Buckle up! This is one very intense story. It took place in Afghanistan in 2009 and involved an Army Special Forces team along with their Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), Sgt. Robert Gutierrez.
The Special Forces team was given their assignment, We Are The Mighty reports, a night raid to capture a Taliban leader who lived outside of the city of Jarat in western Afghanistan. This target was known to be a particularly brutal character. As any warfighter knows, all the best planning and preparation in the world does not always go the way you want when the bullets start flying. The kinetics and unknowns of warfare can often throw a mean stick into the spokes of all that advance planning.
As the Scottish Poet, Robert Burns, put it in his poem, “To a Mouse,” “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”
The planned intentions of this patrol went south quickly when it was suddenly attacked and overwhelmed by extremely heavy fire and the superior numbers of battle hardened Taliban fighter.
Air Force Sgt. Gutierrez, the JTAC attached to this Special Forces team, was almost immediately hit in the chest by rifle fire and the team leader had been hit in the leg. The 10-man team was pinned down in a building with no escape route. Sgt. Gutierrez, though badly wounded with a through-and-through gunshot wound to his chest, remained conscious and fully engaged, firing his own M4 rifle while quickly consulting with the team leader about air support.
The team leader wanted a bomb put on the enemy, but Gutierrez told him he couldn’t do that. He knew that the enemy was too close to their own position to use a bomb. A bomb would kill the team too. This conversation was going on while machine gun and rifle bullets were hitting all around them at an intense and relentless rate. Gutierrez suggested they needed a high-angle 33mm strafing attack, something that only an A-10 “warthog” could do. He finally convinced the team leader that this would be their best option when he told him that the enemy was within 10 meters, that is less than 20 feet from them. Gutierrez called for an A-10 Thunderbolt that was already in the area.
During all of this heated action, with Gutierrez calling in the A-10 and assessing the situation further, still firing his own weapon in the desperate efforts to keep the enemy off of them, the team medic was working on Gutierrez, trying to stop the bleeding and to find the entrance wound.
Bullets were tearing chunks out of the wall behind them peppering them with dust and shards. The team was still taking casualties as well.
Gutierrez then made contact with Capt. Ethan Sabin, the A-10 pilot, and told him what he needed. He said he wanted a high-angle strafe, and the pilot was good with that, but when he asked Gutierrez how far the team was from the enemy and heard Gutierrez come back with, “10 meters,” he became concerned.
To learn how the A-10 pilot performed this dangerous mission, click the button below and read on.
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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.