Mortarman Shares Close Calls
(December 28, 2010)
|WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2010 – Army Spc. Joshua R. Wood is a
calm person; his voice barely rises above a whisper.|
Maybe that's because waiting for the enemy to attack in a
hastily built fighting position in the Hindu Kush Mountains
makes everybody whisper, or maybe it's because he just
doesn't get that excited anymore.
Whatever the reason, Wood rarely raises his
voice when asked about his three combat tours
during his seven years in the Army. Rarely that
is, until he starts talking about blowing things
"I don't like troops in contact, but I enjoy
dropping rounds and knowing that most of the
time I hit the enemy," Wood said. "It's awesome
to fire. It's just a thrill to drop explosives.
The enemy stops firing after you drop your
rounds and that's just a great feeling."
Wood, a mortarman from Pontotoc, Miss., assigned
to 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Battalion,
327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat
Team, comes alive when asked about his job
firing mortars in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar
Army Spcs. Corey C. Canterbury, right, and Joshua R. Wood
check their mortar tube and coordinates before firing mortar
rounds on a mountainside overlooking the Ganjgal Valley,
Afghanistan, Dec. 10, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt.
"Out here, we play a pretty big role," Wood said. "Usually
when the troops get in contact, the mortars are there. They
call us in to provide indirect fire on enemy locations to
either destroy or disrupt them so we can move or gain fire
Just then Wood got a call. He began preparing fuses on the
mortar rounds and punching numbers into his handheld
Wood raised the pitch of his voice ever so slightly when he
explained the technical specifications of his job and what's
necessary to prepare for another fire mission.
Next, he fired a few rounds at the enemy, listened for
impact and plunked back down into his fighting position to
wait for more instructions from his forward observer.
Settled, he continued his conversation in his calm, relaxing
"I almost got a bullet to the face once," Wood recalled. "It
went right past my face and hit the wall behind me and cut
my face up from the rock. I thought I was shot.
"That was probably the closest I've come to a bullet," he
said. "I could feel the burn on my face for about 10
minutes. That was pretty intense, but we actually killed
three dudes with a mortar round. That ended the fight there
and I walked out of that valley."
He chuckled and had a faraway look on his face.
"I've had bullets crack around my face, around my cover. I
mean, we all have. We've all been in some crazy firefights,"
But not everybody has done what Wood did a few months ago
while in one of those firefights.
"We were walking through the Ghaki Valley," Wood said. "Our
group took contact and, as we bounded back to hard
structures, my platoon leader fell. I was about a 100 meters
ahead of him. I turned around and saw that he fell. I ran
back under heavy fire, picked him up and took him to
He didn't raise his voice when talking about the incident.
It was almost like he was explaining what he had for lunch.
"Later, another Afghan National Army soldier was walking
around in the middle of the firefight with a bullet wound to
his head," Wood explained. "I ran out with another soldier
and we picked him up and put him behind some vehicles to let
the medic patch him up.
"You just do it. You're just trained to do it. I didn't want
to leave a friend out there," Wood continued. "I don't know,
you just react to things and do what you're trained to do:
to go help soldiers whenever you can, whether you're under
fire or not."
He didn't seem especially impressed that he was awarded a
Bronze Star with valor for these actions. For Wood, it was
just another day deployed.
"The [platoon leader] I saved said that, as I was running,
he could see bullets bouncing around my feet and around my
head on the mountainside," Wood recalled. "I really wasn't
paying attention to it, but it was pretty effective fire. It
was pretty close. It was ricocheting off the vehicles and
across the ground. You could hear it whizzing by your head.
I don't know, I just remember running and picking him up. I
wasn't thinking about the bullets. It was pretty heavy fire,
For a guy who joined the Army right out of high school
because he wanted to do something different, this mortarman
has seen a lot.
The forward observer called to Wood and his crew. It was
time for another fire mission to quell the enemy. Wood
perked up and started hollering coordinates back and forth.
Well, not hollering, but there was definitely a little
excitement in his voice.
By Army SSgt. Mark Burrell|
Task Force Bastogne
American Forces Press Service
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