22 | Davies
Realized what he was doing. He was trying to get your name office. This. And so from profit fifteen feet above him standing over him. I shot him probably four or five times until he stopped moving many veterans remember combat as a profoundly raw experience a time in their lives where they're will their bravery in there for Jill. You're right out there without any cover some of them learn that it's possible to kill without remorse and without malice, but it's impossible to kill without consequence. Even when the consequences satisfaction or the sense of a wrong righted killing something that stays with the person for the rest of their lives coming to terms with. It is something wrestled Davies discovered is just a part of the process of coming home. You know, I think if most people were to take step back and just tried to for a moment fathom the idea of going to a third world country in having to take lives that were taken by your hands. And then coming back and trying to adjust to the social warm. The more people could realize why PTSD is having such a tragic affect on soldiers returning from combat. What is true bravery? What makes a hero a hero tested by the worries of what's happening at home, thousands of miles away. And the reality of what you're facing here. And now when your life is in danger every second and it's either killed or be killed from wondering and incongruity media. This is Anthony Russo. And this. Is war? bristle DV's was bound set of high school just shy of graduation for fighting. And it nearly kept him from joining the military, but in two thousand six the army was struggling with enlistment numbers and his recruiter became a fixer and Davies became a soldier. He joined with three of his high school friends. Josh quick, Andy, Harris, and Chad cook the arrived, the basic training together, but the ended up being deployed separately. And his attorney out babies was built for the infantry. He excelled in basic training and went on to join the one hundred eighty seventh airborne infantry regiment, a group called the rock Assange, and they were getting ready to go back to a rack at the end of two thousand seven it wasn't until joining that regiment that he got a good sense of what being in the military was going to be about for him. I thought it was gonna be a bunch of young gung ho patriotic ready to fight people looking to serve their country. But it wasn't the infantry consists of you know, people like me that had gotten in trouble people did weren't educated enough to do. Anything higher than infantry people that were just looking to jump in the military to gain their views or citizenships to the US people looking to escape struggles of being born and raised in the ghetto. You quickly realize the infantry is a pretty big mixed batch of individuals all with their own complications struggles coming into it. You realize you know, that even the world different will come from different backgrounds that we're all the same. So the raucous on Stu train like nobody's business. It's frustrating. Every other brigade there is getting off in normal hours. We're you know, majority of times, we don't even get weekends. We train all through the weekend. But I was comfortable with that idea. And you know, I've figured the more training the more beneficial be in combat you're eager to prove yourself worthy. You don't wanna be Jerry anymore. And so yeah, I was. Definitely definitely ready to get through. Or at least. I thought it was. There's a lot to this disconnect between the new cherry infantryman in the combat veterans on the surface. There's some fraternal harassment. Sure. The cherries get the shit details generally get pushed around by their peers. But there's also something deeper the people who've seen combat understand just how ignorant and psychologically unprepared. The newbies are for what they're about to do. It's something that those in the know only feel like they can communicate by making things harder on the ignorant as with any life altering experience. Combat only makes sense from the other side and the only way to get there is to crossover we're in Iraq less than a month trying to provide security for yield to clear this roads start pushing the perimeter out more followed by a group of engineers and supply that we are providing security for you know, we'd go ten minutes up. I d g would take care of it that needed. We'd continue mission heard a huge explosion catastrophic idea. Hit one of. The trucks the other platoons providing security moved into trying to try and save like the wounded. But the truck was destroyed so massively that. Yeah. I think it killed. Three of the individuals that were in that truck. So meanwhile, while they were doing that we pushed forward made it to the location in which we were trying to set up a guard tower with the engineers about an hour and a half went by we got complacent we all met up in front of the humvee to discuss what what are going to be doing afterwards. And that was that was when we got lit up by a Michigan fire on her position myself into other guys were sitting on the hood of the humvee. The turret gunner was still in his seat. I remember talking to him and just the first burst mission gunfire. Hit the humvee that we are sitting on at actually have a picture the the guy that was in the dirt gun if it wasn't for that bullet proof glass right in front of his. I mean that changed his life entirely standing out in the open during a gun fight. It takes a second to register that you're being fired upon especially the first time it happens, of course, mass what trainings for although as he's telling the story might seem like it took several seconds to respond realistically. The response was immediate muscle memory takes the driver seat. So the brain can focus on response. You make yourself real small trying to figure out where it was coming from saw engineers running all over the place. You know, when do jumped in the bucket of a front loader realize real quickly where the fire was coming from one of the two forties opened up in their direction. Third fire with lamb for. I remember my squad leader being like you have a grenade launch. Scher and dislike I mean, you do a good amount of training with the grenade launcher on your rifle. But at the same point, you're not a sniper with the dancing, and you know, you're lobbing grenades. Three hundred meters down range, and there are people out there. So yeah, I did I started dropping forty millimeters. You adjust my fire machine guns were talking. We started bounding across a field. You stop in through mud. You know, that's pretty much, you know, almost need de with grass growing out of it for a good amount of it. You're like this provides no coverage whatsoever. We made it to the house kicked in some doors. I just remember thinking like holy shit. This is this is real there's people running from you. And you don't realize like is that the guy that was just shooting at me? Or is that somebody that's just like holy shit. There's Americans shooting in this direction. You've you're seeing people in you have your gun pointed directly at there. Because you don't you don't know the answer to that. They're scared. You're scared in you know, that first time you just don't know to do. You're like. What time is it appropriate to squeeze the trigger on my rifle. People have already died today. We almost died bullets are flying. And we have fifteen fucking months to go by this point in the worthy. Insurgents knew what the response times were. They knew they had a maximum of ten minutes before support showed up so they took their shots and lift a fight another day, but kicking in a door to a strange house with absolutely no idea. What was on the other side? Davies finally understood the disconnect between people who seem combat and those who hadn't he could've found anything upon entering that house from a booby booby-trapped to a hostile to victim one of the grenades. Launched added earlier, he said that would have been the absolute worst throughout his career throughout the careers of many of these combat veterans. The ambivalence isn't about killing it's about serving the bad guys from the regular Iraqis, which isn't all that easy yet. It was on the the entry control point. I was on guard. That's a good amount of your deployment which. I don't think a lot of people realize when they joined the military is that a good eight hours of your day. Sometimes it's going to be spent in a guard tower with one hundred vigil on other individuals looking at the exact same sector. There are times you're just praying for some that happened. I mean, you got a six pack of rip. It's the the army provided energy drinks, a pack of sabes can of Copenhagen and you're just moan through it. Because you just trying to stay awake at eight hours to kill every day. Most people can tell their their life story NATO. And then you have that for fifteen months. So, you know, you realize like the problems that that all these people are facing back home in loved ones and their wife cheating on them or leaving them or people just abusing the general powers of Terni. And all the things you like all these soldiers just dealing with so much going on back home. And all the meantime, you're trying to to stay alive and keep other people alive as well. The ios on the. You know, how to vehicle in you, just go through what you're training toes? To started show show of shoe treads show, try to show way my hands frantically. This vehicle wasn't stopping run started gaining closer and closer. Even remember the guy that outranked me that was behind the fifty cows. Just kind of looking at me like to you know, after he had crossed pretty much the barrier of which we designated to be safe. I just opened up on the car and at St. to a whole what's out there for a moment. And I and my weapon drawn trying to figure out what was going on. Also in the card is written reverse and took off back. The way came in two days, later female suicide bomber detonated herself killed two of the Iraqi army incidents, featuring female suicide bombers were on the rise by two thousand eight reports at the time with women who are widowed orphaned or both were more easily recruited and more likely to go through with the attack since this attack at followed. Aborted one so closely. The assumption was that they were related and the Iraqis wanted payback as frustrated as the American forces were by attacks on the road. The Iraqi army and police were on the receiving end of suicide bomb attacks regularly and their responses were nowhere near as measured as the American response. What's smart kicking off two thousand nineteen by planning out, which rolls your business? These to higher for you know, what else is smart starting off the new year strong by going to ZipRecruiter dot com slash. This is ward hire the right people. Unlike other job sites, ZipRecruiter finds qualified candidates for you. It's powerful matching technology scans thousands of resumes to identify people with the right skills education and experience an actively invites them to apply for your job. So you get qualified candidates fast. That's why ZipRecruiter is rated number one by employers in the US this rating comes from hiring sites on trust pilot with over one thousand reviews and right now, my listeners can try Zip Recruiter for. Free at this exclusive web address, ZipRecruiter dot com slash this is war. If you love the show show your support to it. And to ZipRecruiter by going to ZipRecruiter dot com slash t h I s I S W A R. That's ZipRecruiter dot com slash this is war. Ziprecruiter, the smartest way to hire. One of the tricky things for US soldiers whose mission was to train and support. The Iraqi army and police was that the Americans occasionally we're stuck between their own rules of engagement, those of the Iraqis has Iraqis mustard following the suicide bomb attack babies and the rest of the platoon were just along for the ride the fill like, they know everybody. But at the same time, I think that makes them a lot more vulnerable to be susceptible to somebody to be able to come in see what's going on given. And you know, I mean, that's pretty much. What happened a female? Suicide bomber came in American forces tried to stop Iraqi commanders were like, oh, no, no, no problem. No reason the wait for a female US soldier to come here. She she entered the based at native yourself killed two high ranking officials they wanted to do it immediate mission jumped in the humvee loaded up with them. We went to house. It was the family. The immediate family of the woman who killed herself a lot of shouting law. Punching. I mean, we were pretty much ordered that this country we operate by their rules, and they they took two to men and execute shot him point blank in the back of the head. Now that was what the fuck just happened like as legal like do. We should we have stepped in to play like how the fuck do. They get away with something like that. They just went and found that young woman's father and brother and kill them and those another big wakeup call. Yeah. Allocco three minus floors. Was that justices was that revenge? You know, being a private it's not like you get a say in it anyway. So another day down another day closer to home. And you know, it's also, you know, calls into question like how much a much trust you really have in in the Iraqi army, it's complex. There's no doubting. Balancing outrage with action taking the time to separate yourself as a warrior and not a street criminal in the heat of the moment, that's a personal choice. It's not administered of policy. It's a distinction that wasn't lost on Davies he had kicked down doors and he had killed enemy soldiers. But he tried to remember to keep that balance between his civilian humanity and his professional duties watching the Iraqis, execute, a family retaliation only solidified has resolved. Keep those two things very separate. I don't think people realize how full on a news going on over there. And the things that are that are everyday challenge is most people would never ever found them to assert sheer simplicities of life, and the fury that we live in every day having to worry about getting mortared rockets and ideas going out every day wondering, you know. This might be the last day that was one of the biggest things being eighteen years old there, you kind of accept the fact that you might not come home. In fact, there's the, you know could probability that you might not come back home, especially in the country. And I think that's one of the major components that truly makes the soldier. I think the other one is compassion to good feeling having people this around you in knowing that they would do everything in anything to save your life. Ethics. That's massive. And being able to take take steps that you never would have thought you had the courage to do and then the other being compassionate because if you're out there kicking in doors and slam in heads, and you know, destroying people shit thinking, you're Billy batte 'cause you're the guy with the gun in their hand. I mean, you just making more enemies for everyone. I sure as hell no that you know, if if a if I was somebody kicking my door sit there, but stroke, my dad, completely brutally. You know rampage Mayan tire house the first thing, I'm probably going to do afterward. Kill join whatever fighting forces is going against them. So I think that's major thing for soldiers to have, you know, be courageous would be compassionate as his fifteen months in Iraq came to an end Davies returned home with an eye on finishing out his contract and moving on with this life. But that's not the way things went the rock. Assange were slated to be deployed to Afghantistan and Davies who'd been elevated sergeant set about training his squad trying to prepare them as best as he could for combat although his contract was set to run out before deployment Davies figured he'd be stop lost which meant that. He'd finished the tour Neff ghanistan and then get out, but that was the year President Obama ended stop loss and he had a decision to make. So a whole script was flipped their like, you gotta get out. I was like what can I extend for the deployment like definitely not. Yeah. When those this no way, I was gonna turn my back on on the men that I just trained from not knowing anything to go to war billing won't best of luck. You know, a taught you everything I know so. Pretty much estimate. What do I need to do? They said you have to reenlist for minimum two years during me so walked in signed up for two more years to go to Afghantistan with these guys. Davies didn't confuse Iraq with f- ghanistan even for a second. But is prepared as he was for the conflict and the demands there was still so much more to Afghantistan than he had expected. We were ordered to a place called waza Kwa Afghanistan, which was insanely different from Iraq Afghanistan, where we were in the beginning was desolate looking it was a huge mountains in loose slate. Rock out a whole lot of of like foliage or anything like that. It was a it was definitely a lot more barren look in getting there we replaced the unit that had just recently lost Bo bergdahl, and they had a bad taste in their mouth about him. That was kind of a weird twist in in everything they were pretty upset. They had lost guys on missions looking for him in two thousand nine private Bo bergdahl was captured by the Taliban held for. Five years before being released he pled guilty to desertion in two thousand seventeen and was dishonorably discharged. But he didn't do any time. The Paktika region of Afghantistan was away more relentless than patrolling in Iraq. And over the coming months Davies in the rest of his group would learn new levels of endurance in the mountains of Afghanistan. The I in Afghanistan was next level. They were everywhere ones that I remember the most wall in the was quote, providence was in route to a location where we knew was high amount of enemy activity and the truck that I was in ended up in countering in ID's needing under the vehicle I was in the bag doing you know, what I shouldn't be doing. My home off was eating a can of tuna or some shit. I thought that our driver drove off a cliff. I remember like just huge explosion almost in the yelling out what the fuck just drove off the cliff, but it didn't take very long before. I realized that was an ID the entire EMMY TV was completely covered in smoke into. Bree people are seriously her in the and I'm the only one for some reason, you know, still conscious, but it was just like, you know, you're just rounded by a bunch of unconscious bleeding soldiers in, you know, I think it just immediately might whole everything in me was just like I didn't one I need to get this door down because he can't really move around with, you know, five people in the back in the door came down. They opened up on us with small arms fire in mortars. They had us in the low ground in big mountainous terrain. I think the medics truck was probably a hundred meters away. Diff- thirty driving guys dragging him across dome flyer to get him to the medic. It's pretty insane. How how much your body can perform under those types of scenarios knowing that? In a not only are their lives the risk, but yours is well some of them could stagger. Some had to be drug. I just knew that getting to the medic was a the best hope for them. And then as soon as I was done just assessing the situation in figuring out. What could a what could get out of this situation? Heroism is kind of an odd concept especially in situations. Like this from the outside. We often hear people who've done extraordinary things dismissed suggestions that they acted heroin. But it kind of makes sense when you look at it after all the options were to give up in wait to die or to take some positive action. But there are plenty of stories about guys who do give up who in the grip of fear merely. Stay in place in hope for the best alternatively. There are guys who take charge an act because they can see clearly that there's no point in hoping for the best when it's possible to affect an outcome. I just knew that they were accurate with their fire. In the they had fortified fighting positions. Trying to designate exactly where the fire was coming from was Justice confusing couple soggy enters into gunners directed their fire toward when receiving contact from the mountainside and ran all the way back to the truck grab the sixty millimeter mortar couple cans, ammo and ran out. Now just had tunnel vision. If we're going to stop receiving contact that was kind of our option was we needed that mortar too. And it was in the that was blown up and I had to get back there. And if I did, you know that that gave us I glimpse of hope and just fucking made it rain on that whole hillside probably went through I can't Emam of in less than a minute. You know, wasn't even really assessing where my grounds were impacting just. Knew that had to be done or going to be a lot more casualties shortly. After that, they're either killed or broke contact was able to call nine line medevac, get the wounded medevac out and on their way back and was awarding army commendation medal with valor that day for saving lives. The twenty five men about Valerie's it suggests something more real maybe or more meaningful than heroism heroism is all about the act. It's a way that we described the acts of genuine, bravery and courage. Valor is a little bit different. It's a perspective away not just of acting. But of looking at the world valor is the temperament of courage strength of both mind. And will that is the motivating factor behind acts of heroism this perspective was as much a part of Davis's decision making. When he worried about GRA needing civilians in Iraq. As it was when he let lose all the Heli could muster on those attacking forces in Afghanistan and before he was done with this. This final tour of his career Davis would have his courage and his resolve pushed to their limits. 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More about how ADT can design and install secure smart home. Just for you that AT dot com slash podcast. Just a little more than five months into the tour. The rock Assange had been rendered combat ineffective. Having lost too many trucks. They were relegated to foot patrols and without regular air. Support often would have eighteen hour long firefights that would end within just packing it in and heading back to base eventually they were moved to the Ghazni province near Pakistan. The mission was the same. They were doing light infantry patrols with no trucks. But this time they were doing it in a city. This is where definitely switched from ambush was like that to being just beauts on the ground with your platoon. The contact was nonstop. It was pretty much every day. Our fall was getting rocketed on the regular. We would go patrol, and it wasn't Milia question of whether we were going to come into contact or not it was just when we had our little fob. And then we had another fall that we ended up naming a cut fourth. Because he he was killed while serving there. So we named it. Now, I think it's called fob Mary, but we are trying to build up that location as you know, to expand the bubble, and we are constantly going on missions throughout their think. One of the biggest ones that I remember specifically was pretty much the nearest Kalat to our base. So we didn't really expect much to occur. But we went there we met with the the local shake their my squad and another one we're told to go up on the roof dolls provide security. We were sitting up there for little duration time. We were then told to come down withdraw from our position. I and we got down and another topic of conversation rose, we're ordered to go back up on the roof. Sorely after one of my guys was like, I'm pretty sure these guys coming in PG's on their bag rest over to their side for three motorcycle strolling on our position that would. Definitely armored. They're definitely how to to weapons systems on. It's pretty rare that dumb luck is your ally. When you're US soldier in Afghanistan, but there's a certain satisfaction. When it happens Davies radio to check. Whether there were any Afghan national army forces in the area. And there weren't it. Didn't take too long to figure out what was going on the platoon had arrived on foot and would be leaving the same way the Taliban fighters got word when they'd be leaving. And they were rolling up to set up an ambush this on a platoon that already had had significant losses for mountain ambushes, sometimes the gods just smile on you, probably the only circumstance in which I feel like we had the upper hand ambush somebody in mmediately when they got the call the looked up. They saw they went for the weapons we're able to kill two right off the get go. One of the guys jumped over like a short, mud wool. I started lobbing forty millimeter names over the wall. We were told the ceasefire and we saw this guy stand up. I drew down on him. In my platoon was like don't shoot he doesn't have a weapon anymore. He kind of started stumbling around and all of a sudden, you know, you just kind of disappeared in everybody was just left wondering what the hell this to happen. We figured he had to like fallen down. A well my platoon sergeant told me and my squad to go clear the area to the body. The finders had been less than fifty meters away when the fights started. So it wasn't a long walk to their position. But it sure was a tense one. This could have been just an initial force with a replacement platoon behind it. And even if this small force was the only one that was on its way to the ambush the bodies had to be bagged up. And sometimes they had additional explosives wired to them. Then of course, there was a guy who disappeared to consider. You know, you have your weapons at the the high ready, you know, highs on target. You don't know if these guys are dead or not everybody's drawdown. Keep is on the on the outer perimeter watts for anybody fleeing in watch for more enemy to roll in our on our position. So everybody's on extremely high alert adrenaline pumping. I mean, you just came in contact in super close this entity. So as we approached I told one team to check the the bodies that were already killed at told the other team to go up the alleyway to look for anybody down further, and I went up to the well impaired over and follow the guy at the bottom of the well, he was mumbling something I couldn't really understand. And he was he was fumbling with his best in in within fractions of second. I realized what he was doing. He was trying to get your name off of his us. And so from property fifteen feet above him standing over him. I thought him probab-. Four or five times until he stopped moving. You know at that point. We had radioed in Q r f. To come give a support, and then you have to bag up all the body. So we started bagging them up. And they're like somebody's gotta go down there and get that guy and the they're like what you killed him. Go get him God down there. Try to be careful as possible trying to assess if if you'd had time to to set up any type of explosive devices that I couldn't get him out of there. There is no way for me to physically be able to pick this guy up in climb back out of this. Well, by then cure f-. It got there was some trucks. They drop down a winch cable from the trucks. I wrapped around this guy had to ride him. Right. Him up almost like an like an elevator. There's no way for me to climb out of there. So standing on this body, while the winch cable tightened up, you know, I could here. Owns breaking. And. In blood? You know exiting. The whole that were put an by me count amount. We got the cable off of him. You had. You know, two pistols, six grenades plethora of different amunition for weapons systems. Detailed maps of Intel tons of money. And bag mop and headed back to base. There was a lot less satisfation than Davies might have expected. And there was no celebrating at all had the platoon left. At the appointed time, they would have taken significant casualties traveling on foot across that open landscape and having the opportunity not only to avoid that ambush. But to actually get all of the guys concern certainly was victory has Davies puts it they stepped on the battlefield to take our lives. We took there is instead are never killed a person under those circumstances never stood over someone took their life. Definitely was a little different concept to trim triumph try and father. But you know, about two weeks before that one of my good Buddy's bales was machine gunned down took a couple rounds through his back. You know, I think you kinda just a justify the loss of their life with you may have just got the guy that just. Killed your friend or shot up, your friend, or you know, killed cut forth. So you know, there's it's a it's a good mix of motions as tour came to an end Davies was ready to get out. He joined as much to set himself on the straight and narrow as anything else and had only reupped to be there with his guys. He had spent the first five years of his dull took either fighting training or partying falling into bad habits and getting into a little trouble Davies actually had been arrested on his first mature leave for leading the police on a chase. But he scored a judge who let him return to his platoon as it turned out without the army, though, he didn't have a good plan for how to get by. You're leaving some of the best friends you ever had in your life. I didn't really have a plan upon getting out. Like, my my assumption is that I would go to college and probably become a firefighter like my father. You know, that was kind of my my main thing is you have this whole concept that you're supposed to get out and make millions. And and build an empire. You know, what is success? And the, you know, thankfully, I made a decision to go ahead and take two years out of my life to where I was just gonna go enjoy myself enjoy the country that I had fought for and get out in fee different places in do what I wanted to do. And what he wanted to do apparently was get into extreme sports. He fell in with a group of kayakers, and eventually turn pro touring the world on the sponsorship, circuit, those two years made a world of difference in his life and gave him some insight into how he could continue to serve both his country and the people who had fought for it. You know, just kind of catapulted me into turning the chapter on my life still being able to find the same exhilarating uncertain adrenaline rush through a more healthy productive lifestyle. You know? I just thought shit would have more veterans could figure this out the amount of impact that it would have on them. Am better their life will physically mentally in. And I'd met other veterans in the sport in we'd always discuss that one of my buddies Chad cook on than I told you about rigidly that I grew up with join the military with a he'd got out in the, you know, unfortunately, he he ended up taking his own life in. That's when I knew some had to be done from needed to change in just kinda dedicated my life to helping others line, the same outlet that helped me tremendously Peavy started. And now runs an organization called PTSD veteran athletes. It's a nonprofit that funds the gear in the travel, and then provides combat veterans training and extreme sports. We send them back with their gear it's theirs to keep so they can continue to pursue that new positive direction in life that just give you that clarity that mental escape that that relief that I feel like every veteran needs, you know, I think if. Most people were to take step back in just tried to for a moment. Fathom the idea of going to a third world country in having to take live that we're taking by your hands. And then coming back in trying to adjust to the social morm- that the more people could realize why PTSD is so having such a tragic affect on soldiers returning from combat wrestled Davies joined the army in part because it with an outlet for his teenage aggression a productive way to channel negative energy into positive over. The course of his five years in the army though, he didn't channel enough. And in fact, he collected more in that process, though. He developed new senses a sense of valor and of service and of brotherhood. So that by the time he left the army it made perfect sense that he would learn to channel those things as well. Next time on this is war. Start hearing chance down the bomb hill, and there's more and more coming and it sounds like there's five hundred down there terp, he's very nurse to. Hey, where the guy saying says a man is you're saying death to America. I could see the fear overwhelm. Are you a combat veteran or do, you know one with the story to tell reach out to us at stories at this is war dot com with your dates and branch of service as well as a brief description of the experience that you would like to share if you like the show you can help support us by visiting our sponsors or by leaving a five star review wherever you're listening right now. This is war was written by me, Anthony Russo and produced by incongruity media, executive producer Hernan Lopez for wondering.