KIRKUK, Iraq – Four soldiers from the 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade were injured late Sunday night when the vehicle they were traveling in drove through an ambush during the first hours of operation peninsula strike.
None of the injuries was life threatening and
all injured soldiers are expected to make full recoveries.
Specialists Tamer Hassanien, Kobie Johnson and John Oldenburg all sustained non-life threatening wounds to the arms. Pfc. James Volpe was treated and released back to his unit.
“We took the point last night and departed with a non tactical vehicle and a Humvee in the lead,” said 1st Lt. Willard Barron, Scout Platoon Leader. “Enroute we didn’t know that we would encounter an ambush.”
“We passed two traffic control points on the way,” Barron said. “As we continued the march we were about 400 meters from another traffic control point when a call came over the radio to maintain a 20 Kilometer per hour speed limit. I checked ours and put my microphone down and that’s when a barrage of gunfire just came over. It was instantaneous, just like someone had planned it.”
In a witness statement First Sgt. John Bagby stated, “I heard and saw tracer rounds from the top of a roof, of what was later determined to be a police station,” it read.
“They planned it, it had all the triggers of an ambush,” Barron continued. “I was in the second vehicle, in the passenger side.”
The second vehicle in the convoy was the vehicle that took all the hits. While the civilian vehicle up ahead of it, carrying many of the battalion’s scouts, escaped unharmed.
“My driver was shot immediately. He tried to drive through it but he was shot in the arm that he was driving with. Then two in the back, providing security, were also hit.”
Both Bagby and Barron felt that the non-tactical vehicle in front of the Humvee was likely the target of the attack but, being the smallest vehicle in the convoy, it was missed which in turn allowed the bullets to rip into Barron’s vehicle.
“Up or down, left or right just four more inches and I could have been ten toes up,” Barron said pointing at his vehicles’ windshield, which clearly shows 3 bullet holes. “The lord was watching over us.”
“As our vehicle continued to roll we pulled the other two victims in the back off. I took them and laid them down on the side of the road when the commander’s vehicle pulled up and asked us what’s up. I told them we needed their help and that we needed to get these two guys out of here. We put those two up on the vehicle and rolled down the road about 150 meters to the military police unit that was operating a traffic control point. That’s where we conducted our medical assessment and medical treatment.”
Fortunately medical help was quick in arriving.
“A special forces medic was there in second and the delivery of the medivac request was so fast that by the time we got them on the vehicle, moved them the 150 meters, had taken them back off the vehicle and conducted our initial assessment of their wounds the medics were there,” Barron said.
“Johnson was being treated for, initially, two gunshot wounds to the right shoulder. I was holding his left hand because I didn’t want him to know what was going on. It was about five minutes before he realized how bad it was,” he said.
All three soldiers that required further medical care are expected to make a full recovery.