War on Terrorism

1stSgt. Cole is a 39-year-old from Beaumont, Texas. He was with 2/5 spearheading an attack northward on Iraqi Highway 1, March 27, 2003 when he ran into sporadic but heavy small arms fire from Iraqi soldiers dressed as civilians.

"The terrain was kind of restrictive," Cole said. "We had to stick to the MSR (main supply route), which gave the enemy the advantage. It allowed them to just lie behind numerous berms that run parallel to Route 1, up and down, some as close as 50 meters off the route.

"It was very difficult because it was a moderately populated area," he continued. "There were many houses along the MSR. A lot of civilian men, women and children were standing outside their little houses watching what was going on. The next thing you know more men popped up with rifles and started shooting. It is hard to pick the good guys form the bad guys."

Second Tank Battalion was screening 2/5's movements, but they were restricted to the MSR as well.

"The only engagements the armored had were with people stupid enough to shoot at them with their rifles," he said staring at the green, canvas ceiling in the medical tent. "Softer vehicles within the attack, the humvees, were just easy targets for them."

The first sergeant was in a humvee shooting back.

"We were cruising and fighting from our humvees, trying to get through the ambush sites as quickly as possible.

"We were taking some pretty intensive 7.62 (millimeter rounds) from the right flank," he said. "I was returning fire, engaging some targets that were entrenched 100 meters off the MSR. As I was returning fire, he was returning fire."

An enemy's bullet found its way into Cole's lower right arm and exited near his tricep. His troops immediately brought him to an armored ambulance. Shortly after, he was in the recovery tent at Logistical Support Area Viper.

From his cot, which didn't even have a pillow, Cole acknowledged his true fortune.

"A gunny from combat engineers (GySgt. Joe Menusa, 33, of San Jose, Ca. 1st CEB), who was with us, was shot and killed just before I was hit. I know I'm lucky."
Cole said he couldn't stop thinking about his Marines. He wonders, "How did that battle finish? Who else was hit? How are they? What follow-on missions have my boys been tasked with?"

It may be some time before he can get those answers. Navy corpsmen say he'll leave Iraq soon.

With a bit of emotion in his voice, Cole asked to send his Marines still fighting a simple message, "Charge on!"

The message was sent to his battalion via radio traffic March 28.

The crew for an AAV catches up on sleep and chow at a resupply point in central Iraq, March 30, 2003. The crew, which is attached to RCT 5, has endured numerous ambushes through the first two weeks of OIF.