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Scouts survive SABOT scare
by Tony Wunderlich, PAO Staff


Depleted uranium SABOT rounds rip armor and destroy tanks and tank crews, unless the crew gets lucky.

Some scouts with 3rd Pit., 4th Squadron, 7th Cav. needed every ounce of luck they could muster on Feb. 26 when two of the deadly rounds raced through a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during the ground war.

As these scouts engaged the Tawakalna Division of the Republican Guard, Bradley 3-6, commanded by Sgt. Roland Jones, went down. Enemy fire disabled 3-6, prompting a rescue mission by another Bradley team, which was riding in 3-1.

Once the 3-1 team, led by 2nd Lt. Michael J. Vassalotti, retrieved the crew from 3-6, an Iraqi tank unloaded two SAB-OTs on 3-1. Both rounds shot through the Bradley armor.

And in a stroke of tremendous luck, the rounds steered clear of the scouts inside 3-1, leaving only a flash burn as the most serious injury.

Recounting the event, Vassalotti started at the beginning. "Our mission was to execute recon. on Third Armored Division's right flank with a one kilometer sector between 3AD and 2nd ACR," said the 23-year-old 3rd Platoon leader. "An additional mission was to maintain contact between them, specifically between 4/34 Armor Centurian on our left.

"Sgt. Jones, my Bradley Commander, called in contact with enemy infantry troops and then right after that, a BMP. Sergeant First Class (Ivery) Baker, my platoon sergeant, called 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 Sergeant Baker had given the fire command," Vassalotti said.

He also said that before he could finish calling in contact with the second and third enemy vehicle, all three had been destroyed.

Vassalotti said 3-6 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," Vassalotti said.

And then Jones started to expound. "Lt. 'V came over the net and said we needed 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 12.7mm machine gun.

"We lost all power. I called for help and then evacuated the track. When 3-1 arrived, my track took another round. We're not sure if it was from an RPG round or a SAGER. My driver took some shrapnel from that.

"We got evacuated into 3-1. 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."

And when the rounds came in? Vassalotti said, "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 that never came. A track in 2nd Platoon took out the tank that was firing at us. That saved my life and the other guys in my crew."

In the eyes of Sgt. 1st Class Ivery Baker, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, the scouts stood their ground despite the hairy situation. "Maintaining contact is what a scout's supposed to do. With ground fire, rounds coming in all over and vehicles getting hit, we maintained contact with the enemy."

One crew member aboard 3-1 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," said Pfc. Richard Legendre.

"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've survived that."

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