Marine Survives IED Blasts
(June 9, 2011)
May 7, 2011 - Lance Cpl. Andrew J. Armstrong, a forward observer with Fire Control Team 5, Supporting Arms Liaison Team Chuck, 2nd Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, has survived two improvised explosive device attacks and continues to faithfully perform his duties as a Marine. The Corinth, N.Y., native is described by his fellow Marines as a team player and a workhorse who always gets the job done.
COMBAT OUTPOST SHUKVANI, Afghanistan (MCN -
6/6/2011) — Lance Cpl. Andrew J. Armstrong's
fellow Marines call him, “Rock.” The name fits
him well. The Corinth, N.Y., native has survived
not one, but two improvised explosive devices.
He is still in the fight and shows no signs of
stopping. However, the memory of the first IED
will always be engraved in his mind.
Dec. 10, 2010, Armstrong, a forward observer
with Fire Control Team 5, Supporting Arms
Liaison Team Chuck, 2nd Air-Naval Gunfire
Liaison Company, was on a patrol with soldiers
of the 32nd Georgian Light Infantry Battalion.
He was accompanied by his team chief, Sgt. Jamie
Lee Lantgen, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Greg
Christ, a hospitalman with FCT 5. Also present
was Cpl. Alex Wilson, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine
Regiment, who was attached to the Georgian
Liaison Team, and Staff Sgt. Stacy Green, 1st
Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, who was working
with the Afghan National Army Embedded Training
The patrol consisted of four mine
resistant ambush protected vehicles, and was
driving through the village of Corgulat when
they spotted something suspicious on the road:
three rocks stacked on top of each other. It was
a sign of a possible IED.
The patrol stopped, set up a perimeter around the area and
called in an explosive ordnance disposal team to investigate
whether it was in fact an IED. |
It was mid-afternoon.
“It's TIC time!” yelled Lantgen.
Marines and Georgian soldiers had learned to expect contact
with insurgent forces, or troops in contact, during this
time of day. Minutes later, the patrol started taking fire.
Sgt. Christopher Holm, the team leader for FCT 6, was on
an observation post and saw the patrol taking fire from the
east. He called the Marines from a radio and told them to
take cover on the western side of the vehicles.
just turned the corner and the next thing I knew, I was on
the ground,” Armstrong said about being thrown from the
explosive blast. “My initial thought was that I had been hit
by an RPG. I felt pain in my right arm. First thing I did
was wiggle my fingers and toes to make sure they were still
Green was killed instantly from stepping on
the IED. Lantgen was standing between Green and Armstrong.
His right arm was broken and the right side of his face and
body was covered in blood from shrapnel wounds. Armstrong
was shielded from the blast by Lantgen and only absorbed
about 10 pieces of small shrapnel around his neck. His elbow
was swollen from a piece of Staff Sgt. Green's gear that hit
him in the arm. Christ was knocked unconscious, but moments
later woke up and immediately began administering medical
care to Lantgen.
The firing stopped as soon as the
IED detonated. Armstrong tried getting up. He says it was
comparable to the opening scene of the movie “Saving Private
Ryan,” where Tom Hanks' character, Capt. Miller, experiences
shellshock just as he lands on Omaha Beach.
messed up bad – I had tunnel vision. I couldn't really hear
anything, I was shaking,” Armstrong said. “I saw doc working
on Sgt. Lantgen. Then I saw Staff Sergeant Green's body. I
didn't know it was him at the time. I asked Wilson if it was
one of our guys. He grabbed me, told me not to worry about
it and pulled me away from him.”
Everyone was in a
somber mood when Armstrong returned to base. Green had been
killed and Lantgen, a valuable member of the team who
everyone looked up to, was lost to injury. Lantgen, a
veteran of Iraq, was known to deliberately expose himself in
order to draw enemy fire so the rest of his team knew where
“IEDs don't see your rank or what you've
accomplished – they just see a victim,” Armstrong said.
Cpl. Matthew Williams, a radio operator with FCT 5,
remembers seeing Armstrong for the first time that night.
“His face told the whole story,” said Williams, a native
of Temple, Texas. “You could tell he'd been through hell.
The first thing he said when he got back was, ‘I don't want
to go back to [Camp] Leatherneck.'”
during another patrol, Armstrong was within 20 meters of
another IED blast. Nobody was killed, but Armstrong had been
exposed to a second IED. It is policy in Afghanistan for
troops to remain on a forward operating base if they are
exposed to three IEDs.
Capt. Ramon Pattugalan, the
team leader for FCTs 5 and 6, did not want to risk having
Armstrong confined to Camp Leatherneck.
“It was tough
to see that look on his face when I told him he couldn't go
out anymore,” Pattugalan said. “He's a true team player.
He's the type of guy that doesn't want us to go into the
fight without him.”
Armstrong begged Pattugalan to
let him stay in the fight. Pattugalan told him that he did
not need to worry, he had a plan.
serves as the joint terminal attack controller for FCT 6 and
coordinates close air support for the Georgian troops, has
mentored Armstrong into becoming a joint forward observer.
“He helped me learn how to control aircraft,” Armstrong
said. “That way I can go to Joint Forward Observer's course
when we get back to the States. Eventually, I can be a team
Even though Armstrong is not allowed to go
out on patrols, he has been designated as a primary machine
gunner and is able to provide overwatch from observation
posts around the base. He says it is a welcome break from
being inside the combat operations center.
get to bring out the [M240 medium machine gun] and I still
get to get in on the action. I don't like being in the COC
watching things happen on a TV. I'm just not really an
office type of guy.”
Article and photo by USMC LCpl. Bryan Nygaard|
II MEF (FWD)
Marine Corps News
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