A Special Forces Veteran Remembers: “I Thought I Was Going to Die” (Part II)
by Kevin Flike
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four-part series from Special Forces veteran Kevin Flike. These posts originally appeared in the blog Wounded by War and are presented here with the permission of the original author. You can read Part I here.
I tried to lighten the mood at my support by fire (SBF) position by showing the Commandos a picture of my wife and me atop the Space Needle in Seattle, WA. The picture was creased and dirty because I kept it folded in the grenade pouch attached to my body armor. I low-crawled to each Commando machine gun to show them the picture.
Both Commandos pointed to my wife’s auburn hair and gave me a thumbs up while mumbling something. The shit-eating grin on their faces told me all that I needed to know.
As the temperature decreased, the Taliban onslaught increased. Rockets, mortars and RPGs accompanied the small arms fire. About an hour and half before our designated pick up time, the remaining assault force moved from the village to our designated pick up zone. After the assault force was in place, my team sergeant came over the radio and asked if I would be able to break contact back to the designated pick up site. I replied, “We’ll see.” Even though the conditions were terrible, the Commandos were particularly lethargic. I told the interpreter, “Get the fucking Commandos moving and by the way what the fuck is their problem today?” (for some reason I did not think that 130 degree heat, no water and 10 hours of fighting qualified as a reason for lethargic behavior). He replied “I am trying man, but they are being assholes today” I said, “It’s a great fucking day to be an asshole.”
Eventually, we came up with a plan and I asked the Commandos if they were good, they simply replied “Commando, no problem.” I ran around the mound of dirt while the two Afghan machine gunners provided covering fire for me. Once I was behind the mound, I let them know that I was set and crawled up the mound. Once in place I provided covering fire for one of the machine gunners to move to cover. When he was safe, I crawled down the mound and up the other side and repeated the process. We caught our breath and moved back to the pick up zone via a foot wide goat trail. One slip of the foot and we would have been in for a world of hurt. Bullets whizzed overhead every thirty seconds, adding even more stress to our movement.
There was no time to rest when we reached our destination because the intensity of the enemy attack continued to grow. Johnny Mac came down from the casualty collection point to help out. We set up machine gun positions on the ridgelines to protect the rest of our element. RPGs began to explode overhead while rockets and mortars landed close by. Our machine gun positions had rounds impacting all around them. While I was in the process of moving from one machine gun position to another, Johnny started screaming my name. I thought that he or one of the Commandos was wounded, it was worse; Johnny was out of Copenhagen.
Addiction does not end for a ten-hour firefight, so before moving to the head machine-gun position I ran to Johnny and gave him a can of Copenhagen. The lead Afghan Commando machine gun was firing erratically, so I took over his machine gun and started to lay down accurate fire. One of the members of the incoming team and some of the Afghan Commandos began to launch mortars. At this point, a member of the incoming team said, “Our landing zone is in reach of rockets and mortars, we need to find a new one.”
We broke down our machine gun positions and moved back to the main element. We dropped off some of the guys, informed the command that we were going to survey a new landing zone and took off. We decided upon a new site and relayed the coordinates to the command. We stayed at the site and pulled security until everyone moved to the new site. By this point, people were exhausted and on the verge of collapsing. However, the enemy was not done with us for the day and I learned a valuable lesson: it aint over until it’s over. Taliban members moved up the mountain and re-occupied our old fighting positions. As the helicopters were only a few minutes out, enemy forces opened up on us again.