From Armor Magazine, May-June, 1991 Armor Index      NEXT

Two Scouts Under Fire Helped
Injured Buddies During Night Battle
Capt. Michael Gollaher, 3AD PAO


As night closed in on February 26, a rugged battle awaited a group of scouts from the 4th Battalion, 32nd Armor.

First Lieutenant James Barker's Bradley, HQ-21, moved into position on a screen line to the north front of the battalion. Joining HQ-21 were HQ-24 and HQ-26, commanded by SSG Christopher Stephens. To their right rear flank were elements of Task Force 5-5 Cav scouts. The night was overcast and pitch black.

The 4-32 scout platoon had been in position about five minutes when a T-72 came into view on a nearby berm. With his night vision goggles, 1LT Barker could see the Iraqi tank and some dismounted infantrymen as they headed toward Stephens' track. The tank was part of the Republican Guards' Tawaklana Division, and the Bradleys were no match for its 125-mm main gun.

Stephens spotted the tank, reported it, and fired two TOW missiles. The first missed, but the second knocked off one of the T-72's roadwheels. The gunners on HQ-21 and HQ-24 then opened fire on the dismounts with their 25-mm, and Barker fired a TOW, which streaked toward the target and popped the turret off in an explosive fireball. The sky lit up as secondary explosions began to engulf the doomed T-72.

What happened next isn't exactly clear. Platoon Sergeant Dennis McMasters, in HQ-21, said he saw Stephens' track taking fire from an unseen position. The incoming rounds caused some of the Bradley's ammunition to cook off. DeMasters tried to raise Stephens on the radio, but no one answered.

PFC Frank "Ranger Bob" Bradish was in the open hatch of HQ-26, reloading TOWs, when the track took incoming rounds. The blasts severely injured Bradish's right hand, Stephens suffered shrapnel wounds of his head and legs, and PFC Adrian Stokes, Bradish's fellow observer on the track, suffered severe abdominal and groin injuries, but was still alive. SGT Donald Goodwin was struck in the chest, but was conscious. PFC John McClure was the only member of the crew who did not have life-threatening wounds.

McClure and Bradish kept their heads, as if they were seasoned combat veterans. Bradish reported, saying he was OK, but Stokes was "hurt bad." He tried to pull Stokes from the vehicle. Goodwin was able to climb out of the disabled track. McClure assessed the situation, pulled some flares from the ammo box in the turret, and secured the radio. He passed these to Bradish, who also grabbed his M-16 with grenade launcher, and prepared to defend his friends.

While McClure tended to the wounded, Bradish called the lieutenant's track, reporting they were hit and needed a medic. He cursed at the flares because he couldn't open them with his injured hand. He managed to open them with his teeth instead, then sent them up to mark their position. Bradish then told McClure that he was worried about his own hand wound, but urged him to continue treating Stokes and Goodwin. As McClure treated his friends, Bradish heard enemy forces approaching.

Meanwhile, 1LT Barker radioed battalion to send some tanks and an ambulance track to their location. He saw an enemy infantry squad heading directly toward Bradish and McClure, so he called in mortars on their position and watched as the rounds dispersed the attacking enemy dismounts. He then headed for the stricken Bradley, where he linked up with Bradish.

Within 20 minutes, SFC Craig Kendall's Ml platoon from Charlie Company arrived with two ambulance tracks. SGT Sergio Nino, a HQ Company medic, assessed the casualties. He went first to Stephens. "Is he gone?" asked DeMasters.

"I'm afraid so," SGT Nino replied.

Inside HQ-21, Stokes had gone into shock. SGT Nino and medic Michael Gindra redressed Stokes' wounds and tried to start an intravenous infusion, but it was no use; Stokes had lost too much blood.

Only after his friends were treated and ready to evacuate did Bradish mention that he needed help. "Ranger Bob" was injured much worse than he'd let on. He had lost portions of his right hand, suffered a painful groin injury, and had taken a round through both upper thighs.

The medics wondered how he had run around, popping flares, radioing for help, tending the wounded, and trying to set up perimeter security.

Holding up his injured hand, Bradish quipped, "They thought they got me, but I fooled them... I shoot left-handed."

Bradish received the Purple Heart and McClure was awarded the Silver Star for actions under fire.

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