10 June 2008

Widowmakers Fight Off Militant Attack While Searching for Cache Near Shulla

Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers from Troop B, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, maneuver down a path while receiving heavy indirect fire and rocket-propelled grenade fire just on the outskirts of Shulla May 16. The troops were in the area searching for a possible weapons cache when an improvised-explosive device was detonated, followed by hours of indirect and RPG fire. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. James Hunter)

Here's to a friend of mine from the Widowmakers, as they continue to take the fight to the enemy and "discourage others from making a mistake from joining that criminal element".

The scene going into the area was almost unreal. Animal carcasses littered the fields surrounding Shulla. The creek running to Shulla’s south filled the air with an awful odor. As the Soldiers pushed into the area, an improvised explosive device immediately detonated. Fortunately, it did not strike any of the troops. The IED attached was immediately followed by three rocket-propelled grenades.

For nearly the next two hours, the Soldiers continued to search the area for the possible cache while under attack by indirect mortar and RPG fire. The Soldier’s fought back against the violent extremists, firing 5.56mm and .50-caliber rounds into the enemy forces’ positions. ...

“We were going to clear the field to the west and (1st Platoon) was going to clear the field to the east. We crossed the bridge and everything was going fine… we were about to go into the gate and an IED went off,” said [4th Platoon leader 1LT Andrew] Bowling.

Initially, the Soldiers were all a bit shocked and surprised.

“I called up to my lead truck to make sure everyone was okay,” said Bowling, a native of Medfield, Mass. “They were!”

With the smoke filling the air, it was hard to tell what was going on, said Sgt. Daniel Unger, a native of Palestine, Texas. Shortly after it went off, the militants fired an RPG down the road, traveling from east to west, and buzzed past the whole convoy.

“One bounced off of our bumper, not exploding, and one went over Red Platoon’s truck and stuck in a wall,” said Pfc. Matthew Tonkovich, a native of Algonquin, Ill. “We started receiving small-arms fire from the west, coming from a Taxi, and just directly from the east from a red car. We ended up getting two trucks on line to watch east, and we had two trucks to the south to watch.”

Fourth Platoon set up a support by fire position, where they took contact and began engaging and suppressing the enemy. 1st Platoon pulled up to a gate. The lead truck couldn’t enter, so waited for the second truck to ram through the gate and into the junk yard. While waiting, an individual stepped out with an RPG and shot at them, though missing.

“It went over head. My gunner starting suppressing,” said Unger. “Once we fired, he hopped back behind a fence.”

Fourth Platoon had guys firing at them with PKC machine gun fire. The men then hopped into a car and proceeded to speed their way; however, it was the last move they made.

“We fired warning shots, and they didn’t stop, so we engaged them,” said Tonkovich, a gunner with 4th Platoon, Troop B, 1-75 Cav.

They were also receiving small-arms fire from a three-story building; The Soldiers couldn’t positively identify the shooter; however, the Bradley drivers could.

They immediately engaged their targets on the three-story rooftop.

From what Tonkovich said, the blast from the rounds blew one of the men off the rooftop, falling three-stories to the ground.

“Then, mortars starting falling on top of us. They were pretty accurate,” said Bowling.

With RPG and small-arms fire flying through the air, The Soldiers now had to deal with the possibility of a mortar falling in on them.

“My heart was beating pretty fast. I got kind of excited. I just did not want to get hit,” said Tonkovich. “It was pretty loud. My ears were ringing.”

With 4th Platoon ensuring the perimeter security, 1st Platoon, led by 1st Lt. Logan Dick, were through the gate and into the junk yard, where they dismounted and began their sweep for the possible cache.

They swept across fields, through old connexes, garages and clearing areas.

“We put as many dismounts on the ground as we could and started clearing the area,” said Unger. “Halfway through, we had to use bolt cutters to breach some buildings and a fence. We cleared that building and brought in a dog team to search for the cache.”

About the time they entered the compound was about the time 4th Platoon started receiving indirect fire.

“The enemy was basically walking the mortars in on them. At first, they were hitting hundreds of meters away. About the time we finished clearing with the dog, they were calling up on the radio that they were landing within 20 meters of the vehicle,” said Unger. “They then started walking them in on our position. We cleared back to the east. As we began moving back to the trucks, we received two more RPGs. The dog had a hard time clearing with all the indirect fire and small arms.”

Once 1st Platoon got back to their trucks, they pushed over to the gate they had previously busted through and began engaging enemy combatants.

Through all the chaos and rounds falling on the battlefield, Unger said he was very pleased with his Soldiers performance.

“That was the first time we worked with (4th Platoon) that directly, as one unit with one setting up support by fire,” said Unger. “I was very pleased and very confident. They took the majority of the contact. They took the IED and the initial fire. The indirect was landing in mere meters of their vehicles, but they continued to engage them and kept them off our back.”

Unger said his troops have never let him down, and this time was no different even with the plan having to adjust multiple times to accomplish the mission and hold off the militants.

“Multiple times, the plan was changed, but the strong point of our platoon is that we adapt really well,” Unger said. “Security on the ground was maintained.”

Lt. Col. John Hermeling, a native of Green Bay, Wis., said he was also very pleased with his Soldiers’ performance.

“Bravo Troop fought well. It’s good that when the enemy presents itself, we are able to kill them so they can’t present themselves again,” said Hermeling, commander, 1-75 Cav. Regt. “It discourages others from making a mistake from joining that criminal element, who continues to fight against the government of Iraq.”

And here's the Rakkasans at work. Wouldn't want to insult them by leavin' 'em out :-)

U.S. Army Soldiers from 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, run to the Black Hawk helicopter after conducting a search for weapons caches, March 12, 2008, in Albu Issa, Iraq.

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