BODI – Part 3
The aviation unit was from Texas and was conducting their final flight over the city of Ramadi. They had no idea what was in store for them the night of June 30 or that their actions would save the life of a US Soldier.
After receiving updates from Red 7 and Jimm, they started rocket and gun runs along Donkey Island. They were monitoring our Task Force net and could hear my anger filled pleas for a MEDIVAC helicopter. Having heard stories about Soldiers dying due to the lack of a MEDIVAC bird, they weren’t going to let it happen this time. That’s when they decided to do something that had never been done in combat (and done only twice since). Fully understanding the risk, they landed their Apache helicopter after Saber 1 established a Hasty Landing Zone. Chief Warrant Officer Crist got out of the front seat to allow room for a critically wounded Soldier. SPC Jamal was loaded into the Apache’s front seat. They had two choices. The first was for CW2 Crist to stay on the ground while CW4 Purtee flew back to camp Ramadi. The second, and the one they chose, was for CW2 Crist to strap himself to the outside of the Apache and sit on the small wing for the ride back. The bird took off and made its way back to safety.
We still weren’t out of the maze of irrigation ditches yet. Frustration was at an all time high. I kept talking to CPL A, trying to keep him calm, but in all honesty I think it helped me stay calm as well. Pain 6, who was suffering from heat exhaustion and a bullet wound, was in one of the vehicles headed back to Camp Ramadi. Somewhere along the route he gained consciousness and ordered his driver to turn around and take him back to the fight. He refused to leave his troops on the battlefield.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it out of the maze and were on familiar terrain. My radios were working again and Task Force HQ was getting minute by minute updates as we made our way back. I wanted them to ensure that the Entry Control Point would be open and let us through without having to stop. I think this was about the third or fourth time I was entering the FOB with wounded, and it never failed, the ECP wasn’t expecting us. The Armored Personnel Carrier was blocking the road and nobody was around to move it. I flipped out screaming at the poor kid pulling guard; so hard in fact that I about passed out. I was maxed out on adrenaline, dehydrated, and frustrated…
After the vehicle was moved out of the way we flew to the Aid station to unload the wounded. The medical team was waiting for us by the entrance to unload the wounded. The medics had it down to a science in Ramadi, they had seen their fair share of casualties. The Level 2 facility, or “Charlie Med” as they called it, was located across from the chow hall. For the first few months that we lived there, you couldn’t eat a meal without a medic running in and calling out a blood type. “O Positive” they would yell, and anyone with that blood type would get up and rush over to Charlie Med to give blood to a wounded Soldier in need.
Rule one when dropping off casualties was to stay out of the way, the medics were in charge. Standing behind the large concrete barriers was my Battalion Operations Officer, 1SG, and Brigade Command Sergeant Major Stanley. Word had spread quickly on the intense firefight and everyone and their brother was standing by to get a firsthand account of what was going on.
“You all right Sergeant G? What’s going on out there?” asked my Operations Officer Major J. I looked at him square in the eyes “It’s a fucking laser light show, sir… They were everywhere. I need water.” My 1SG, or a Medic, I can’t remember, brought be a 1-liter bottle of water and I downed it. I began to explain what was going on, and I must have been speaking a thousand miles an hour. CSM Stanley grabbed me by the flack-vest and yanked me really close so our noses were about 2 inches apart.
CSM Stanley was a big dude that stood well over 6 feet, weighed easily 240, but was always really cool with me. But you could tell that he could get into some ass if needed. He would frequently stop down at our JSS to drop off some care packages and shoot the breeze. We would walk out on the front entrance of the JSS, fire up a couple of Newports, and just talk. He didn’t come down to bust our balls, or get in our ass about anything; he came down to show us he cared. He knew our living conditions were terrible, and our mission wasn’t the easiest.
With a half cocked smile he said “Gib, I can see it in your eyes, you got a lot of adrenaline pumping through you right now. You need to take a few deep breaths and c-a-l-m d-o-w-n.” I took a deep breath, another, then yanked myself away from him and threw up all over the concrete barrier. Serious adrenaline dump… By this time, all of the wounded had been taken inside and a medic was standing beside me wanting to take me in as well. “Your dehydrated, you need an IV, get inside” he instructed. I wasn’t having it though. I needed to get back out to Donkey Island to get back with my Soldiers. “Not going to happen Doc” I replied. CSM Stanley piped in “Doc, it’s a lost cause, he aint going inside” he looked at me and finished his sentence “he wants and needs to get back with his boys.”
I walked inside Charlie Med and received a roll-up of all the wounded and proceeded to the Company Command Post to radio back to our boys in the fight. I knew that hearing that everyone made it back safely would ease their minds. I began to rattle off the names and the wounds they received and even managed to throw in some humor when I described SGT Nick’s “And SGT Nick, Gunshot wound to the head, through and through, walking wounded.” It is still one of the most bizarre wounds I have ever seen. He was shot in the head, just above his ear. The bullet pierced his skin, but not the skull. The bullet wrapped around his head, exited the skin at the back of his head, and then blew a hole through his Kevlar helmet. God was looking out for him that night.
I left the CP and headed over to our maintenance area and the mechanics were going a hundred miles an hour fixing our trucks. The warm hue of the fluorescent lights lit up the motor stables. Our vehicles were jacked up, full of bullet holes, and needed some serious work. The Motor Sergeant was barking orders, mechanics swapping parts, and not a single complaint could be heard. It was the first time that I was completely satisfied with our mechanics. It seemed like any other time we needed something done it was done slow, with complaints, and grudgingly. I remember wondering why they couldn’t work like this all the time… I guess it takes some of our Soldiers being shot for them to show some urgency.
After a few hours at maintenance, around eight hours after the initial firefight, Saber 1’s section and I were headed back out. It still wasn’t over… The intensity of the firefight had subsided, but the worst of the event was yet to come.