Monday, May 31, 2010
Mettle of Honor: Part II Heroes of the 3rd LAR Co. D 2nd Platoon 2006
As they rounded out their second deployment, Company D was seeing some results of Operation Iraqi Freedom, although the situation was still one of constant danger. They hadn't lost a man yet, when Cpl Graham Paulsgrove profiled the platoon and their operations on July 7 2006. The highly mobile unit went where they were needed, living out of their vehicles for weeks, nomads patrolling the barren countryside and accumulating reconnaisance intelligence, endlessly walking the roadsides scouting for buried IED mines, making the roads and villages safe for the populace and assisting in raids against insurgents.
Chadwick T. Kenyon was "Doc Kenyon". He was one of the two hospital corpsmen assigned to the Wolfpack's 2nd Platoon. He treated their wounds and they stood watch over him while he aided their fellows. Ethan said Chad never was willing to wait for the shooting to stop: if a man went down, Doc was there in a flash. Every minute mattered to him.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jose Mata Jr., 26, was the senior Corpsman who travelled with the platoon, and the man who trained Kenyon. Ethan says Mata's knowledge of Marine history and tradition is encyclopedic. The company considers them both honorary Marines and they are deeply respected.
Personal armor has come a long way. It is heavy, hot in the 110 degree heat, and cumbersome. Shortly before 3rd LAR's deployment, it became mandatory to wear and there was initially some grumbling. But not for long, as attested by the three men in the company who took direct hits and were saved by their armor.
May 14, 2006, a sniper hit Lance Cpl. Robert F. Dean in the thigh while the company was patrolling near Gharmah. Cpl. Graham A. Paulsgrove reported:
“We had an area cordoned off and the scouts were out searching the area,” recalled Cpl. Dustin R. Nelson, Dean’s vehicle commander. “I reached down to give him some water. As he popped out of his hatch to take it from me, I heard a crack.”
“The bullet would have hit his femoral bone, and possibly gone through and hit his femoral artery,” said HN Chad T. Kenyon, 20, the corpsman who treated Dean after the incident. “If that happened, he could have bled to death within a few minutes. It would have been a sticky situation, but the plates did their job and stopped the bullet.”
This was one of those times when Doc Kenyon interpreted a gunshot as a "Go" signal to begin running toward the weapon's target. Ethan caught it on camera once everyone was safely under cover: his picture of Kenyon examining Dean (above) was taken a few minutes after Chad had braved sniper fire to get to the downed Marine.
“They make it harder to get in and out of the vehicle, but without them, I would probably be in bad shape,” said Dean, 20, [from Spring, Texas], about his side SAPI plates. “It was a good thing that they made all of us wear them.”
On June 12, 2006, Pfc. Jason Hanson was leading a patrol searching for roadside bombs in Habbanyiah when a 7.62 mm sniper round slammed squarely into his chest, knocking him down. Cpl Paulsgrove recorded the events:
“I saw [Hanson] on the ground, ran up to him and rolled him over,” said Seaman Chad T. Kenyon, one of the company’s Navy corpsmen and a 20-year-old from Tucson, Ariz. “I saw that the round had gone through the front of his flak, so I opened up his flak and saw no bleeding.
"Then he looked up at me and said, ‘I’m fine, Doc.’”
“The round definitely would have hit him in the diaphragm, which is a muscle that assists in breathing,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jose Mata Jr., 26, the company’s senior corpsman from Hialeah, Fla. “It’s not a good day when that happens because he probably wouldn’t have lived.”
The bruise and soreness from impact was proof of the value of the hot and uncomfortable kevlar covered ceramic. “I’m happy to carry the extra weight,” said Hanson, grinning slightly.
Sgt. Joshua S. Adams was also saved from serious injury by his armor. Cpl. Paulsgrove interviewed him July 7,2006:
“We were blocking off a road and one car pulled up from a side street, and the guy in the back of vehicle started moving around to face us, and as I was telling Sgt. Adams, he got hit,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle V. Lyons, 25, the gunner on Adam’s vehicle from Houston. “He dropped down and then said he was fine.”
“My gunner took over while I assessed my wounds and pulled some shrapnel out of my arm, then we chased down the car,” said Adams. “The round went into my SAPI but when it hit, the round shattered and some of it went into my wrist.”
"The vehicle was chased down and the two men were eventually detained. As for the rounds which struck Adams, they could have proven fatal if he had not worn his body armor, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Jose Mata Jr., 26, the company’s senior corpsmen from Hialeah, Fla.
“The round would have hit him in the liver, causing massive internal damage - it could have been bad,” said Mata Jr. “The SAPI plates did their job.”
Much of the Dragoons' time was occupied with the tedious and tense job of walking the roadsides meticulously searching the endless dirt for slight signs of disturbance that might indicate a buried mine or IED.
Ethan tells me that Cpl. Paul Kozlowski was an agressive volunteer when it came to disarming these bombs. He says when they found a mine, Kozlowski would jump down immediately and begin digging it out with his hands.
Cpl Paulsgrove recorded their success in Gharmah in mid-May 2006:
Cpl. Paul Kozlowski, a combat engineer attached to 3rd LAR Bn., said Marines “basically sweep off the road,” clearing the route and “keeping a lookout for anything unusual”
“It’s a big team effort,” said Kozlowski, from Bowie, Md.
So far their efforts thwarted the insurgents. [The] platoon uncovered five IEDs in the [first two weeks of May], none of which caused any harm to the men seeking out the bombs.
They then moved on and spent the first 2 weeks of June assisting the 3rd Batallion/5th Regiment by securing the streets of Habbaniyah in the 120 degree heat. "The unit was busy in their area up until the time they were replaced. On their last day of operations, they found five IEDs."
They weren’t always lucky. Shortly after coming from the far western reaches of Iraq to assist Marines with Regimental Combat Team 5, one vehicle was hit by the very type of weapon they’re seeking to root out.
“It was a real eye opener,” said Cpl. Joseph E. Sherwood, a 29-year-old team leader from Orlando, Fla. “We lost our gunner for four days due to a concussion, but it could have been a lot worse.”
In the end, it would get worse, much worse, when the enemy had a run of deadly luck, but the Dragoons didn't know that in May.
Links to the series of all 5 posts:
Part I Introduction
Part II Body Armor Saves Lives
Part III Greater Love Has No Man: 4 killed by Bomb
Part IV The Whole Universe: 3 killed by IED, 1 killed by IED
Part V Apprendix: Links to articles about these men & the 2nd Platoon
Marine Ethan Duncan Arguello Midland Texas