U.S. Army / Silver Star
Dazed by a bomb blast, medic treated and moved comrades with a Taliban force nearby
Editor’s Note: The following tells the story of two soldiers – Spc. Gregory Waters and Sgt 1st Class Randy Shorter – who were decorated for heroism in the same ambush.
The impact from the bomb sent Spc. Gregory Waters bouncing around the armored vehicle like a rattle, knocking off his Kevlar helmet and leaving him and two others unconscious. Their sergeant’s nose and one arm were broken.
Their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle had been leading three others in a convoy from the 506th Infantry Regiment on July 30, 2008. They had stopped about 15 kilometers from their base near Ghazni, a Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, on their way home from an uneventful overnight patrol of a supply bridge.
Now, after being rocked by improvised explosive devices, more than two dozen Taliban fighters opened fire with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades from about 900 meters away.
Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shorter was riding in the last MRAP when he noticed that all the fire was focused on the lead vehicle.
“Their primary focus was just trying to kill everyone around that MRAP,” Shorter said of the insurgents.
He grabbed an AT4 rocket launcher – a shoulder-fired device with barely enough range to reach the attackers – and fired it to buy some time. Remaining soldiers in the convoy jumped from their vehicles to return fire with their .50-caliber machine guns and M4 rifles.
Shorter then ran toward the lead vehicle, hoping someone was still alive inside it.
Waters had begun to regain consciousness. When he opened his eyes, he saw Pfc. Frank Whorton pinned to the floor by an 84-pound, .50-caliber machine gun. But Whorton and Spc. Paul Wind were still alive. Waters could hear their sergeant, Porter Charles, screaming in pain and tried to grab a radio to tell others that he and the crew were still alive.
But the radios were dead.
Under heavy fire, Shorter reached the lead vehicle and opened the rear door. Waters was first out, stumbling to a spot 50 meters on the opposite side of the road from the Taliban attackers.
Shorter grabbed Whorton and carried him on his shoulders away from the vehicle. When Shorter went back for Charles and Wind, Waters was on his feet and ready to help. He removed Wind from the vehicle and out of the line of fire.
“There really wasn’t much cover,” Waters said. “We were trying to hide behind the damaged vehicle and use that for cover.”
Once clear, Waters was left to treat the other three. Meanwhile, Shorter called in an air strike.
Two A10 Thunderbolts were five minutes away, however, and the convoy’s ammunition was dwindling.
“One of the .50-caliber machine guns overheated due to the large volume of fire that we had to put on the enemy, just to keep them at bay,” Shorter recalled. And two M240 machine guns were out of ammo.
As the A10s approached, the ground moved — and so did the Taliban attackers, bounding forward, knowing the pilots would be reluctant to fire near the American line.
They didn’t move quickly enough.
Shorter sent a smoke grenade toward the Taliban line, showing the pilots where to fire. The pilots circled, unsure of the exact location and firing several smoke rounds of their own. Finally, over the radio, Shorter and the pilots calibrated the exact target.
The A10s unloaded, firing about 10 missiles at the Taliban position.
Forty-five minutes after the roadside bomb detonated, the first Medevac helicopter arrived and loaded Charles, Whorton and Wind. Waters stayed behind, not wanting to leave the unit without a medic as the gunfire continued.
Finally, the A10s finished off the remaining Taliban.
An estimated 30 insurgents had been killed. And except for the four Americans injured in the lead vehicle, no other U.S. soldiers were injured in the attack.
Waters is unable to offer specifics about his treatment or recovery, unaware even of the number of stitches in his head: “I think we glued it back together. To be honest with you, sir, the following week and a half after that is really kind of a blur.”
Clearheaded or not, he was back on duty just a couple of days later.
Thomas L. Day is a military reporter for the (Macon, Ga.) Telegraph. As a member of the 101st Airborne Division in 2003-2004, he served in Kuwait and Mosul on the public affairs staff of Maj. Gen. David Petraeus. He is the author of
U.S. Army / Silver Star
Born Jan. 22, 1984, in Canton, Ohio, but grew up in Indianapolis, which he considers his home.
Briefly attended Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) while serving in the Army Reserve.
Both parents served in the Air Force, and his sister is an Army sergeant deployed to Iraq.
WHAT HE DID
Although wounded himself, he helped rescue and treat injured comrades when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb and then came under heavy fire.
WHERE HE IS NOW
He remains a specialist with the 101st Airborne Division's 1-506th Infantry Regiment at Fort Campbell.
WHY HE JOINED THE ARMY
“At the time, for college.”
Afghanistan / Gahzni Province - East