A CLEAR SHOT |
March 14, 2007
A CLEAR SHOT
Name: CAPT B. Tupper
Posting date: 3/14/07
Stationed in: Ghazni, Afghanistan
Milblog url: www.myspace.com/42094372
On 26 June 2006, CPL Polanski, our Afghan National Army (ANA) Company, and I spent almost four hours surrounded and under fire from a very tenacious and determined Taliban group in Andar District, Ghazni Province. It was only one of three separate combat engagements that we weathered that day.
After nearly eight hours of ambush, counter ambush, ineffective maneuvering, and a Black Ammo status, we took our cue from the setting sun and returned to our ANA FOB. Temperatures were still in the high nineties, and most of us were beyond dehydration. I remember stumbling into the TOC Office and tossing my rifle, body armor, and helmet on the ground. Then I pretty much collapsed right there in the middle of the meeting room, spread eagle on the floor.
Even though it was highly abnormal for someone to be laid out in the busy TOC, no one asked me what I was doing or why I was there. I alternated between mindlessly staring at the ceiling, and rolling over and marveling at my hands. I felt like after thirty-seven years of life, I had just discovered they were attached to my body.
After about thirty minutes of this mental escapism, I mustered the emotional and physical energy for a phone call home. I crawled over to the table that held the satellite phone, reached up, and called my wife. I remember trying to impress on her how lucky I was to be alive. I should have died in that long ordeal of being surrounded, and the more I told her this, the further I got from getting the point across. An RPG had me dead to rights, but by some manufacturing defect the tail fin stabilizer didnât deploy, and it nose-dived into the ground in front of me instead of hitting me with a fatal kidney punch.
This war story carousel went round and round, until she finally told me to go to bed. I donât remember anything else about my conversation with her, or even how I made it from the TOC to my room.
The next morning started like every other one. Our adversaries in Andar permitted no rest for our weary bodies and shaky psyches. We had our regular team meeting, and went over the day's planned mission. There was another patrol scheduled into the same area in which we had been ambushed three times the day before. The same undermanned and poorly planned mission into Andar was laid on for us.
Fortunately, I wouldn't have to endure the blood bath that was only hours from occurring. I was physically sick, with an extreme case of diarrhea and dehydration, and mentally I was still rattled by the previous day's combat tripleheader. Given my condition, my Commander said I was in no shape to go out on mission that day. But I felt a sense of guilt that I was being a pussy, and was sure all saw me as ducking my duty as an Infantry Officer.
So CPL Polanski, CPT Krow, and CPT Castro were selected as the crew for the sole Up Armored Humvee going out on patrol that day. Within the hour, they linked up with the ANA Company that would accompany them, and made their way down Ring Road towards Andar District.
CPL Polanski had a habit of placing his digital camera in the windshield of the vehicle when he was the driver. He would put it on movie mode and let it run when he anticipated trouble. His two-gig memory card allowed for a good forty-five minutes of footage. Because of this practice, he captured some memorable moments and great audio of our combat engagements.
The transcript you are about to read is the audio, as recorded on his camera, from the final assault on a small Andar village, on 27 June 2006. In this attack one ANA soldier was killed by an RPG, and 4 Taliban were KIA. Most were shot by CPT Krow. Both sides sustained numerous wounded.
Setting up the scene is simple: Ski is the driver, CPT Krow is in the turret manning the 240Bravo machine gun, and CPT Castro is commanding the vehicle, trying to manage the fight as best he can. Janis, the Afghan Combat Interpreter sits in the back seat, communicating with the ANA on a handheld radio.
On the audio, the noises of the incoming and outgoing fires are deafening at times. Add to this the clunky hum of the HUMVEE engine, and the radio traffic squawking, and you can appreciate the confusion and perhaps understand the amount of repetition of orders and comments passed among the crew of the HUMVEE.
CPL Polanski is driving the Humvee out of a narrow alley on the outskirts of the village, and CPT Krow is engaging some Taliban who are attempting to cross an open road. Ahead, about fifty meters, is an opening where ANA and ANP (Afghan National Police) have set up a supporting fire position...
(Heavy gunfire from the 240.)
Krow: "He went down!"
Ski: "Nice, you want me to go forward?"
Krow: "Fuck!" (The 240Bravo machine gun jams.)
Castro: "Yeah, yeah, go forward, see if we can go to an open field."
Krow: "He had a fucking weapon!"
Castro: "Okay, get to a fucking open field!"
Krow: "He went down, that's all I know."
Ski: "That's what's up!"
Castro: "You shot someone, you saw someone go down?!"
Krow: "Yeah, I seen somebody fall down."
Castro: "Okay, then we gonna search in a minute over there."
(The vehicle starts moving forward towards the opening and the ANA and ANP soldiers.)
(Incoming gun fire is heard.)
(Vehicle stops near the opening.)
Krow: "Goddammit I don't have a shot here!"
Castro: "Do you have a shot?"
Krow: "The wall's too high!"
(The vehicle creeps forward.)
Castro: "Can you see anything?"
Krow: "Trees are in my way!"
Castro: "The wall finishes over here. Once the wall finishes you should have a clear shot."
Castro: "The ANP are calling us, go go go!!!"
Castro: "Do you have a clear shot now?"
Castro: "Get ready for it, get ready for it..."
Castro: "Here, you have a clear shot?"
Krow: "No, I don't have a clear shot!"
(ANP soldiers yelling in background.)
Krow: "What is he saying?"
Janis: "He is saying they (Taliban) are in the corner of that hill."
Castro: "Lets get over there then."
Castro: "Go forward, and then turn to your left."
Janis: "One of the ANA is wounded."
Castro: "One is wounded?"
Krow: "Right there!"
Ski: "Want me to give him first aid?"
Castro: "Yeah, fuck the risk."
Janis: "Don't go out there, they (Taliban) are in front of us there!"
Krow: "He's right behind us!"
(Audio is disrupted by a large near-miss explosion of an RPG aimed at the HUMVEE.)
Krow: "God Dammit!!!!!!!!!"
Ski: "Yo, I'm getting the fuck out of here!"
Ski: "You want me to go forwards?"
Krow: "You need to either go backwards or forwards!!!!"
(Vehicle starts moving forward.)
Castro: "Right here."
Castro: "You got a clear shot? Go for it!"
(Long bursts of 240 machine gun fire.)
Krow: "I'm out!"
(Reloading noises -- ammo cans clanking.)
(Continued 240Bravo fire, as well as incoming shots.)
Castro: "The ANA is moving. Fire!! Fire!!"
(Audio disrupted from another RPG explosion near HUMVEE.)
Krow: "See that wall, they are right in there!"
Ski: "I wish I had a fucking 203 (grenade launcher)!"
(Incoming enemy AK-47 and RPK Machine Gun fire.)
Krow: "Where the fuck did that come from?"
Castro: "Where is the guy that's wounded?"
Krow: "He's right back there, he's sitting there on the side of the road!"
Ski: "Get me the (medical aid) bag quick, I'm gonna run!"
Ski: "Get me the bag!"
Krow: "Hang on, I'll cover you!"
Ski: "Start shooting!"
(Extensive incoming/outgoing fire as Ski exits the vehicle and runs back to treat the wounded ANA soldier.)
Postscript: CPT Krow was severely injured by an RPG weeks later, within kilometers of the site of this 27 June, 2006 Engagement. He was in Afghanistan for only six weeks before he was evacuated back to Walter Reed for extensive surgeries and rehabilitation.
The names Krow and Castro are modifications of their real last names, in order to respect their desire for anonymity.