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I shot at a man once for driving his vehicle towards me in Iraq. He was off the road and at an accelerated pace. He was within 100 meters before I shot him and even then it would have been too late if he had set off his charge. The scenario played out in my head over and over after and even to this day I think about that day.
I wondered if he was just a pawn trying to test our limit and how we would react to that situation. The terrorists we fought against were testy little pricks. It was almost like a game of cat and mouse sometimes. They knew our ROE (Rules of Engagement) and always seemed to reach the point of almost getting killed. However, on this day it played out a little different. I never tried to go out of my way to hurt anyone. Sometimes you had to be rough and other times it wasn’t needed, but you never gave an inch. This particular day was like any other day in Ramadi. It was morning time and curfew was just coming off. We were doing our rounds in and out of the city. Keeping the main roadways clear and sustaining a watchful eye of people stopping and dropping. This was a common method to drop IED’s when a vehicle comes to a stop and they just drive on. One thing that was a challenge in the city was the amount of traffic in the morning. It would build up and despite having an up-armored vehicle you couldn’t move an entire column of traffic. You could bump and grind at times but things always seemed to bottle neck at certain points. You tried your best to not fall in those situations. My crew and I decided to keep at the lower part of one road. There was a Bradley at the other end so they could also watch for people dropping things from their vehicle.
I decided to stop a car to inspect it. It was lowered in the rear and 9 out of 10 times the weight is from tires, bad shocks or just random items in a trunk. You can never be too careful. So I had my other truck pull security in front of us by pulling ahead of the suspicious vehicle and my gunner turned around to ensure no other vehicles came towards us. I always tried my best to provide 360 degree coverage. Anyway, the search was routine. Most are when you have guns pointing in your general direction. I was looking under one of the seats when I heard one of my guys yell, then a shot rang out. I jumped out and saw this vehicle moving towards us fast.
Now, I know this sounds crazy but I remember in some situations, things seemed to just go in slow motion. This was one of them. I raised my weapon up and fixed the vehicle into my reflex sight. Here is how it broke down.
– There was already a verbal warning.
– Visual warning.
– A warning shot.
– The vehicle was still coming.
All of this had been done within a few seconds. I estimated that the vehicle was about 100 meters give or take from us. I squeezed my trigger and a single shot, found its ways into the driver’s side window, center mass….
The vehicle turned a little and finally came to a rolling stop….
If the vehicle would have blown up, my men would have been killed most likely. 100 meters with a VBIED is sure death. The Rules of Engagement are a guideline and you do your best to ensure you follow them in the order prescribed. Sometimes you have to go from waving them off to a disabling shot or even a kill shot. Every time you pull the trigger, you question your decision, which is reality. You have mere seconds to decide if you will kill someone or hesitate. You develop these instincts in war that seem to heighten the will to survive.
The point of this entry is to give you a glimpse of what reality can be like when faced with such tight rules that can cost you your life. Like I said, you develop the instinct and learn it at an accelerated rate from trial and error. Seeing your buddies hurt or killed is that accelerator. The ROE is your worst enemy in war. However, it can be your best friend when you rationalize the decision to kill someone.