grenade detonate directly between his legs. Fortunately, the young man survived since Asia doesn’t make’em quite like the good ol’ US of A.
It was the summer of 2005, and Tel Afar was known as an insurgent hotbed. Insurgents had complete control of the city. It was later discovered after 3rd Cavalry’s Operation Restoring Rights, that the city was infiltrated with thousands of insurgents, and that a complex training base was established to train incoming extremists flooding in through Syria.
We had two platoons working in Mosul at a very high operations tempo. Originally, the thought was to only run mission under the cover of darkness, but that strategy would not allow us to bring the enemy to it knees as intended. We ran a two-week rotation, with one platoon running only night-time operations and the other Ranger platoon running day ops. My sniper team was attached to 1st platoon, A. Co., which was running day missions when the event in Tal Afar took place. The combination of casualties taken and the high operations tempo had forced Battalion into flexing a small group of men from Charlie company to fill in for the wounded men.
We talked for weeks on end about the wish to return to that city and seek vengeance upon the foe that so horribly maimed our brethren. The same word kept coming down from above, “No, the risk is too high for the reward and there is not enough intelligence to state otherwise.” It was always the same response. Until a usual hot September night when Kase busted in our sniper AO next to the TOC, and with a smirk on his face, said “We’re going.” In an instant I knew exactly where we were headed and the possibility of what lay in store.
Due to the uncertainty of what was going to take place in the very near future, we decided that it would be best to roll as a three-man sniper team instead of the usual two. I generally counted us as a three-man team in the first place since my good friend Porter, who was an experienced Forward Observer, gave us the advantage of talking directly with our CAS assets. That night would we would be rolling four deep, Rach, Kase, Porter, and myself, all into a mission we knew would challenge our notion of risk vs. reward.
Continue reading Part II of Rangers: Two Nights in Tal Afar