SABOT rounds rip armor and destroy tanks and tank crews, unless
the crew gets lucky. Some scouts of 3rd Pit., 4th Squadron, 7th
Cavalry Regiment, needed every ounce of luck they could muster
on Feb. 26, when two of the deadly rounds ripped through a Bradley
Fighting Vehicle during the ground war.
As these scouts engaged the Tawaklana Division of the Iraqi
Republican Guard, Bradley 36, commanded by SGT Roland Jones,
was disabled by enemy fire, prompting a rescue mission by the
Bradley team in 31. After the 31 team, led by 2LT Michael J.
Vassalotti, retrieved the crew from 36, an Iraqi tank unloaded
two SABOTs on 31. Both rounds penetrated the Bradley's armor.
But in a stroke of tremendous luck, the rounds did not hit the
scouts inside. A flash burn was the most serious injury.
Recounting the event, Vassalotti started at the beginning.
"Our mission was to execute recon on 3rd Armored Division's
right flank with a one-kilometer sector between 3rd AD and the
2nd ACR," said the 23-year-old 3rd Platoon leader.
"An additional mission was to maintain contact between
them, specifically between 4/34 Armor Centurion on our left.
SGT Jones, my 36 Bradley commander, called in contact with enemy
infantry troops and, right after that, with a BMP.
"SFC Ivery Baker, my platoon sergeant, reported troops
to the front also, so I immediately reported to my commander
that we had sighted one BMP. That quickly became two when the
Bravo section platoon sergeant called in another. Then, Sergeant
Jones called in a third.
"By the time I called in the first, one was in flames
because SGT Baker had given the fire command," Vassalotti
said. He added that before he could finish calling in contact
with the second and third enemy vehicle, all three had been destroyed.
Vassalotti said 36 had gone forward and taken up a firing position.
"We moved up with them on line and continued to engage the
enemy. We moved south, out of the way of 2nd Platoon, which came
through us to start firing and, in the process, we went blank
on ammunition. We had to reload.
"Second Platoon took the heat off us while we pulled
back and around them to the right and began reloading,"
SGT Jones picked up the narrative; "LT 'V' came over
the net and said we had to move south about 800 meters. As we
were shifting, my loader was reloading a TOW missile. When we
took up position, we engaged another BMP and a tank. We were
getting low on ammo, so I told my driver to pivot so we could
reload. I realized we were still up front so we started backing
up. It sounded like we lost a track, so I told him to stop. As
soon as we stopped, we took a round in the transmission. Later,
we found out it was from a 12.7-mm machine gun.
"We lost all power. I called for help and then evacuated
"When 31 arrived, my track took another round. We're
not sure if it was from an RPG round or a SAGGER. My driver took
some shrapnel from that. We got evacuated into 31. On the way
back to the troop trains to get my driver to the medics, we were
engaged by a T-72 tank and took two sabot rounds.
"When the first round hit, I was scared. When the second
one hit, that terrified me. After the first round, I thought
I could keep running, but after the second round, I knew they
had a bead on us. I was waiting for a third round, but it never
came. One of the tracks in 2nd Platoon - Lieutenant King's track,
I believe - took out the tank that was firing at us. That saved
my life and the lives of the other guys in my crew."
SFC Baker, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, said the scouts
stood their ground despite the hairy situation. "Maintaining
contact is what a scout's supposed to do," he said. "With
ground fire, rounds coming in all over, and vehicles getting
hit, we maintained contact with the enemy."
One crew member had plenty to say, as well, about the sparks
of fear generated by the heavy-duty rounds.
"I was scared to death. I could see pretty much what
was going on everywhere; it was scary," said PFC Richard
Legendre, a 21-year-old ammo loader. "I saw two of our three
vehicles that got hit, and I was worried that my buddies weren't
going to make it."
Legendre, though, maintained his footing. He did his job.
"I'm a loader, so I just started breaking ammo apart, knowing
we were going to need it." Finally, he felt the burden of
the battle lifting from his shoulders. "I was relieved to
hear artillery. It was constant bombardment, continuous for minutes
on end. There's no way the Iraqis could have survived that. I
knew it would go this fast."