MOUNTAIN FURY |
February 13, 2007
Name: 1SG Troy Steward
Posting date: 2/13/07
Stationed in: Sharana, Afghanistan
Hometown: Amherst, NY
Milblog url: www.bouhammer.com
Day 6 of Operation Mountain Fury started with a good breakfast shared with my ANA brothers. The half of Recon Company we have here is doing a really good job, and the 10th Mountain boys really like them and say they are the best ANA they have ever worked with. Face and I drank coffee while the ANA drank chai tea. I ate some oatmeal along with some Afghan sweetbread -- we'd picked up some sweetbread the other day while at the bazaar, and it is good stuff in the morning with coffee. The ANA had made a small fire to get warm, so we sat around that and chatted while we ate the bread and drank our coffee/tea. I also showed the ANA how to do a toast, and we all toasted while I called out “Salute".
Today was going to be a slow day, so we tended to personal, vehicle, and equipment maintenance. Since we had the generator going, the cell phones and iPods got charged. We also performed maintenance on the vehicle, weapons, and radios. By noon we were pretty much done with everything, and since we react to what happens on the battlefield there was nothing to do. We were letting things settle down after some busy days, and wanted the enemy to get complacent.
Around noon Face and I decided to take the ANA out without 10th Mountain, and do another presence patrol of the one village he had been in two days prior. We planned to depart around 2PM, after the ANA were done with lunch.
Things started to change around 12:45, when our terp came running over saying there had been an accident, and one of the ANA soldiers, the cook, had been severely burned. Apparently he was cooking lunch for the ANA soldiers on a pressure cooker and it was not sealed properly. It had blown up and he was burned pretty bad; he had second degree burns to his face, neck, upper chest and left forearm. He was screaming in pain and the US medics came running. There is not much you can do for burns, so the medic put burn gel on, gave him a hit of morphine, and Face gave the guy an IV to help replace fluids.
I noticed that he was already starting to blister, and some of the blisters were already popped. I knew we had to get him out of there, as there was too much dirt and filth in the field for him to be that exposed. He could not ground-evac because of the dust, so I sent up what we call a 9-line medevac request and called in an air medevac.
After a very long 45 minutes he was numbed up from the morphine pretty good and not screaming and moaning anymore. The bird finally came in on final and I went out to set up yet another Landing Zone (LZ) with a VS-17 Orange panel and purple smoke. I called the bird and told them the markings again, and they spotted us. By this time the injured soldier was able to walk, so a couple of ANA soldiers and I helped him onto the bird. I handed the air medic a paper with the treatment and drugs he had been given and the guy’s vital signs.
After the bird left and finished blasting us with sand and rocks, Face and I linked up and decided to continue on with our presence patrol mission. It was already 30 minutes past when we'd wanted to depart, but that was okay. We needed to get the ANA out of there and their minds off of their injured buddy. So we called the ANA leadership over and told them to be ready to go in 15 minutes. Right before the bird flew in, the 1st platoon of the 10th Mountain company we were attached to had pulled in to the patrol base from a short mission they had earlier. This insignificant action played a bigger part later in the day.
We told the ANA Recon XO to go whatever direction he felt comfortable with to get to our objective. There were several ways to get there, and we wanted it to be his decision. We departed, and everything was quiet and normal as we would like. As we went from one village to another, we started to get close to the hardball road that would take us to our objective. There were several very tight bridge crossings that were barely wide enough to get the humvee across. Since I had a better vantage point from up in the gunner’s hatch I would tell Face “a little left” or “a little right”. The last thing you want to do is flip a six-ton truck into a ditch, and these ditches were very deep.
We got past the third crossing point when a guy approached from our left side on a motorcycle. He almost did not stop, so I started to swing my gun towards him. He just stared me down and did not wave or smile. I turned around and watched him as we went past, and told Face that I did not trust the guy. Just as we went past him another guy on a bicycle was going the opposite direction and passed us. He also did not wave, smile, or even look up at me. I turned to watch him, as you never know what they might try behind your back. I was just telling Face that this was not a friendly village when “time stood still”, again.
As I was turning my head back to the front and talking to Face, the ANA truck in front of us blew up. It had only been about 10 days since I had one blow up right behind me and kill two ANA soldiers, and now I watched every detail as the one 60 feet ahead of me exploded. I remember seeing parts and pieces fly everywhere. I also remember seeing the flash of the fireball very clearly. Several natural instincts kicked in within milli-seconds. First I buckled my knees and dropped down to shield myself from any secondary explosions, direct attack fire, or flying debris. At the same time, I was yelling to Face, "I AM FINE! I AM FINE!” I then popped up and clicked the safety off the MG and started scanning for targets.
Face stopped the truck and was also looking at the scene in front of us for targets. The ANA had opened fire from the other trucks at people nearby. The normal practice after an IED hit is for a trigger man to jump up and take off. However, people also run from things blowing up. As I saw which way the ANA was shooting, I was looking through my MG scope and trying to get a PID (Positive Identification) of a threat target. All I could see was men, women and children running for cover as bullets kicked up dirt and dust around them. From the moment of the blast only about four seconds had elapsed -- as I have mentioned, time slows to a crawl as your mind works in overdrive. I was processing everything I was seeing, and trying to see a threat before it saw me. Unable to find a runner or a threat, I started yelling for the ANA to cease-fire. I was afraid they would shoot an innocent, and thankfully they didn’t. I am not sure how, but they didn’t.
Now Face and I turned our attention to the smoking heap of a truck in front of us. Face and I had already confirmed what each of our jobs would be in case this happened (something we do before every vehicle movement), so he ran to assess the situation and render first aid while I provided security and worked the radios. I called to the company we were attached to first, and let them know what happened.
They had heard the explosion and shooting, so they were already moving to get guys mounted up. I gave them our grid location and called in the initial report. I knew there was at least one wounded, and I thought we might have one KIA already. I watched the ANA carry this lifeless-looking body from the truck with its arms and leg dangling. After Face got a good idea what was going on, and knew that there were wounded that needed treating, he sent Jawed the terp back for the CLS bag. Jawed ran it up to him, and Face was busy again giving first aid to burns and giving IVs.
He and I were the only Americans there (as is usual with the ETT mission) so he handled the ground work while I kept an eye out, and called not only the 10th Mountain, but also my higher ETT HQ, sending up another 9-line medevac request. I could tell the truck was destroyed, so I was already working a request to get a wrecker out there to evac it. As I was finishing up with talking to my HQ the Commander of the company we were with (callsign: Devil-6) had gathered enough info from my initial report to call a medevac through his channels. I think he had seen how long the earlier one took, and did not want to have to wait that long again. Devil-6 called me and told me he had a bird en-route and told me he needed the last few lines of the request. I gave them to him and told him I would cancel my other medevac request. Devil-6 also told me he was working a wrecker so I did not need to get that either. It sure is nice to have that level of support in situations like this.
A few minutes later his QRF platoon arrived and asked me where I wanted the LZ. I told them where I was going to put the bird and told them where I wanted their security. They sent their medic up to help out Face also. By then he was ready for help. The injured soldier had thrashed around and yanked out three IVs before Face finally got a fourth one secured enough to stay. The guy had terrible head and face wounds, along with a pretty mangled lower right leg. From the time of the blast until when the bird set down was just under 11 minutes. In fact the helo got there so fast we were not even looking for it yet, and it just popped up on top of us. Later I found out it was the same bird that EVACed our earlier soldier, and was on its way back to its base when our request came in.
After both soldiers (the Recon 1SG and one of his NCOs) were EVACed, Face returned to the truck. He started telling me about the guy's condition and how much medical supply stuff he had gone through, when he looked down and said, “Damn, I got his blood all over my uniform." I then informed him that he should look at his hands, which were probably 60% covered in blood. He wasn’t happy about that either, but forgot about the uniform.
I got down from the gun (10th Mountain was there providing security now) and inspected the truck and blast site. All appearances suggested a landmine, but we were unsure if it was victim-initiated or remote-controlled. We coordinated with the ANA and 10th MTN on the action plan. Some ANA went with the 10th and they started searching through Coochie tents about 200 meters away. The ANA was also stopping and questioning locals.
We garnered quite a bit of information from one, and ascertained that the guy on the bike and motorcycle were working together. They saw the 1st Platoon coming in earlier and had planted a landmine to blow them up, but it was a dud. So they went back, dug it up, put down a new one and barely finished before we showed up. The guy on the bike had the dud landmine on the back of his bike wrapped up in a cloth. I remember seeing that object.
We also found out that ACM stayed in a nearby mosque the night before, so several gun trucks of 10th MTN and some ANA went over there, along with Face. I stayed at the truck waiting on the wrecker and helping with the forensics. They found quite a bit at the mosque, at least enough to warrant Americans entering it and searching. They found medicine bottles, an AK-47 magazine chest rig, ammo for AK-47s, and an entrance to a huge tunnel complex. All of the stuff was confiscated and we marked the spot on our maps.
Face and the rest of them returned right about the time that the wrecker was leaving with the truck. At this point we packed everything and everyone up and headed back to our patrol base. It was already dark and time to get back. Luckily nobody had been killed, but about four guys were hurt, including one that is still in the hospital and getting reconstruction surgery.
That morning we sat around and drank our drinks of choice and enjoyed each other’s company. That evening we were down three guys, Face had a lot more experience giving IVs and medical attention in stressful situations, and I was very proficient on doing 9-line medevac requests.
And we thought it was going to be a slow and boring day.