Staff Sergeant Adams interdicted three Anti-Iraqi Forces, and his efforts resulted in the confiscation of numerous small arms and explosive ordinance...
"THE YOUNG OUTDOORSMAN"
It was fortunate for John Adams that Hillsboro, Illinois, had a lot of wide-open spaces. The woods and fields outside of town became his boyhood playground. Fishing, hunting, camping and playing with his friends kept him busy throughout the year, and the many nearby lakes provided cool fun in the summer.
So it was somewhat surprising that John wasn't more upset when his parents decided to move to Florida before he started high school. Sure, he was sad to leave his friends behind in Hillsboro, but he also was filled with positive anticipation. I've never minded change, and I was always looking for some new adventure, some new excitement.
A TWIST OF FATE
John Adams attended Milton High School, near Pensacola. He quickly became a Florida State Seminoles fan and was determined to study Forestry there. But he was disappointed when the scholarships he had hoped for were not offered. Not wanting to assume a huge student loan debt, Adams considered the military. He could go to college and have a career. And there was always the aspect of adventure. Between his uncle Dennis, a Navy Recruiter who often talked to his nephew about his experiences, and the nearby Pensacola Naval Air Station, Adams was well versed in the opportunities of the Navy. But the Navy didn't seem like the appropriate fit. As a high school senior in 1994, Adams decided to join the Marines. He set up a meeting with a Marine Corps Recruiter. But on the day of his scheduled appointment, Adams waited alone outside the Marine Corps recruiting office. The Recruiter was a no-show.
As fate would have it, an Army recruiting off was next door to the Marine Corps recruiting center. An Army Recruiter watched the eager young Adams pacing outside. He then approached Adams and gave him his card. The Recruiter never pressured him. He told Adams to go and do some research on the Army and come back if he had any questions. In the Army, there are two people you will always remember: one is your Recruiter and the other is your Drill Sergeant.
A week later, Adams was sitting in the Army Recruiter's office. Not yet 18 years old, he would have to get his parents' written consent to join the Army as part of the Delayed Entry Program. After taking the assessment tests, the Recruiter spoke to Adams at length about the different opportunities available to him in the Army. At one point he looked at the wide-eyed young Recruit and asked, "Would you like to carry your weapon into battle or would you like your weapon to carry you?" That's when Adams knew he wanted to be part of an Armored Division, with the potential to someday command his own tank.
THE FIRST STEP IN SERVICE
Adams was sent to Basic Combat Training (BCT) at Fort Knox, Kentucky. BCT was the toughest thing he had ever done, but he welcomed the physical and mental challenge. It wasn't long before he began training on an M1 Abrams Tank. He learned how to drive it, how to load the massive gun rounds and how to shoot. He would spend most of the next decade atop or inside one of these $3.5 million technological marvels.
"I'LL SEE THE WORLD"
Adams was sent to Schweinfurt, Germany, to join the 2nd Battalion of the 64th Armor Regiment in the 3rd Infantry Division. He loved the adventure of being overseas and training with his unit. On his time off he explored the German countryside. The next few years would take him back to the States for intensive tank training in Colorado, and to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he studied leadership and learned the value of teamwork. Proud of his gunnery skills, Adams and his tank crew registered several perfect scores during field training exercises. To Adams, there was nothing more exhilarating than firing the 120mm cannon from a 68-ton vehicle while it barreled over the range at 30 mph. It was an overwhelming feeling to achieve several perfect scores with zero discrepancies. We were good!
TRAINED FOR PEACE, BUT READY FOR WAR
John Adams met his wife, Jodi, at a wedding in her Indiana hometown. John and Jodi married on July 15, 2000, and, shortly thereafter, Adams received orders to depart Fort Knox for Camp Casey, South Korea. He took his new bride with him on this next adventure. It was Jodi's first time on an airplane, but it certainly would not be her last. John trained in armor tactics in the rugged terrain of the Korean Peninsula, and then was selected to attend the Basic Noncommissioned Officers' Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky. While in Kentucky, the Adams' welcomed their beautiful daughter, Emma to the Army family.
Upon graduation, SSG Adams received orders to Vilseck, Germany. He settled his family into the lovely German countryside and joined his unit in Kosovo for a two-month deployment as part of a NATO peacekeeping mission. After returning from the Balkans, John received word his unit was deploying to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They immediately began preparations. It was hard to leave his family, but Adams knew the mission was important and his team was well-equipped and well-prepared. It was Valentine's Day, 2004. That's when I said goodbye to my girls. It was a tough day for all of us.
THEY LEAVE THE TANKS ALONE
In Iraq, Staff Sergeant Adams commanded his own tank. Adams' unit immediately began conducting wartime operations that included convoy escorts, search missions, main supply route overwatch and quick reaction force missions. There was always action and excitement, but as a Commander of an M1 Abrams, Adams sometimes saw it differently. We would move into battle and oftentimes just sit there. Something happens to the enemy when they see the Abrams roll in. They just leave the tanks alone and run.
At other times, Adams conducted operations outside the formidable M1. His unit often conducted missions at night, patrolling supply routes in HMMWVs in an attempt to keep them clear of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and ambush points.
THE BURIED KILLER
Throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, insurgents bury IEDs on roadways and supply routes in an attempt to disrupt Coalition transportation and mobility. IEDs are the single greatest cause of casualties to Coalition forces.
IEDs can be made out of anything. A soda can, a water container, even a shoebox can be used to create explosives. Often the insurgent bomb makers used smuggled or stolen artillery ordinance. It's simple: bury the bomb in the road or near it (usually under the cover of darkness), attach a triggering device such as an alarm clock, and wait. The bombs can be detonated remotely with a cell phone. Staff Sergeant Adams and his men were constantly on the lookout for these deadly devices.
IT LOOKED LIKE HE WAS CHANGING A TIRE
On the night of October 13, 2004, Staff Sergeant Adams was in the rear HMMWV of a four-vehicle patrol on Alternate Supply Route (ASR) Bismark, a well-traveled highway near the village of Salman Pak, 30 miles south of Baghdad. It was a moonless night with only a few lights in the distant village. It had been a quiet, routine evening. As the patrol was heading back to base, Adams received a radio transmission from his Platoon Leader in the lead HMMWV, alerting him to a civilian vehicle parked on the side of the road with an individual crouched near the rear of the vehicle. "Looks like he's got a flat tire or something," said the Platoon Leader. "Check him out." Up ahead, now visible in the headlights of Adams' HMMWV, was the vehicle. I could see the guy on the passenger side of the vehicle. He was crouched or kneeling and wearing a white dishdasha, the traditional ankle-length robe. It looked like he was changing a tire.
Adams ordered his driver to stop about 30 meters behind the vehicle. As the HMMWV rolled to a stop, Staff Sergeant Adams jumped out, his M9 Pistol drawn.
ENGAGING WITH THE ENEMY
As a Tank Commander, Adams always carried a sidearm. Shortly after he arrived in Iraq he had put an attachment on the grip of his pistol that shone a red laser beam on the target when the grip was squeezed. In the course of combat operations he had used the laser grip a number of times. It was a successful non-lethal way of "getting people's attention." Adams recalls, "When they saw the red spot on them, or on someone near them, they would usually freeze." As Adams hit the ground running, he expected that the red laser beam would unnerve the man changing the tire. Adams would then do a quick check of the car and the patrol would be on its way.
"Do not move!" he yelled, as the man squinted into the headlights, and the red spot flickered on his head. That's when Staff Sergeant Adams saw muzzle flashes. Rounds whizzed and snapped past him. He realized he was running directly into automatic weapons fire. Two figures had popped up from the front of the vehicle with their weapons blazing. The crouching man jumped up just as Adams began squeezing off rounds from his M9 Pistol. Backing toward the cover of his vehicle, Adams emptied the pistol's magazine. The man by the car fell where he had been kneeling.
Bullets pinged off the HMMWV as Adams retrieved his M4 Rifle and began returning fire. Two insurgents, firing on the run, fled into the shadows of the adjacent field. Adams' driver dismounted and engaged the insurgents. Adams radioed his Platoon Leader just as a bullet penetrated the window a few inches from Adams' head. "Exchanging fire with enemy. One AIF [Anti-Iraqi Force] down!" It happened so fast. I honestly don't know how we didn't get hit at such close range."
Adams slowly approached the downed insurgent, his M4 Rifle at the ready. What he discovered next was a sobering reminder of the enemy's lethal capabilities.
Within moments the rest of the patrol returned and began suppressing enemy in the field. A cease fire was given and Adams led an eight-man patrol to search for the two enemy insurgents. After returning, Adams' men began a search of the fallen enemy, the vehicle, and the surrounding area.
The headlights from the three other vehicles in the patrol illuminated what had previously been in the shadows. Next to the car was a shovel. The vehicle's tires were fine. Adams had interrupted the emplacement of an IED. In a shallow hole lay two 130mm artillery rounds. Small wires led to a digital clock next to the bomb. But Adams noticed another set of wires attached to the clock disappearing under the soil in the direction of his HMMWV. He carefully retraced his steps and made a disturbing discovery. About 15 meters apart were two additional, freshly covered IEDs-a potentially devastating "daisy chain" of six high explosives. Adams had probably run right over the mounds when he exited the vehicle. It was clear that the insurgents were moments away from covering up the last of the massive bombs and disappearing into the night.
Staff Sergeant Adams' actions prevented the Anti-Iraqi Forces from placing a complex-and potentially devastating-remote controlled chain of IEDs. Hidden in the shallow holes were one 155mm artillery round and two 130mm artillery rounds. Also recovered from the vehicle: an AK-47 with 10 full magazines, a PKC machine gun with two hundred rounds and seven hand grenades. Adams' personal courage and calm under fire had prevented catastrophic loss. For his heroic actions, Staff Sergeant Adams was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor.
Staff Sergeant Adams relishes his experience in the U.S. Army. "It has given me everything: excitement, a chance to see the world and a good life for my family." Back home in the United States, Adams and his family have found their way back to his Midwestern roots. Adams realizes that after combat in Iraq, his Army career has come full circle. Having had his weapon carry him into battle, this Bronze Star recipient is now an Army Recruiter. Like the earnest Recruiter who approached him on that fateful day in 1993, Adams provides young men and women in Indiana the same straightforward and honest explanation of the benefits to an Army career.
This is by far the toughest but most satisfying time of my career in the Army. I'm challenged every day as a Recruiter to provide the strength and character that our Army needs. The Army has given me so much. This is my time to give back.
Photo, video, and information courtesy of US Army / Dept. of Defense