Michael's Dispatches

Men at War: Come Home with Your Shield, or On It

2011-07-31-070544-1000During the mission

08 August 2011
Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

The men here can be seen saluting senior officers, while saying, “Sir, with your shield or on it.”  This is the mantra of Task Force Spartan.

On the morning of 30 July, members of 4-4Cav boarded CH-47 helicopters and at 0300 landed in the middle of a Taliban stronghold.  Over the next 48 hours, there were at least 27 firefights.  The number taken for confirmed enemy killed was eleven, though likely the actual number was considerably higher.  During the first day, one of our Soldiers was shot in the face and badly wounded.  His buddies say that had he not then played dead, the enemy surely would have killed him.  His buddies, braving close and accurate machinegun fire, managed to rescue the wounded Soldier from a roof.  A Blackhawk MEDEVAC took him away as we watched from a few hundred meters distance.


Afghans do not pave roads.  If you are driving on pavement here, chances are nearly 100% that someone from afar is behind it.  Afghans build walls, and so in this war, we need thousands of ladders.  It’s common to see troops during intense firefights shooting from ladders.

The three Spartan troops from 4-4Cav who were shot during this mission were all shot on rooftops.  Now, before the armchair generals chime in with advice on fighting positions, please don’t.  It’s not needed unless said experts are right here, right now.

On 31 July, another firefight unfolded.  The element I was with was maybe two or three hundred meters away as the crow flies.  Thousands of bullets seemed to be fired, there were dozens of explosions and the Kiowa Warrior and Apache helicopters joined in with rockets, cannon fire, and machine guns.  We only watched and waited for any enemy to stumble in front of our shooting positions.  The Soldiers’ weapons were ready, as was my Canon.  At the moment, our compound was not under attack, though the first Soldier who had been shot in the face the day before had been at our current compound, which was complete with heaps of marijuana drying in the sun.

Word came on the radio that PFC Brice Scott had been shot in the face just as had happened the day before.

2011-07-31-055444-2-1000This flight is taking PFC Scott on the first leg of his journey home.

Maybe 15-20 minutes after PFC Scott was shot, a MEDEVAC helicopter swooped in dangerously and picked him up.  Brice Scott had already died and was going home on his shield, having been shot on the rooftop.

2011-07-31-070509-1000The rooftop were Brice Scott died.

Our element moved to the compound where Scott had been hit.  There was a flurry of activity as Soldiers were quickly redistributing ammunition, and others had disassembled their weapons for quick cleaning before the next fight.  Two pigeons landed on the roof only feet from where Brice Scott had been mortally wounded.


Another Soldier had been on the roof when Brice was hit, and this Soldier was shot in the ribs.  The bullet was stopped by his SAPI plate.  He said it felt like he had been stabbed.  Other Soldiers said that the troop who had been shot in the ribs collected his wits and stayed in the fight.

During the fight, an Afghan Soldier, trying to help, grabbed an M320 40mm grenade launcher.  He negligently fired the 40mm grenade, which skipped off the ground and hit a US Soldier named Labadie.  The grenade struck Labadie’s helmet but did not explode.  SFC Aaron Causey, an EOD Soldier, saw the grenade, picked it up and hurled it like a baseball out of the compound.  Meanwhile, other EOD Soldiers were engaged in the firefight.


When we arrived, troops were redistributing ammunition before the next round of fighting might begin.  A troop called up to the roof asking for 40mm grenade ammunition and the Soldier tossed down some rounds while keeping eye on his sector.


The troops would stay up for hours on end wearing full kit, with no shade, no clouds, baking in the sun.  In this particular compound, the enemy was able to sneak in close through the grape vineyards.


Brice had been hit on the roof.  While under direct fire, he was lowered to the medics who worked in vain to save him.  Here they are standing just by the spot where Brice had been lowered.

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