On March 13th, 2007 the day seemed like every other day in Iraq.....hot and dreary. The winter was over, the rains had stopped, and the temperature was climbing back toward the unforgiving and miserable level that it had been when we first arrived. I was the 1st Platoon Leader of Alpha Company 1-149th IN. My platoon was in charge of patrolling Al Furat, Al Maksasib, a tiny sliver of Al Jihad, the operating space of AO Mutt, and a daily route clearance on stretches of Route Yankee and MSR Tampa. (This intersection of both places was once called the most dangerous intersection in the world because of all of the IED emplacement.) In addition to this, a small contingent of my platoon was tasked with operating ECP 7 which was the entry point for military convoys onto Victory Base Complex. What was unusual about this day was the fact that I was on the FOB in a Company meeting and my platoon Sergeant was out on patrol with the platoon.
We went to the Company CP twice a week for meetings and we would brief CPT Pepper about what was going on with our individual platoons, and we would interface with him, the First Sergeant, the Supply Sergeant, and the Company XO. Nobody likes going to meetings, but they were indeed a necessary evil in combat. You HAVE to know what is going on with your unit. My Platoon Sergeant, who by-the-way was one of the most capable and effective Non-commissioned Officers I have ever known, and I would alternate days for meetings. Unfortunately this was my second in a row because I had also needed to go to a followup appointment earlier in the day from a minor back sprain. Anyway, the meeting was going on in the CP and suddenly I heard the radio start crackling with activity. I recognized the voice of my Platoon Sergeant calling in to BN on the BN Net a report of shots fired on their position. This was hardly unusual because some jerk, who was probably not even militia related, would always try and take a shot at us. But I noticed something different in his voice. We continued on with the meeting, but I couldn't concentrate as I heard the chatter between my Platoon Sergeant and BN HQ. The XO was saying something about what we hadn't been doing about consumption reports and maintenance of the 1151's when suddenly I heard SFC Harris yell over the radio. "Warrior Main...we have PID of several individuals one LN carrying an RPG! We are engaging! Request QRF support, the area is hot!" I looked at CPT Pepper and he said, "Smith, you are excused." I snatched my M4 out of the rack and grabbed my IBA. I bolted out of the CP and jogged toward BN Main, I listened to the radio traffic on my MBITR radio as I ran. I heard the QRF Platoon call into BN Main. They responded in less than a minute and a half. I knew the QRF Platoon leader well, and I really had a lot of respect for him. I am about 13 or 14 years older than him, but he always displayed a maturity that was well beyond his years. I was afraid they would roll out the gate and I would be unable to get there in time to go with them to join my unit. I shouted into my MBITR as I ran....
"Tomahawk 6, Tomahawk 6...this is Thumper 6 over!"
"Thumper 6 this is Tomahawk 6 over..."
"Tomahawk 6...this is Thumper 6...be advised I am enroute to your location
"Roger, we are loaded up.........get here quick, because I have to SP
"Roger that Tomahawk 6....Thumper 6 out."
I pounded along the road to BN with the impossibly heavy IBA and my M4 when a Hummer pulled up behind me...it was the BN Command Sergeant Major. He said, "Hey LT, I heard you on my radio...jump in and I'll take you to ECP 11. " (This is where Tomahawk was staged ready to head out the gate)
I jumped in and we roared down the road to the ECP. I said, "Thanks Sergeant Major" and jumped out when we stopped. I put my IBA and Kevlar and put mags into my sidearm and my M4. I saw Lieutenant Beaver and said, "Where's my seat?" He pointed to the third vehicle and I jumped in. A minute later we cleared the ECP and rolled out into Al Furat. As we headed down, I listened to the radio traffic and heard them say they were on Charlie Street. I knew exactly where that was....we continued to head down and I saw my four Hummers with my Soldiers pushed out for security. When I dismounted I jumped out and ran to my Platoon Sergeant....
"Every damn time I don't patrol you get into some shit! What do you have?"
He filled me in on the fact that they had been shot at, and once they rolled out toward the point of origin some people in front of them started waving. They dismounted and searched an outcropping of buildings and found a man who had been shot directly through the eye. The man's son had told them who had done it, and it turned out that this individual was one of the people that was on the HVT list. Not that I wasn't already amped up on adrenaline, but my interest was piqued when I heard that familiar name. He pointed me toward the courtyard where the son and the grieving family was standing. As I walked into the courtyard I saw a man lying in the corner next to the courtyard. He had on a dark colored "man-dress" and what appeared to be an expensive set of shoes. He had been shot directly through the eye. There was a dark pool of blood that extended from the back of his head, that was mixed with brain and bone matter. My medic was working on him.....The man was injured to the extent that the step-by-step process of vital checking that was done by my medic was basically pointless. As I walked into the courtyard I stood over Doc and the man. He turned and looked at me and said, "He's gone, Sir." The family asked us to move him inside on a bench, as we picked him up his shoulders, feet, and hips his head lolled backwards. As his head tipped back, a fresh glut of brain matter and blood leaked out and left a nasty trail across the floor. As we carried him, I felt the need to say, "I'm sorry.", even though nobody in the house really knew what I was saying.
[TO BE CONTINUED]