Soldier Retells Battles In Watapur
(February 26, 2011)
|NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (2/24/2011) – Three knocks at my office door indicated he arrived. He entered the room as if most of the world was lifted from his shoulders. He told me he had just come from another visit at the combat stress clinic.|
U.S. Army Sgt. Kevin Garrison, a squad leader assigned to 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, tells his story Feb. 4, 2011 about his experiences in eastern Afghanistan's Pech River Valley. Garrison, a St. Louis native, has become an advocate of the combat stress program designed to help soldiers overcome the anxieties of deployment.
|He sat down and explained he was ready to tell his story and tell why he encourages soldiers seek help. He relaxed, settled back in his chair and said, “My name is Sgt. Kevin Garrison, and this is my story of 3rd Platoon, Company D, in Afghanistan.”|
Garrison recalled a late fall morning in the Watapur Valley. His team was tasked to over watch another unit during an operation known as Bulldog Bite.
He reminisced walking through the steep, rugged mountain terrain as the morning sun rose with the sound of their steps deep into the valley. I listened silently and watched as Garrison's eyes shift to the table before us, his right hand moved as if pinching the grip of his rifle. He was in his world now.
“We air assaulted in about two (kilometers) west of a village called Sangar,” said Garrison. “Company A's 1st Platoon was
|going into Sangar, and we were setting up to over watch them.”|
|Garrison's team arrived at their temporary camp. There, they waited till the sun came up and soon spotted an enemy scout on the Watapur horizon.|
“The scout disappeared,” said Garrison. “I mean there were trails everywhere. “This was in the heart of Taliban country. There was nobody up there that wasn't Taliban. The women and children left, and all that was left were Taliban fighters.”
Around 10:30 a.m., Garrison heard an explosion and quickly moved to the east to observe. It was too late. His team had already been surrounded.
“(The enemy) had low crawled up, and they were bounding up onto our position trying to overrun us,” Garrison said shaking his head slightly. “To the east there was a big drop off so we couldn't move to the east. To the south, we couldn't get down, there was nothing but terraces, high terraces. To the west, we were surrounded, and to the north, we were surrounded.”
As he continued, Garrison's demeanor became uneasy.
“There were enemy fighters down to the east in the trees shooting at us,” he continued. “We were taking fire from at least three of our four directions, and there was no place we could go. We couldn't move—if you moved, you got hit.”
Company D fought back, but the enemy increased their resistance.
Garrison remembered rocket-propelled grenades coming in from their west and bullets flying in every direction.
He ceased his hand movement. I watched as bitterness filled his eyes. I wasn't prepared for what he was going to say next.
“Spc. (Shannon] ‘Doc' Chihuahua, he was hit by an RPG,” said Garrison. “It blew him in half. It was him and four other ANA. One of them was blown up so bad that we didn't even realize he was there until we found extra hands. We continued taking fire. My best friend was wounded. My lieutenant was wounded. Our (radio operator) had been shot in the head, but he was still talking on the radio, doing a hell of a job.”
Garrison was also among the wounded.
“We've had concussions,” Garrison said, referring to himself and a fellow noncommissioned officer. “(The doctor) medevaced (me) and the other sergeant off the mountain that night. We went from 22 (platoon members) to 16, then from 16 to nine, and from nine to seven in a matter of the first 24 hours of the mission.”
Garrison grew silent, shifted his weight then shook his head.
I've had a few concussions, and I have some issues such as headaches, dizziness, forgetfulness and sometimes I stutter real bad,” he said. “I still shouldn't have let them take me off that mountain.”
He said the soldiers remaining continued the fight for the next four days of the five-day operation.
By mission's end, Garrison explained his unit estimated more than 200 insurgent fighters were killed.
“What they did up there was nothing short of miraculous,” said Garrison. “They were nothing short of amazing. The men that stayed up there that day deserve every award they've got, and they've earned their right to pick their place in society. Nobody will ever be able to take away from them what they did.”
With his wounds healed, Garrison said he was sent back into the Watapur Valley, Jan. 1. He recalled having bullets whizzing by so close to his head he could feel the breeze during his battles there.
I sat back in my chair. Nothing I could say would bring comfort to his nightmares. Garrison turns to me as if sensing my uneasiness.
“If you'd asked me a couple weeks ago to tell this story, I'd be bawling right now,” Garrison humbly admitted. “But (several) weeks ago, I went in and saw (the combat stress team), and I bawled my eyes out there. Yeah, hard (explicit) infantrymen — we do cry, we lose brothers, and we come closer to death than a lot of other people ever will. I bawled my eyes out to the combat stress officer, and it's good to get it out. Ever since I got it out, I've felt better. I've been able to operate better, function better.”
Garrison explained this is his second tour and has become quite an advocate for the combat stress clinic on Forward Operating Base Fenty. He stops by every time he visits the FOB.
“After nine months of hard combat, 10 months, whatever it's been now, you need to talk and let it out,” he said. “Soldiers need to be aware of that and then take advantage. It's really a beneficial program. They can offer you further assistance when you get back home.”
While deployed, there are classes for communications, anger management, and combat stress management. Garrison said he recommends them to any soldier.
“I'm getting the help I need so I don't take this out on my wife and my kids,” he said. “So I don't bring this war home with me. What I've done here, what my soldiers have done here — we'll never forget it. And we are right not to.”
|Article and photo by Army Spc. Richard Daniels Jr.|
Combined Joint Task Force 101
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