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Military

By Army SSgt. Whitney Hughes

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Soldier Displays Courage Under Fire
(October 21, 2010)

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Oct. 6, 2010 - U.S. Army Pfc. Phil Mexcur, a fire support specialist, with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Infantry (Mountain) Regiment from Concord, N.H., holds his vector binoculars that were hit by sniper rounds before being stopped by his side plate. Immediately after realizing he wasn’t injured, he performed a casualty assessment of his platoon sergeant, gave the distance and direction of the sniper fire and directed close-air support, all within two minutes of being shot. Photo by Army SSgt. Whitney Hughes
Oct. 6, 2010 - U.S. Army Pfc. Phil Mexcur, a fire support specialist, with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Infantry (Mountain) Regiment from Concord, N.H., holds his vector binoculars that were hit by sniper rounds before being stopped by his side plate. Immediately after realizing he wasn't injured, he performed a casualty assessment of his platoon sergeant, gave the distance and direction of the sniper fire and directed close-air support, all within two minutes of being shot. Photo by Army SSgt. Whitney Hughes
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - "It kind of felt like Chuck Norris kicked me in the side," is how Pfc. Phillip Mexcur describes what it feels like to get shot. But that is the extent of the theatrics Mexcur will offer in his narration of the day he was hit by two rounds of sniper fire - a story he tells in such a subtle tone his voice barely reaches above a whisper, as if he were telling a bed-time story rather than a near-death experience.

For most soldiers this would be the end of the story, but not for the 22-year-old Fire Support Specialist from Concord, N.H., with 1st Platoon Charlie Company 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Infantry (Mountain) Regiment.

During a routine patrol near the village of Yazeen on Sept. 25, which happened to be the two-year anniversary of his graduation from basic training, he was hit with two rounds of sniper fire, which were stopped by the side plate of his body armor.

Immediately after realizing he wasn't injured, he performed
a casualty assessment of his platoon sergeant, gave the distance and direction of the sniper fire and directed Close Air Support - all within two minutes of being shot.
"I wasn't hurt, so there was no point in not doing my job. Even if I was bleeding out, I'd still want to do my job," said Mexcur.

After the second shot he dropped to the ground and his squad leader Staff Sgt. Robert Smith, of North Haverville, N.H., checked him out.

After Smith determined he was ok, Mexcur's first concern was his platoon sergeant, Sfc. Mike Keirnan, of Merrimack, N.H., who was hit by the sniper fire in the foot.

Then Mexcur's training as a Fire Support Specialist kicked in and he got on the radio.

"He instantly got on the radio and started calling in CAS [Close Air Support], that's when the F-16 came out of nowhere," said Sgt. Dustin Rogers, Mexcur's Team Leader from Peterburough, N.H. "That's the type of guy he is, he's way more mature than his rank. He is really into his job."

Mexcur wanted to call in a medical evacuation helicopter for Keirnan, but Keirnan wouldn't allow it.

"He did not want to give the enemy the satisfaction of knowing they wounded one of us," said Mexcur.

So instead, Rogers went to a local villager and bought a wheelbarrow from him for $10 and used that to get Keirnan back to their trucks.

Despite his being in severe pain Keirnan was still able to calm his soldiers and bring levity to the situation.

"He said one of the funniest things I've ever heard, he said 'I do not like this. This is not fun at all. This is not how Hollywood said it would be. This really sucks,'" said Mexcur.

Keirnan was still able to give some direction to his soldiers.

However, Mexcur saw he needed help and, the Pfc. with just two years in the Army stepped in to help his platoon sergeant.

"Thirty percent [of the orders] were coming out of his mouth.

For the rest I just knew what needed to get done," said Mexcur. For Mexcur, it was not a big deal.

"I have a different way of looking at things. I respect the rank, but I didn't do anything that a person my age, with my experience, shouldn't have. I guess it is just the way our parents raised us," said Mexcur mentioning who brother who is also in Charlie Company and, coincidentally, was also saved by his body armor which stopped shrapnel from hitting him.

Some of the other soldiers say that the Mexcurs are blessed with the luck of the Irish, Phil even wears a celtic cross that he found in his Kevlar band.

"I kept it in my pocket until that day, that when I put it in my Kevlar band... and then I got shot," says Mexcur as matter-of-factly as if he were telling you his favorite color.

Despite any luck that may have been involved on Sept. 25, it is this even keeled nature and uncanny maturity that gave him the ability to rise to the occasion and perform above well above his rank. These qualities combined with his intense commitment to his job his fellow soldiers are what make Mexcur's future in the Army a bright one said Rogers.

"He really is a professional, one of the guys that gets stuff done. He's one of the few guys you can really rely on," said Rogers.

By Army SSgt. Whitney Hughes
Combined Joint Task Force 101
Copyright 2010

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