Rookie

Luis Fuentes talks about a harrowing night in Iraq as a member of the Green Berets Army Special Forces team.

Ar Ramadi, Iraq March 2004; It is around two o’clock in the morning. It is pitch black and the only sounds are from our rifles and equipment. We are racking our bolts back on our rifles to make sure they are oiled up so there is no kind of jams later on. We check our night vision goggles to make sure they work properly, and check our radios to make sure we have communication with everyone on the team.

“Any station, this is Louie, radio check.”

Then someone replies back by saying, “Louie, this is Sean, Lima Charlie, how me” and I reply back, “Sean, Lima Charlie.”

Everyone in the platoon does a radio check with someone. We roger up to our team leaders and they roger up to the team commander. Then someone yells, “Bring it in!” and we gather up one last time to go over what everybody is going to do.

I am attached to an Army Special Forces team, also known as the Green Berets. This is what I have wanted to do my whole life. I have always wanted to be part of the very best that the United States military has to offer. This is my first mission with these guys and I do not want to look like a rookie, even though I am.

The convoy of six trucks leaves the base, the lights are out on all of the trucks and everyone is looking through night vision goggles. We drive for about 20 minutes making turns here and there and then over the radio the convoy commander says, “Target house coming up on the right,” and the trucks slow down. I am part of the assault team. We are the ones who are going to kick the door open; and we are the ones who are going into the house first. I am the lead guy, the first one in the house, maybe even the first one to get shot. There is so much going through my head right now (What is it going to look like inside? Do I have my weapon on fire? What if I get shot? And I hope I can throw myself inside so the rest of the team can get in). The convoy comes to a slow roll; we are creeping to the target house now. We start jumping out the back of the truck and slowly and methodically move to the house. It is a small compound, we moved to the gate to make our entry. That is when the number three guy moves up to open the door.

“It’s locked,” he says. “What the fuck do you mean it’s locked?” was my reply. Without hesitation, our team leader is telling a truck to ram the gate. One of our trucks lines up to the gate and rams it (Boom!); they know we are here now!

We move into the compound up to the front door, our third man comes up and donkey kicks the door open. As I enter the house, there is a long hallway, and once in I make my way up to the first room. I stop before I enter the room for a brief second. Behind me, I feel my team leader’s knee nudge the back of my leg; letting me know to enter the room. I go into the room and through my night vision goggles I see a man’s silhouette holding a gun! I follow the wall to the left, but I am still facing the man in front of me. I squeeze my pressure pad on my broomstick the little handle on the barrel, to turn on my Surefire flashlight, to blind the man in the room.

At the same time, he is holding a gun, probably to kill me.

I shoot at him, I hit him six times in the chest and he is still not falling down. During this same time my team leader is entering the room and shoots the man as well. He finally goes down, we clear the rest of the room and remove the gun away from the man on the floor. All this took place within less than a minute. But, it seemed like it took 20 minutes to get to the corner of the room when I first entered. The other team members are yelling, “GET ON THE FLOOR, GET ON THE FLOOR!” and some of it is in Arabic. Then my team leader tells me to stack up, so I move in front of him and he is behind once more. We are ready to move to the other rooms “We’re not done yet.” But before the knee nudge he hits me on my head and says, “Two to the chest, and one to the head” kind of a friendly reminder to remember your training.

We clear the rest of the house within five minutes. Over the radio, we give an “all clear” that is when more guys come in and look for any kind of intelligence inside the house.  I play everything I did back in my head (what could have I done better). I did exactly what I did not want to do. I made the rookie mistake of forgetting how to shoot. All my training went out the window on my first raid. I could have gotten someone killed, because I did not follow my training. I told myself I would not make that mistake again. Later that day, I was at the range practicing my shooting skills; I never made that mistake again. I am a professional shooter and not a rookie.

 

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