U.S. Army / Silver Star
Wounded and surrounded by the Taliban, he stormed the enemy and drove them away
Except for the intelligence report that an improvised explosive device had been planted in the area, Nov. 16, 2007 appeared to be a normal day for the road-clearing platoon of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade in eastern Afghanistan.
The platoon’s job was to find the IED as it set off down the Korengal Road. About an hour out, between the villages of Kandegal and Omar in Konar province, a detonation rocked the vehicle-mounted mine detector that had been leading the way.
Staff Sgt. Lincoln Dockery and other dismounted troops nearby were knocked down and dazed as more than 30 insurgents opened up from above with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and small arms.
Despite the heavy fire, Dockery was determined to get the driver out of the vehicle. He climbed up its side tire and beat repeatedly on the window until Pfc. Amador Magana, the driver, regained consciousness.
Unhurt, Magana gave him a thumbs-up sign, stood up and started firing his automatic weapon. Dockery decided it was time to storm the enemy position about 75 feet above.
“It had to be done,” Dockery recalled, noting that the remaining vehicles in the convoy were sitting ducks. “I guess all the training kicked in. I knew what had to be done without really thinking about it.”
He and Spc. Corey Taylor rushed forward, then started inching upward on their bellies, throwing grenades and firing frequent rifle bursts. Three groups of insurgents — two on the mountain and one across the valley — saw them and lobbed grenades. Shrapnel hit Dockery in the right forearm, but he decided his injury wasn’t major and pushed ahead.
He and Taylor fought their way up the mountainside and took cover at the base of a rock incline. Taliban fighters, lodged not far above them and firing down, were so close that Dockery could hear them talking.
Dockery finally managed to get his platoon leader, 1st Lt. William Cromie, on the radio and ask for help. Cromie, fighting off the attack from below with the rest of the unit, couldn’t see where Dockery and Taylor were or determine when other troops could reach them.
Minutes went by. The two soldiers were running out of ammunition, and the enemy knew where they were. What if the Taliban rushed them?
Cromie decided to go up the mountain himself, carrying extra ammunition, and trio began pushing the fighters back from the rock.
Finally, he hurled their last grenade into the compound, and Dockery and Taylor rushed toward it. Dockery, now out of M-14 ammunition, relied on his pistol for the rest of the fight as the insurgents retreated.
Cromie ran back down the mountain, returning with six soldiers, and the team made a room-by-room search of the building. There were no bodies in the compound, but Dockery is certain that the enemy suffered several casualties, judging by “the amount of blood that we saw.”
They also found the wire and parts used to make the IED.
Cromie, who also received a Silver Star, said in interviews that he didn’t want to think about what would have happened had Dockery not been present.
While every military school teaches the bold tactics Dockery took to repel the attackers, Cromie noted, “If asked to charge into an enemy, uphill and within hand-grenade range, most people know ‘yes’ only as a book answer.”
Peter Slavin, a freelance writer based outside Washington. D.C., did a tour in Army intelligence in Vietnam and is a former features writer for the Army, Navy and Air Force Times.
U.S. Army / Silver Star
Born May 13, 1983, in Runnemede, N.J., now lives in Bamberg, Germany.
Wife, Dominika; children, Lincoln, 5, and Pria, 2.
Joined the Army in August 2001, deployed to Afghanistan in May 2007. Also has served tours of duty in Kosovo and Iraq.
WHAT HE DID
Led another soldier up a rock incline and stormed the position of enemy fighters who had attacked his road-clearing patrol.
WHERE HE IS NOW
In Germany, with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
WHY HE JOINED THE ARMY
“I joined because both my brothers are older than me and they both went to college. They were still living at home, and I just didn't want to be like them. So at the time the only way to get out of the house was to join the Army. … I just didn't want to be at home no more.”
Afghanistan / Kunar Province