18 July 2005
Sniper team went back out, minus one. B was injured so he stayed in. The company commander jumped in and took his place. There was a partially detonated IED that hit 2nd platoon. The main explosive didn’t detonate when the guys drove by. It mostly blew dust and dirt on them and of course scared the shit out of them. Instead of calling in EOD to remove the rest of the IED, we left it there as bait to see if they would return to reset it.
We set up in the Iraq Police warehouse. Our thoughts were that we would blend in since they are used to seeing guards watching around from there. Due to the location of the IED, we couldn’t all get a solid line of fire on it. Bk and Pat set up on one roof top. They had a direct line of site to the IED. The CO and I jumped in the guard town with the Kurds. From there we had the road covered. The game plan was for the other two to initiate contact, then the CO and I would cover the road as they tried to leave. If they were in a vehicle, I would jump on the Kurds RPK machine gun to more effectively engage the vehicle. (7.62mm belt fed machine gun)
It was a long and uneventful night. The CO stayed all night. I wasn’t sure if he would head in at some point so he could be fresh for the daytime.
At 06:30, a car pulled up and stopped right next to the IED. Both car doors flew open and 2 men jumped out. The immediately started to dig and place another IED. I motioned to the CO and we got ready. Not long after, our two guys engaged. They had a limited line of sight, so then it was up to the CO and me.
One of the insurgents jumped in a canal and was out of sight. The second jumped in the driver seat and took off. I ran the to the RPK and charged the handle. The guy driving the car didn’t know where the fire was coming from so he drove down Rt. Alaska directly towards me! The car was flying and closing the distance between us quick. I let loose with three bursts and the car suddenly swerved right and disappeared into a cloud of dust. At this point, the car was about 75 yards from my location.
I kept the gun trained on the cloud and waited for it to clear. Once it cleared away, the car was upside down with the driver clearly dead as he lay halfway out of the car. It turns out, he was shot during my last burst and the car hit a post causing it to flip upside down. To be quite honest, it was something out of an action movie.
Hey things went as planned… mostly. Our other two guys didn’t hit them with their first few rounds. The CO also laughingly admitted he forgot to turn on his m4’s red dot sight before shooting – so much for well-aimed fire. HAHA
The poor Kurdish guards were in a panic when all of the gunfire started. They had no clue what was going on. After everything was settled, we filled them in. They immediately brought us some hot chia tea. Not something I would normally pair with a gunfight. HAHA
EOD came and found two 155 rounds in the IED hole. They also found TNT and other explosives in the car. The CO went down and checked out the scene. He said the car was riddled with 7.62 holes and so was the driver. Fairly straight forward to chalk this one up to me. It is still all so fresh in my mind. I’m guessing it will take a few days to sink in.
We are prepping to go back out tomorrow. The engineers are going to bulldoze IED alley while we provide over watch.
Two missions. Two engagements. Already starting to think we will be better off bringing all the fire power to let loose instead of a one-shot-one-kill approach. There’s been multiple people and a car each time.
The after thoughts…
My thoughts following this journal entry aren’t necessarily on processing the fact I was the one who stopped the driver and the car with my shots. Instead, my thoughts go to leadership.
Our team was a man down for this mission and the company commander stepped up. Not a squad leader, platoon sergeant or platoon leader. The company commander. He didn’t go just for the fun of it or to make it a dog and pony show. He went to do work. He pulled his share rotating watch and worked with us to develop the plans. He stayed out all night knowing he would need to be in the TOC all day after. Just like the infantry moto says, “Follow me!” He certainly was leading from the front. The fact he had the character to admit forgetting to turn on his red dot showed class, humor, and integrity. Nobody would have ever known.
Those leadership lessons can be applied anywhere. Always remember to lead from the front and don’t be afraid to get right in and work beside your team. Another excellent example of this was when I came back to EIU and was working at the Rec Center. Every day the Director would be out pushing a mop, broom, or on his hands and knees fixing the equipment. Moments later, he would be heading across campus for a meeting with the VP, President, or Board of Trustees. This same leadership approach has become the norm at the Rec Center with every staff member, no matter their position, always jumping in to do what needs to be done. Leadership at every level.
I often hear people discuss leadership based on great business leaders like Steve Jobs or Super bowl MVPs. The reality is that 99% of us won’t ever be in a position like them. Looking at that level of leadership, we miss out on the example of leadership on a mundane Monday morning. Think about what quality leadership looks like in your team on a run of the mill ‘routine’ work day. There is your goal. There is no need to wait for a large-scale event to showcase ‘leadership.’ It is truly shown in your day to day actions and how you treat your team members.
What does every day leadership look like to you?
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