It was a pleasant September day in 2005. The Praetorians were getting ready for their patrol. This time, we had another squad with us. Out of respect for the squad, I will not reveal their unit or other squad members. Instead, I will refer to them as “Spartan QRF.” QRF stands for Quick Reaction Force. A QRF squad is always on standby and ready to receive orders from the BN CMDR. Their orders could span from repelling an assault to conducting convoy security.
On September 20, 2005, they joined us on patrol outside the wire. We received our mission brief from the BN CMDR. We mounted, conducted a weapons check, and went outside the wire.
We decided to go in different directions so we could cover more ground. At some point, we reversed direction. We were supposed to go left, and Spartan QRF went right. At the last second, we went right, and they went left.
A few minutes later, we hear a frantic call for help, and a MEDEVAC gets called in. Spartan QRF struck an IED. We race to get to them.
I remember getting there and seeing the chaos. Soldiers ran around frantically, trying to get their comrades out of the gun trucks.
Spartan QRF Gun truck after being struck by an IED
I was tasked with ensuring the BN CMDR had communication with air support and the Battalion Tactical Operations Center (TOC). My body just went into automatic mode. A famous saying among warriors states: “Your training takes over when under duress.” If you take your training seriously, you will rise to the occasion. If you don’t take your training seriously, then you will fail. At this moment, I thank God I took my training seriously.
Once the radios were set, I stepped out of the BN CMDR gun truck and went to the blast site. The smell of death and screams of pain, anger, and rage filled the air.
The MEDEVAC Blackhawk landed, and we evacuated the killed and wounded soldiers.
After the dust settled and the wounded were evacuated. We all sat for a moment. I remember seeing my BN CMDR seated on a mound talking with air support. We had an Apache gunship provide us cover while we assessed the scene.
The Praetorians started collecting the body parts of the soldier who was killed. I found a large piece of the soldier about 100 meters from the blast site. One of my squad mates started dry heaving when I picked up the large piece. I told him to walk away. We placed his body parts in a cooler in the BN CMDRs truck.
Soldier’s body parts next to me
We went to the blast location and saw the chaos again. The remaining units were ordered to continue the mission and hit the objective of capturing the HVTs.
A medic was working on a soldier who was critically wounded. I will never forget the sounds he made while gasping for air.
MEDEVAC landed and took the wounded soldier.
The mission was accomplished, but with the cost of a soldier who died at the hospital table.
Again, like before, memorials were held, the crisis unit came, and then we were back at running missions.
One question lingered in me, why did I survive? The two soldiers who died before my eyes had a family, had young children. So again, I asked: “Why did I survive?”
It is a question that remains with me to this day. I even learned what it was called. It’s called “Survivor’s Guilt.”
I volunteered in the Massachusetts Army National Guard Honor Guard when I came home. I owed it to the veterans who paid that ultimate sacrifice to honor them.
The MA National Guard Honor Guard. I am up front and on the right
It was a difficult mission but an honorable one. We were so careful and so methodical in how we conducted ourselves. We honored not only the soldier but also the family.
One of the most challenging parts was when it came to the folding of the flag. There is silence. You can hear the quiet cries of the family as I fold every section of the flag. My memories flooded with those we lost while I was there. My question came back again, why did I survive? What purpose am I still here for?
A lot of combat veterans suffer from survivor’s guilt. So many personal friends share stories of how they missed something or didn’t report something, and soldiers died. It’s a guilt that haunts us more than anything else. The demon stays on our shoulders and reminds us of our survival. Even to this day, I wonder why I survived and others didn’t.
Ayman Kafel is the founder and owner of Hybrid Wolf Blue Line Strategies, LLC. A veteran-owned training and consulting company for Law Enforcement officers and agencies. He combines his military and law enforcement experience to bring much-needed cutting-edge training to the law enforcement profession.
Ayman is not only an active police officer but also a law enforcement instructor and has taught across the East Coast of the United States. He offers a wide variety of training, such as advanced patrol tactics, mechanical breaching courses, designated marksman, and Human Performance under duress.
In addition, Ayman is an Army Combat Veteran who was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. He became a police officer in 2007 after 8 years of service in the Army
Ayman has seen the ugliness of war and evil in the world. He survived two civil wars prior to immigrating to the United States in the late eighties.
His current position is the commander of his department’s Problem-Oriented Policing Unit. He leads a team of investigators that employs unconventional methods and Special Forces philosophy in achieving specific objectives in the communities he serves. These unconventional methods range from winning hearts and minds to specific strategic law enforcement actions to arrest and prosecute those who are the root cause of various crimes.
To reach Ayman, feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.