Battle of Donkey Island

Gilmo23 February 2013

Battle of Donkey Island – Part 1

The night was June 30, 2007. The funny thing is that I don’t remember anything that was done earlier in the day. The first thing I remember about that night is where this story will begin. It’s hard to write about. As I type these words I get a flood of emotions through my body. Anger, sadness, adrenaline, and excitement are bombarding me at this very moment. I have wanted to write about this night for a long time. I have been afraid to write about this night, wanted to get the story right… Too much happened that night for me to accurately capture everything, but this is my story… My take… What I remember happening…

Nothing special must have happened that day, and it had been a while since our last scuffle with Al Qaeda. Jimm Spannagel had recently talked with our whole platoon telling us that we were going to conduct “Steady State Operations” as the sector was quiet and we had the place on lock-down. I was sitting outside playing some Texas Hold ’em with some of the guys. I was wearing my ACU pants, boots, and had taken off the top as it was still pushing mid 90’s well after the sun had set. Spirits were high, talking trash as guys won hands with the “Sneaky Sadiki, Impalla (6-4), The Hund (K-9), Dirty Trucker (10-4), Dinner for Two (6-9)” and many more that I wish I remembered. Little did we know that the events later that night would change the lives of thousands of people; both good and bad.

“Tracer fire to the East” came from the rooftop observation post. Nothing out of the ordinary I thought…
“Lots of tracer’s to the East” came a few seconds later.
Still nothing out of the ordinary, I continued to play cards. Celebratory fire was common…
“Saber 7, Red 7 is on the net, they are in contact” yelled my Command Post RTO as he ran towards the card table.
I immediately threw down my cards and ran to the Command Post. I snatched the radio. “Red 7, Saber 7, over” I called. “Saber 7, Red 7, we are in contact with 75-100 insurgents” came the call… I remember looking over at Jimm, who had rushed into the CP, or maybe he had been standing there the whole time, with a quizzical look on my face as if to say “He can’t be serious!” “Red 7, Saber 7, say again over?” was my next radio transmission, hoping he would respond with something else. “THIS IS RED 7, WE ARE IN CONTACT WITH 75-100 INSURGENTS. WE ARE RUNNING BLACK ON AMMO, WE NEED IMMEDIATE RE-SUPPLY!” His reply left no room for interpretation as the steady sound of a M2 Heavy Barreled .50 Cal machine gun was rocking in the background, coupled with the reports of tracer fire from my OP, they were in the shit. Jimm looked at me and asked “What do you think?” “Let’s roll” was my reply.

By the time the decision was made to roll out, half our platoon was standing in the CP awaiting instructions. Jimm made the call to leave the JSS minimally manned with only a couple guys manning the radio and the somewhat trusting Iraqi Police to pull security. Jimm pulled in the Squad leaders, Iraqi Police Chief, and began to come up with a hasty plan. Each truck was loaded to bear, but each stopped by our Ammunition holding area to load up additional rounds for Red Platoon. They were 4 trucks with less than 20 Soldiers… We needed to hurry. I loved my platoon for their ability to react quickly, but more for the fact that they were always hungry for a fight. The tracer fire to the east was visible as we conducted last minute radio checks, mounted gear, and threw on our night vision devices. We were headed east towards the river. Nasty, rough terrain that was full of irrigation ditches that made navigation in a straight line impossible. This terrain also made “Choke Points” that were perfect places for the enemy to emplace IEDs.

The city had been quiet for a while… US forces had taken back control of Ramadi, the capitol of Al Anbar province; the same province that was declared un-winnable by a Marine General. What we didn’t know that night was that Al Qaeda was making one last desperate attempt to create havoc… Two 40 foot trailers loaded with IED’s and munitions were surrounded by 75-100 Al Qaeda insurgents, most of whom were wearing suicide vests. Red Platoon from Charlie Company 1-77 Armor was conducting area reconnaissance in an area along the Euphrates River near Donkey Island; named for the donkeys that live on it. They surprised the insurgents, and may have surprised themselves running into such a large element. The fight was on…
We flew out the gate of the JSS and headed towards Red platoon. Our platoon had already been hit by three IEDs and we were moving into territory that we didn’t spend much time in. We didn’t want to rush to failure. The threat of possible IEDs was high, we moved slow and deliberate. The amount of tracers that filled the air was surreal. I kept thinking “This looks similar to a laser light show I have seen at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.” Red platoon kept calling on the radio asking for our position… We couldn’t move fast enough… Saber 1 was in the lead. The shitty terrain, lack of knowledge of the terrain, and threat of IEDs limited our speed.

By the time we arrived at Red platoons position, the fighting was at a lull. The enemy had hunkered down due to the superior night fighting capabilities our weapons and equipment provided. We cross-leveled ammunition from our trucks to resupply Red platoon while Red 7 gave us the run-down of what had happened. Red platoon had put a smack down on the enemy… After he was finished giving us the update I thought “Well, Red kicked their ass, we won’t get much action.”

How wrong I was…

2 thoughts on “Battle of Donkey Island

  1. I don’t feel that “Like”ing this post is appropriate, given the subject matter at hand… But I am ready for part 2.

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