Bullets were coming in from everywhere. Twelve o’clock. Nine to 3 o’clock.
Multiple shooters, 12 or more, hid behind huts, tree lines, houses, walls – whatever they could use to block the view of the four American soldiers on the roof.
Spc. Alex Herron, a 21-year-old sniper and the son of a Virginia Army National Guard noncommissioned officer, and his spotter, 22-year-old Spc. Wesley Farron, were two of those soldiers on that rooftop Oct. 10, 2011, in the village of Jogram, Afghanistan.
The two were assigned to the Sniper Section, Scout Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
The day started out rainy. The guys on the roof didn’t have much cover. They and others in the unit they were attached to at the time – 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company – were in the process of filling sandbags to build up a barrier.
Herron and Farron were scanning the area. Another soldier manned his M240B. The rain stopped. It was about 20 minutes past noon. That’s when “rounds started opening up on us,” Herron said recently at Fort Riley.
The soldiers stayed low and waited for a short burst of rounds. When it finally came, Farron popped up and laid cover fire for Herron. Herron rolled over and looked through his sniper rifle for the hidden shooters.
Farron needed to reload his M203 grenade launcher a few minutes later, Herron said. Just after he opened and shut the tube, he took a round just above his left side plate. The bullet eventually exited and embedded itself in his plate carrier, but not before it bounced around, effecting his liver, kidney, lung, bile duct, diaphragm, esophagus and two ribs.
It felt like Mark McGuire hit him with a baseball, Farron said March 26 at Fort Riley. He fell back and shouted to his friend he’d been hit.
Farron was shaking, Herron said, and he jumped on top to shield him from the incoming bullets. He unclipped his friend’s side plates just in time to see red pooling up on his side. Herron pulled up Farron’s shirt to get a better look at the wound. He cut up Farron’s T-shirt for bandages.
It was time to get off the roof. They worked together, avoiding fire to push and drag Farron to the edge of the building. Herron lifted Farron over the edge of the 10- to 12-foot roof and lowered him to two noncommissioned officers on the ground.
Herron got off the roof, too. The platoon medic handed him an occlusive dressing, wiped blood away and sealed the wound. One of the sergeants told Herron to go on – they could take care of Farron.
“Tell my wife and my son I love them,” Farron said.
“Shut up, you’re gonna be fine,” he was told.
Herron fired from the ground for five minutes or so until another sergeant said he would spot for him back on the roof. The first two shooters they found were 800 meters out. Twelve o’clock.
The official Army narrative read this action “disrupted the enemy attacks and allowed the medical evacuation helicopters to land safely.”
The firefight continued for an hour and a half, Herron said.
The shooters were firing from multiple locations, and they kept moving.
“I was just sending rounds into dark holes where I thought it was coming from,” he said.
The training kicked in, Herron said. More than anything, he was mad his friend got shot. The anger got him through the fight.
“Oh yeah, it helped a lot,” he said.
What he described as grabbing weapons and directing fires for everyone else, the Army described this way:
“While the helicopters were taking off, additional insurgents were attempting to maneuver to fighting positions in an effort to engage the helicopters. Spc. Herron then directed the machine gunners located near him to fire upon the insurgents, effectively suppressing the enemy’s attempts.”
The Army said Herron’s bravely saved his partner’s life and “dealt a decisive blow to the enemy’s efforts that day.”
For his actions, Herron was presented the Bronze Star with a valor device during a recent ceremony at Fort Riley. The ceremony, hosted by the 2nd Bn., 34th Armor Regt., also honored 1st Sgt. Timothy Delarosa, who was presented with the same medal, and Sgt. Michael E. Dow, who received an Army Commendation Medal with a valor device.
Farron was evacuated to Bagram, Afghanistan; Germany; and later, San Antonio. He spent 10 days in a coma. He’s endured 12 surgeries, so far, with more on the way. He lost 50 pounds.
“He deserves it,” Farron said of Herron’s award for valor. “Somebody that deserves an award got it.”
The writer is assigned to the First Infantry Division’s Public Affairs office.