21 August 2007

The Battle of Donkey Island

From Sunday's Washington Post, a great follow up article on the battle of Donkey Island in which two Apache pilots, CW2 Crist and CW4 Purtee, executed an unusual CASEVAC of SPC Jamaledine.

"Bullets were pinging off the windshield, the tires, the side," said Young's driver, Spec. Jason Willette, 33, of Honolulu. The insurgents' marksmanship was extremely accurate, aided by the moonlight, which diminished the advantage of the U.S. troops' night-vision goggles.

Young's gunner, Sgt. William Fellows, had nearly exhausted the 1,800 rounds he carried for his M240 machine gun. So the 24-year-old from Springfield, Mo., grabbed a Vietnam-era M-14 rifle and fired off five magazines. With only 100 rounds left, he was minutes from running out, he recalled: "We all basically went black on ammo."

At a mud-brick outpost a few miles southwest of the battle, a scout platoon set off in seven Humvees loaded with machine gun rounds. They arrived about 11 p.m., just in time to resupply Stark's patrol, and together the soldiers advanced toward the trucks.

"Spray it down!" ordered Capt. Jimm Spannagel, the scout platoon's leader. The trucks caught fire, munitions inside shooting off like fireworks, then exploded in gigantic red balls. Meanwhile, the insurgents, who outnumbered the Americans throughout the battle, were repositioning. Some swam across the canal to set up machine gun nests midstream on a small piece of land known as Donkey Island. Others dug in on the canal's beaches or behind its four-foot-high banks.

Capt. Ian Lauer, commander of the 1-77's Charlie Company, sped to the scene from the U.S. base in Ramadi and instructed his men to "assault to the south" along the canal....

Down the bank from the Humvee, three insurgents fired armor-piercing rounds. Unable to pivot his machine gun down steeply enough to hit them, Spec. Jeffrey Jamaledine lifted the gun from its mount and reached over to spray them. As he did, he was shot in the jaw.

Jamaledine was later evacuated by an Apache helicopter, one of whose pilots, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Allen Crist, gave his seat to Jamaledine and rode strapped to the aircraft's exterior.

Meanwhile, Lauer, out of his Humvee, had been shot in the shoulder and was pinned down in a ditch.

Nethery left his Humvee and crawled over the beach to find Taylor.

"You good?" asked Nethery, 24, of Englewood, Fla.

"Do I look good?" Taylor responded, adding an expletive.

"Can you walk?" Nethery asked.

"Do you think I can walk!" came the reply, again with an expletive.

"Can you crawl?"

Nethery grabbed Taylor by his gear. "One, two, three, push!" he said, pulling while Taylor shoved with his good leg until they finally reached the Humvee.

The rest is here.

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