I headed to the ready room and conducted a Pre Combat Inspection (PCI) on my gear, weapon system, and radio after our team had a look at the imagery of the proposed target building.  As it looked, all the buildings were of similar height in the neighborhood and we would have a difficult time obtaining the preferred advantage point that sniper teams thrive on.

We would need a place close to the target building, probably on the roof of a building similar in height.

Since we were heading out the door with an extra man–one who had many more years experience than me–I was given the job as the primary security man for our team. I would be tasked with the job of being the leading man in the element, and the one who would clear the roof before our team moved into place. After the leaders meeting and the briefing, we headed out to the vehicles and began our journey into unknown territory.

When riding inside of a steel cage such as a Stryker, one must find mechanisms to arrive mentally before hitting an enemy target. I enjoyed picturing myself on the range, watching the wind change, focusing on the fundamentals, squeezing the trigger and reliving the smell that a rife gives off right after it has fired. Then I would sleep. Kase would always wake me up 10 minutes before arriving at the target.

We stopped a few blocks short of the target to mitigate the presence of the turbo diesel engines. The ramp lowered and we moved out into that same familiar smell that all Iraqi cities seem to possess. The elements knew their places, positions, and commander’s intent. The HVT’s house was located in a neighborhood with houses arranged in long rows that were all back to back, two stories in height. The target house was in the middle of one of the long rows of houses and did not allow for easy access, except from the street-side of the building.

Our sniper team, along with the backside security, moved to the street located in front of the rear adjoining houses to the objective building. Fortunately, we located a house on the block that had no courtyard wall, which allowed us to gain roof access with our ladders.

As the lead man and primary security member of our team, I was the first man up the ladder. Once I reached the rooftop I quickly cleared the roof as other members of our team proceeded up the ladder. The first thing that I noticed was that I couldn’t see the target rooftop. The parapet wall that separated our position from the goal was over eight feet in height, neutralizing our availability to fight if necessary.

As the next member of our team was stepping on the rooftop, I heard the call, “We’re compromised, blowing the charge in three, two, one…” “Shit.”

We couldn’t see any of the target building, including the rooftop. We needed to at least have a visual of the roof  to cover the assault element in the courtyard. Like most rooftops in Iraq, this one was of little difference and scattered with garbage and random items. I grabbed an old car tire that was lying in the corner and leaned it up against the parapet wall to gain visual access of the target rooftop. With his rifle slung, my squad leader stepped up on the tire and mounted the wall.

The two silhouettes froze, turned their heads and pistols at my exposed friend , and in an instant they fell in a heap upon each other. The rounds from my rifle traveled inches past my friends head and effectively eliminated the rooftop threat. As I fired, my teammate jumped down from his mounted position on the wall and secured his rifle. I immediately jumped up and over the parapet wall, over a narrow alleyway that separated the rows of houses, then landed on a chicken coup where the two enemy lay. I couldn’t tell what I kept stepping on between the two enemy until I shined a pin light down and noticed that I stood on top a pile of frag grenades.

By the time our four-man team had occupied positions on roof of the target building, the assault element had also reached the roof. Calls came in over the radio that enemy personnel had moved to an adjacent house. The main assault element quickly moved through the maze-like structure to the building next door.

The roof shook and the sound of AK-47 automatic fire filled the night air. What the hell was going on right below our team in the building that had already been cleared? A small element was left to hold the original target house, but a hidden spider door behind one of the bedroom doors was not identified due to time constraints to back-clear the structure. Enemy personnel had thrown a frag and ripped automatic weapon fire upon the element holding the structure. Fortunately a grazing wound was the only injury that occurred.

Two Night in Tal Afar Part II.1

Moments later, the assault element came into contact with multiple enemy within the adjacent structure. During the ensuing fire, one of the enemy escaped out the back of the house and down the alleyway that we had jumped across. One of our team, standing 20 feet above, tracked and eliminated the threat with accurized 7.62. As we looked down to the fallen below, a frag came bouncing down the alleyway. The blast was powerful enough that it knocked out the radio on our FO’s back.

The assault element then proceeded to fight through a barrage of grenade and automatic enemy fires from the original target house until silence once again became master of the night. Once all actions on the objective were completed, we formed back together and moved to the vehicles for exfiltration.

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All men were precise and on target that night, allowing us to effectively complete the mission and the commander’s intent. We were successful because we relied on our training and the men next to us. Riding back, listening to the thud of 105’s wipe the structures from the Iraqi map put a smile on my face. I smiled because that was what we lived for, trained for, and would die for if necessary.

No mission or objective is ever the same. Complacency kills and luckily I worked with the best light infantry the world has ever offered. Was the risk worth the reward? Hell yes it was!