The News Tribune
It didn't get much media coverage, but troops from the Fort Lewis-based Stryker brigade say fighting last Wednesday in Mosul was the heaviest and most sustained combat they've seen in their nine months in Iraq.
Insurgents with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s and improvised bombs fought a series of coordinated, running attacks against Stryker and Iraqi troops. One estimate put the number of attackers at 30 to 40, another at more than 100.
Either way, U.S. and Iraqi forces killed an undetermined number of them - the official estimate is at least a dozen - while suffering no losses themselves.
About a dozen Stryker troops were wounded; all but two returned to duty, said Lt. Col. Kevin Hyneman, the brigade's deputy commander.
The two more seriously wounded include Lt. Damon Armeni, 25, of Tacoma, a Wilson High School and Pacific Lutheran University graduate, who is reported in critical condition and is awaiting surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for shrapnel wounds, his family said Monday. There was no information available Monday about the other wounded soldier.
A soldier in Armeni's company - Blackhawk Company of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment - said the lieutenant was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade blast after maneuvering his Stryker in to protect five infantrymen under fire.
"Needless to say, we are proud of our son's actions but hurt so very much for what he is going through, praying that he'll pull through," said his father, Dan Armeni.
In an interview Monday, Hyneman said the fighting took place on the east and west sides of the Tigris River, which bisects the city, and at a hotel near the northernmost of the city's five major bridges. The insurgents also attacked a hospital and a power plant, and ambushed Stryker convoys as they rolled past multistory buildings on the way to the fight, according to other sources.
Insurgents in Mosul typically attack Iraqi authorities and American troops with car bombs, sporadic mortar fire into U.S. camps and small-scale ambushes with small arms and RPGs.
"Anti-Iraqi forces tried a pretty widespread offensive action, uncharacteristically," Hyneman said. "I think they were surprised by how the Iraqi National Guard and the coalition fought together as a team."
The official version as reported that evening in a news release by Task Force Olympia, the Fort Lewis-based command for northern Iraq, said "multinational forces served in a supporting role, providing additional support where and when the Iraqi leaders involved in the attacks requested it."
Hyneman and the task force spokesman, Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, said the fighting drew in virtually all the troops in the brigade's two infantry battalions in Mosul, as well as elements from other brigade units in the city.
One soldier described what it was like on his Web log on the Internet. The soldier, who identifies himself as CBFTW, is attracting readers with his absorbing, personal account of Army life in Mosul.
"We were driving there on that main street, when all of the sudden all hell came down all around on us, all these guys wearing all black ... a couple dozen on each side of the street, on rooftops, alleys, edge of buildings, out of windows, everywhere just came out of ... nowhere and started firing RPGs and AK-47s at us," he wrote.
CBFTW described how a bullet passed in one side of his buddy's helmet and out the other without hitting his buddy - he suffered a concussion, is all.
"Bullets were pinging off our armor all over our vehicle, and you could hear multiple RPGs being fired and flying through the air and impacting all around us. All sorts of crazy insane Hollywood explosions ... going on all around us," he wrote. "I've never felt fear like this. I was like, this is it, I'm going to die. I cannot put into words how scared I was."
"My platoon was stuck right smack dab in the middle of the ambush and we were in the kill zone," CBFTW wrote. "We shot our way out of it and drove right through the ambush."
Hyneman said about a dozen Strykers were damaged, mostly the tires and some sections of slat armor that protects the vehicles from RPGs. All were repaired and returned to service within two days, he said.
Chaplains and mental health counselors were sent around to check with soldiers the next day.
CBFTW said he and his buddies also spent much of the next day cleaning up the brass shell casings out of their vehicle, fixing broken parts and cleaning their weapons.
"I discovered the remains of a smashed up impacted 7.62 (mm) bullet that had my name on it by my hatch. I put that in my pocket," he wrote. "If I ever have kids, and I get all old and have grandkids, I could show them the bullet that al-Qaida tried to kill me with. Have them bring that in for show and tell at school."