Third Way in Iraq #15: A Message From the Captain

July 12th, 2006

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July 12, 2006

Editor’s Note:

Sean Barney recently received an email from Captain Sean Miller, his Commanding Officer in Iraq, describing the events of the day he was wounded. We provide that message below. We have edited it only for a bit of Marine-style language.

LCpl Barney, Sean (good name), and Mrs. Barney—

We apologize for the delay in emailing you. It wasn’t because we had forgotten about you, but because this place is a pain. We think about you all of the time, and use you as a motivator to get through this deployment, so that we can see you again. To be honest with you, we are all amazed that we are going to have the opportunity to see you again. It didn’t look good when we last saw you. With that being said, below is going to be an account of what happened that day you were wounded. I threw in that disclosure because I don’t know if you want to remember about it, but since you are alive we figured you ought to know how much of a tough son of a [gun] you are.

Alright, from the beginning. We were conducting a counter ambush position in the vicinity of Mosque Rd, and Elizabeth. That was a mission designed to draw out the enemy to a location of our choosing, and relatively on our terms. Up until that point, the enemy had been choosing the time and place to engage us. With that being said, here is the account as I remember it.

We had three OP positions all along Mosque Rd. They were there to pre-empt any attack that the enemy tried to conduct against us. They were emplaced the night before, so that their positions were set in covertly. We stepped off in the early afternoon on foot to Mosque Rd. I decided upon a location on Mosque that would limit the enemy’s abilities avenues of approach to a couple of streets. Remember, they liked to stick their heads out around corners to locate our positions before attacking us, we called it the turkey peek. So, I tried to find a position that limited their ability to hit us from.

Soon after we set in our cordon around an “IED”, we received the first sniper round. It struck the ballistic glass of the PysOp’s vehicle. We broke down a portion of the cordon to go attempt to establish the location of the sniper. At this time in our deployment we did not have a sniper problem, and the mission was to lure out the RPG/AK-47 team, in order to kill them. So, after we could not identify where the sniper was we set back into the cordon of the “IED”.

About 30 minutes later, a RPG was launched in the vicinity of Elizabeth and Mosque. It was actually launched from one block south of Elizabeth, on the west side of Mosque. The round traveled to LCpl Hwang and my position. The round almost took my head off. As it was coming at me time slowed down. I actually had enough time to turn around and witness the RPG round impact about 2 meters behind me. It hit something that had water in it. As the water was flushed into the air, I remember saying to myself that this was going to hurt. Luckily for Hwang and I the round was a dud.

As soon as the MAM shot the round at us, Sgt Roberts, who was in an OP overlooking that very same area in which the round came from, shot and killed the insurgent. Immediately, we broke down our cordon and re-established it on the dead insurgent. At this point, you were located on the east of Mosque Rd, at the intersection of Mosque and Elizabeth. As we were exploiting the scene (chasing after the two other insurgents that were with the dead insurgent) we got word from Charlie 6 that he was coming out there with an interpreter to talk with the dead insurgent’s brother.

As we were speaking with him a crack rang out. You had been hit. We all turned to see what had happened. We saw you fall to the ground, and then get back up. As we were securing the area, you were running back to where our vehicles were located at. Some of us ran to you as you were coming back to the vehicles. LCpl Hwang, and Cpl Buckley got to you as you feel down near the vehicles.

Concurrently, HM-2 Errico, who had arrived on scene with the CO, ran to your position as well. I observed you getting treatment from Doc Errico and Doc Gray, and immediately pushed Marines out to intercept the sniper. Simultaneously, I was organizing your extraction team, so that we could get you to Fallujah Surgical ASAP.

You would have been proud of how well the team worked together to go get the son of a [gun] who shot you, and organize the effort to get you out of there. Here’s where you can thank your guardian angel. None of us thought you were going to make it. We saw where you were shot, and knew that we had to get you out of there if you were going to have any chance at all. If it weren’t for picking yourself off the deck and running out of the kill area, then we may have had more casualties that day. The sniper could have just started plucking us off one at a time. So, thanks for being tough as nails and getting your [self] out of that kill box.

Alright, back to the story. Your team was assembled to take you out of there, and they left. Meanwhile, Sgt Palmer was already maneuvering onto the area in which we thought you had been shot. He and his team had to run down four individuals on foot, in the middle of the Sook Area (the main market area, which is very crowded). They caught these individuals and administered a gun shot residue test to their hands. They only had enough to test two of the individuals; however, one of them came up positive.

At this time, Sgt Malm and myself only had a few Marines on scene at the dead insurgents location. So, we attempted to link up with Sgt Palmer. The COC gave us their “location”, which was wrong. However, we didn’t know it at the time. We only had one vehicle with us, so we put the junior Marines in it, and Sgt Malm and I ran outside of it as it maneuvered through the city. We kept running until we thought we were at the site where Sgt Palmer was located. He wasn’t there. He had left to go administer the GSR test to the other two individuals back at the CMOC. So, Sgt Malm and I, along with a couple of other Marines were left in the city. The Iraqis were [angry] that we killed one of the insurgents, or at least that is what it felt like. So, we ran out of the area, again, to a location where we could get comm with the COC. As we were running all over Fallujah, all I could think about was the scene at the end of Black Hawk Down. Where the Rangers were running out of Mogadishu.

Anyways, we eventually made contact with Sgt Palmer and linked up with him, and departed the city. We headed to Fallujah Surgical to see how you were doing; however, as soon as we got onto Camp Fallujah, we ran into the CO and said that you were being taking to Balad. So, we turned around and went back to the CMOC.

Since the capture of the four MAMs by Sgt Palmer’s squad we have had little sniper activity; however, it is on the rise again. I would like to believe that we caught the bastard that day, but I’m not sure. Rest assured, if we have an opportunity to kill the son of a [gun] who shot you we will. It will be our pleasure [within the confines of our ROEs of course].

Since then we have been tracking your movements via the KVN, and anyone who has had information on you. We have your photo up in our platoon area depicting you receiving your Purple Heart from General Hagee. You stud.

Your letters, and care package have been greatly appreciated by the Marines of 3rd Sqd. Doc Errico has been put in for a NAM with a V, for his role in aiding you during your evacuation from the scene. Many other Marines and Sailors had important roles during that time and should share in that award with Doc Errico.

Well, that is about all I can remember from that day. Since then, we have gone on with much of the same day to day operations. We’ve had our successes, and the platoon is operating as a well as I can asked them to. We do wish that we had the smartest man in the platoon back though. Yes, that is you. I only act the part. If there is anything that we can do for you, then don’t hesitate to ask. Once again, I apologize for the delay in writing you.

P.S. You looked like you just polished off a bottle of Jack when you were running back to the vehicles. We thought we were going to have to administer a field sobriety test on you. Kidding. Take care of yourself, and we look forward to seeing you again.

Best wishes, and a speedy recovery,

Captain Sean Miller
4th Plt Cmdr, C Co
1st Bn, 25th Marines
CMOC Fallujah