By Capt. Michael Gollaher
148th Public Affairs Detachment
Night was closing in on Feb. 26, and a rugged battle awaited
a group of scouts with 4th Bn., 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 on the screen line were HQ-24 and HQ-26, where Staff SgL
Christopher Stephens was at the helm.
Elements of the 5th Bn., 5th Cav. scouts were positioned in the
area to their right rear flank, and by 7:30 p.m. it was an overcast
and pitch-black night.
The scout platoon from 4/32 had been in position five minutes
when a T-72 tank came into view from a nearby benn. Using night
vision goggles. Barker could see the deadly tank, complete with
dismounted Iraqi infantry, as it headed toward Stephens' track.
The tank was with the Republican Guard's Tawakalna Division;
and the Bradleys were no match for the tank's 125mm main gun.
Stephens saw and reported the Iraqi tank. He then fired two TOW
missiles. The first missed, but the second knocked off one of
the tank's roadwheels.
Meanwhile, Barker's track was ready to attack. As his gunner
and the gunner of HQ-24 engaged the Iraqi dismounts with 25mm
guns, Barker launched a TOW missile at the enemy tank. The missile
streaked toward its target, and in an explosive fireball, popped
the turret off the body of the tank. Secondary explosions from
inside the tank then lit up the night sky even more.
What happened next is not entirely clear. From HQ-21, Platoon
Sergeant Dennis DeMasters watched in horror as Stephens' track
took enemy fire from an unseen position. The incoming rounds
caused some of the ammunition inside the track to cook off. Demasters
tried to radio Stephens, but no one answered.
With the hatch of HQ-26 open, Pfc. Frank "Ranger Bob"
Bradish was reloading TOWs when the track took incoming rounds.
The blasts severely injured Bradish's right hand. Stephens took
shrapnel to his head and legs. Private First Class Adrian Stokes,
Bradish's fellow observer, suffered severe abdominal and groin
injuries, but was still alive. Sergeant Donald Goodwin was struck
in his chest, but was conscious. Of the entire crew, only Pfc.
John McClure was left without life-threatening wounds.
As an inferno of ordnance raged, McClure and Bradish kept their
heads as if they were seasoned combat veterans. Bradish reported
that he was OK, but that Stokes was "hurt bad." As
Bradish tried to pull Stokes from the vehicle, McClure assessed
the situation. Despite his injuries, Goodwin was able to climb
out of the disabled track. McClure pulled some flares from the
ammo box in the turret and secured the radio, giving them to
Bradish. Bradish eagerly took them, plus 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 that they were hit and needed a medic. Cussing
at the flares and opening them with his teeth because of his
injured hand, he sent them up to mark their position.
Checking back with McClure, Bradish said he was really worried
about an injury he'd received, but that McClure should treat
Stokes and Goodwin first As McClure treated his friends, he heard
enemy forces approaching.
While McClure tended to the wounded, Bradish called, saying
they were hit and needed a medic. Cussing at the flares and opening
them with his teeth because of his injured hand, he sent them
up to mark their position.
Meanwhile, Barker radioed the battalion to send some tanks
and an ambulance track to their location. Barker soon saw an
enemy infantry squad heading directly for Bradish and McClure.
He called in mortars on their position, and watched as the rounds
quickly dispersed the squad. Barker was able to reach HQ-26,
and Bradish was there to meet him.
Within 20 minutes, Sgt 1st Class Craig Kendall's Ml tank platoon
of Charlie Co. and two ambulance tracks arrived. Sergeant Sergio
Nino, a medic from their headquarters company, assessed the casualties.
He went first to Stephens.
"Is he gone?" asked DeMasters about Stephens.
"I'm afraid so," replied Nino.
Inside HQ-21, Stokes had gone into shock. Using a flashlight,
Nino and medic Michael Gindra redressed his wounds and tried
to start an IV. However, Stokes had lost so much blood that it
was no use. Goodwin, conscious but in severe pain, lay next to
After his friends were treated and ready to evacuate, Bradish
announced that he was injured, and needed help.
When the medics put Bradish on a stretcher, McClure confirmed
his suspicions. "Ranger Bob" was injured worse than
he had let on. Not only had he lost portions of his right hand,
but he had sufferred a painful groin injury, as well as taking
a round through both upper thighs. How he could run about popping
flares, radio for help, tend to the wounded and provide security
was beyond the reasoning of the medics.
Holding up his injured hand, Bradish quipped, "They thought
they got me but I fooled them... I shoot left-handed!"