By this time ODA 392 had its first Javelin CLU ready, and Sgt. Jeffrey Adamec killed another MTLB while the GMV gunners began to engage the Iraqi armor and a string of troop trucks. The Iraqi infantry, by now dismounted from their vehicles, began to take highly accurate .50-caliber and 40mm grenade fire from the Americans. Sgt. Brown, clearly having a “hot hand” with the Javelin CLU, fired a fourth missile, hitting a troop truck. Staff Sgt. Zawoski from ODA 392 fired his own Javelin at the same time, killing another of the troop trucks. The dismounted Iraqi troops began to take casualties, and some began retreating to the south.
Ridge Fight: Half an Hour in Hell
As ODA 391 and 392 were dueling with the Iraqi armor, ODAs 394 and 395 were advancing on the end of the ridgeline to the northwest of the crossroads fight. The teams were trying to reconnoiter the enemy positions and turn the Iraqi flank for the Peshmerga fighters following their advance. However, as the eight GMVs moved toward the ridgeline, they began to take Iraqi artillery and mortar fire. Before the SF soldiers could back away, both teams were in the midst of a massive artillery and mortar barrage and fighting for their lives. Taking advantage of the GMVs excellent cross-country mobility, the drivers began to “chase” the exploding rounds, trying to upset corrections by the Iraqi observers in the strongpoints on the ridge. At the same time, the gunners on the GMVs’ began to engage the Iraqi observation posts and other positions on the ridge with .50-caliber machine gun and 40mm grenade fire, trying to suppress corrections on the barrage.
For almost 30 minutes, the two ODAs dodged and bounded almost randomly through the impact zone, desperately trying to move back and disengage from the fight. Though many of the artillery and mortar rounds were close, not one SF soldier was hurt or the GMVs hit. The agility and mobility of the GMVs, along with the training of the SF soldiers, managed to allow them to escape from the deadly fire. Though a bit rattled by the experience, the SF troopers realized that they needed to get back into the fight if the Peshmerga were to accomplish their mission. Short on .50-caliber machine gun and 40mm grenade ammo, the two teams called “Roughnecks” company commander Maj. Curtis Hubbard for the “War Pigs” of ODB 390 to make an “on the battlefield” resupply. As this was being accomplished, the attached Air Force TACPs were plotting the enemy positions on the end of the ridgeline.
After finishing the resupply and carefully moving forward to observe the Iraqi lines, the TACPs called in a series of B-52 JDAM strikes which demolished the numerous Iraqi strongpoints. This cleared the way for the Peshmerga forces to advance, and the Iraqis began to abandon positions they had occupied for almost a dozen years. The amazing agility of the GMVs while under fire had caused the Iraqi gunners to waste much of their ammunition, while allowing the teams to escape and plan a second advance. Also, the “on the fly” resupply by the OBD 390 “War Pigs” had allowed the SF soldiers to quickly move back onto the offensive. For the first time in years, the Green Line had been turned and a route was open to Kirkuk. Back at the crossroads, though, the fight with Iraqi armor and infantry was not over.
The crossroads battle continued: an ODA 044 Javelin gunner killing an MTLB, and Sgt. Adamec firing a second Javelin, hitting a truck that had been struck earlier. Sergeants Michael Ray and Richard Turner from ODA 391 then shot a Javelin of their own, which missed. Then, just a few minutes before 1000, the first close air support arrived over the battlefield in the form of two Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter-bombers from a carrier in the Mediterranean Sea. Armed with GBU-16 laser guided bombs (LGBs), the flight leader set up to bomb the T-55s in front of the two ODAs. However, a mistake in communications and orientation occurred, and the lead Tomcat dropped its first LGB on the abandoned T-55 back at what is now called “Press Hill.” The ODA 044 liaison element (along with some command personnel from ODB 040 – their company headquarters) had gathered the Peshmerga fighters there, and a number of news personnel were also present when the warhead detonated.
By just after 1000, Capt. Wright, Sgt. Ray, and several other Team 391 members arrived at Press Hill to find a mass of casualties, exploding fuel and ordnance, and burning vehicles. Sgt. Ray quickly established a casualty collection point (CCP) and spent a frantic 15 minutes separating the wounded that could be helped from the mortally wounded.
Capt. Eric Wright, the ODA 391 team leader, saw the explosion and realized immediately that there were “friendlies down” to his rear. Seeing that the rest of his SF soldiers were solidly in the fight, Capt. Wright, along with Sgt. Ray (the ODA 391 senior medical sergeant) and several other personnel from ODA 391, moved to the site of the bomb impact to see what could be done for the victims. Meanwhile, the crossroads fight began to get more interesting as Iraqi artillery rounds began to hit near the ODA 391/392 positions. Realizing that it was time for a change of position, the rest of the American vehicles and personnel began to displace back to Press Hill themselves.
By just after 1000, Capt. Wright, Sgt. Ray, and several other Team 391 members arrived at Press Hill to find a mass of casualties, exploding fuel and ordnance, and burning vehicles. Sgt. Ray quickly established a casualty collection point (CCP) and spent a frantic 15 minutes separating the wounded that could be helped from the mortally wounded. The ODA 391 soldiers pitched in as best they could, tying 19 tourniquets in just 30 minutes while the battle continued just in front of their position. The ODA 044 Javelin gunner and Sgt. Adamec managed to each shoot a missile at the same truck, while the TAC-Ps worked to calm down the two Tomcat crews and get them back into the fight.