By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Oct 19, 2008 10:57:46 EDT
Sgt. 1st Class Ray A. Plasterer said he hadn’t seen a firefight like the one he saw May 10 in Afghanistan since he and his fellow Rangers did their part during the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
This time, the firefight nearly cost Plasterer his life and on Oct. 17 he was awarded a Silver Star medal at Fort Benning, Ga., for what he did under a hail of withering gunfire.
The noonday sun was just beginning to bake the landscape as Plasterer, a reconnaissance assistant team sergeant with Regimental Special Troops Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a convoy of more than a dozen armored vehicles coursed through a hilly desert valley on a week-long intelligence collection patrol.
At a remote truck stop area, the group – a civilian and military joint strike patrol – dismounted and shortly became engulfed by small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades and fragmentary grenades, which quickly killed four and wounded five and plunged the group into an intense two-hour firefight.
“We had stopped and pretty much once every one was out of the vehicles is when everything kicked off,” he said, explaining that because of the dead and wounded “there was no getting back in the vehicles and pulling back off.”
The shooters, Plasterer said, were blasting the group from about 100 meters away in a grassy orchard area behind a four-foot wall and the armed convoy members returned fire, while many of their abandoned vehicles became disabled under precise enemy fire.
On the right side of the road, Plasterer said, was a main building and some smaller structures where there was a mix of friendly locals and some from their own group, including interpreters.
Though the Rangers were returning effective fire, the wounded needed medical attention and all the radios with enough range to call for air support were in the vehicles in the center of the kill zone.
Lying prone and firing his weapon from behind “a little bit of low ground,” Plasterer jumped up and ran straight into the gunfire to reach one of the trucks after he heard on a hand held radio that one of his group had been critically wounded in the neck. The truck radio was busted, so he braved the gunfire once again to reach his own truck and managed to get a radio call out to higher headquarters.
“We had to get some air support as well as medevac. I didn’t know if anyone else had made that call, but I knew it had to be made,” he said.
“I was the only one that really could do it at the given time. I pretty much had to, especially knowing we had friendlies that were wounded and needed help as soon as possible,” said Plasterer.
Enemy fire pelted the vehicles while he was inside, he recalled, “it was pretty loud, my ears were ringing for about a month.”
After Plasterer completed his call for help, he drove his lame Humvee in reverse and pushed it as far as he could back to his squad before it gave out.
Plasterer rejoined the fight and when it ended, he and his fellow Rangers and the rest of their group had killed 22 enemy fighters and safely evacuated the wounded.