Army Staff Sargeant Ty Michael Carter has demonstrated how important being physically fit for every soldier. All those endurance, strength, and cardio tests and exercises proved to play a critical role when you’re heavily under fire.

But Carter wasn’t running to preserve his precious life on that fateful October 3, 2009. No, no, no. He was weaving across a hundred-meter open ground near his barracks to retrieve and deliver those frickin’ hefty ammunition loads to his fellow Soldiers—twice! He’d come back for some machine gun oil and more ammunition. All that running while being bombarded from all sides of the outpost. If that isn’t some badass gallantry, then I don’t know what is.

A Marine Man Turned Soldier

Before joining the Army, Carter was in the Marines.

The Washington native was born in January 1980 with his family temporarily moving to California’s Bay Area at age one before settling back in Spokane in 1991, where he’d spend most of his childhood. After graduating high school, Carter enlisted in the Marine Corps and attended the Marine Corps Combat Engineer School. He’d then serve in Okinawa, Japan as an intelligence clerk, and when his outstanding marksmanship was discovered, he’d be sent to Primary Marksmanship Instructor School in 1999. He served two more short training deployments before the Marine Corps honorably discharged him in October 2002.

For a while, Carter tried to live everyday life as a private citizen, even enrolled in a community college to study biology. But the calling for service still lingers in him; thus, at the start of 2008, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and trained to become a cavalry scout at Fort Knox, Kentucky. After completing his training, he was sent to Fort Carson to join the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which would eventually be deployed to Nuristan Province in Afghanistan on May 2009 to watch over Combat Outpost Keating.

carter in Afghanistan
(Image source: U.S. Army/CMOHS)

That Fateful October Morning

Combat Outpost Keating earned its notorious deathtrap moniker (more commonly as the “fishball”) because soldiers were vulnerable and became easy targets to enemies hiding above the surrounding tall mountains.

Then-Specialist Carter knew that as soon as he arrived at the outpost along with his unit, and for the following months, they’d painstakingly patrol and surveil the area for potential threats. During their downtime, they’d spend time inside their bunkers to protect themselves from unexpected incursions. Soldiers of the 61st Cavalry Regiment were always on the lookout, but little was able to prepare them for that October morning.

Loud explosions woke Carter and the other 52 Soldiers up. They were under attack. But what they thought would be a minor assault turned out to be a culmination of month-long planning involving not ten, not fifty—but some 300 Taliban fighters coming from all sides of COP Keating “fired on them using rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars, and other small arms.”