Face of Defense: Soldier Survives Gunshot to Helmet

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — “There is some­thing I need to tell you” are not the words any moth­er wants to hear from her son who is deployed to Afghanistan.
But this time, Army Spc. Tom Albers, a Troop C, 1st Squadron, 113th Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment, Task Force Red­horse, dri­ver and infantry­man from Alton, Iowa, had good news, con­sid­er­ing the alter­na­tive.

 -
Army Spc. Tom Albers, of Troop C, 1st Squadron, 113th Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment, Task Force Red­horse, stands out­side the Troop C com­mand office June 13, 2011, ready for bat­tle, after tak­ing a round of ene­my fire to the hel­met two weeks pri­or.
U.S. Army pho­to by Spc. James Wilton
Click to enlarge

“I am fine and healthy and not hurt, every­thing is OK — but,” Albers said to his moth­er over the phone, “I have been shot in the hel­met.” “You were wear­ing the hel­met right,” his moth­er respond­ed.

The phone call was made May 28 from Craig Joint The­ater Hos­pi­tal at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Albers and his team were con­duct­ing a patrol ear­li­er that day in Par­wan province when the Afghan police offi­cers they were teamed with spot­ted an indi­vid­ual asso­ci­at­ed with insur­gent forces. While search­ing a hill­side, the team came under fire.

“My head cleared the hill … I saw a house on my right, and as I was in the mid­dle of say­ing, ‘Hey I got a house over here,’ when I heard the first shot,” Albers said. “I felt some­thing hit me in the side of the hel­met and was knocked to the ground. It felt like some­one had hit me in the head with a wood­en base­ball bat.”

The team quick­ly took cov­er and respond­ed with fire on the build­ing. Albers was stunned, but after check­ing him­self and real­iz­ing he was still alive, he regained his bear­ings and took up a posi­tion to return fire.

“I laid there for what seemed like five min­utes, but real­ized lat­er that it was just a cou­ple of sec­onds. I thought to myself, ‘Am I dying? No, I don’t real­ly think so,’ ” Albers said. “Felt my head, no blood or any­thing, so I thought, ‘OK. What just hap­pened to me?’ I was con­fused but I turned around and start­ed lay­ing down fire from the direc­tion it had come from.”

Albers and the joint ter­mi­nal attack con­troller were on one side of the build­ing while the rest of the team was 50 to 100 meters away on the oth­er side. They were tak­ing heavy fire so they decid­ed to pull back and join the rest of the team.

“I was just get­ting plinked at, rounds were hit­ting in a con­sis­tent, nat­ur­al fir­ing rhythm, but I look up at Albers and his posi­tion is just get­ting oblit­er­at­ed; he was cov­ered in dust,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason Roland, the 116th Air Sup­port Oper­a­tions Squadron joint ter­mi­nal attack con­troller from Taco­ma, Wash., who was attached to Albers’ team that day. “Some­one was going full-auto on his posi­tion, so I yelled up at him and told him to move.”

The group pro­vid­ed sup­pres­sive fire so Albers and Roland could pull back and regroup with the rest of team who were tak­ing cov­er behind a build­ing and wall.

“It real­ly sur­prised me, from the moment I thought, ‘OK, I am fine and there is no blood run­ning down my face,’ until after we met up with the lieu­tenant, I don’t real­ly remem­ber any­thing,” Albers said. “I think that is because I was­n’t think­ing, I was react­ing, doing what need­ed to be done; cov­er­ing fire, mov­ing back, what­ev­er it was. I think that was all because of our train­ing, mus­cle mem­o­ry kicked in. It made me think, ‘All that time we spent train­ing was­n’t stu­pid. It was­n’t point­less. It is need­ed and it works.’ ”

Albers react­ed like he was trained to, and he seemed respon­sive and aware, Roland said. The only part that seemed strange to his fel­low team mem­ber was a ques­tion he kept ask­ing. “Albers did fine. The only thing that was fun­ny is as we fell back, I real­ized some­thing is lit­tle weird with Albers. He keeps ask­ing about his hel­met,” Roland said. “It feels like some­thing hit his hel­met; he wants me to look at his hel­met. I say, ‘I don’t care about your hel­met. I want you to [watch] to the north because if we get attacked they’re going to come from the north.’ ”

The team called in air sup­port and ene­my fire sub­sided enough to assess the sit­u­a­tion. One Afghan police offi­cer was injured, so medics were called to attend to him. Albers assist­ed the medic with the oth­er injured team­mate.

“At that time, the medic had time to check on Albers and he real­izes that he got shot in the hel­met,” Roland said. “He pass­es this on to the lieu­tenant who decides it is time to pull back.”

As they began pulling out, Albers said he final­ly real­ized the seri­ous­ness of what had hap­pened.

“I was pulling secu­ri­ty and just keep think­ing to myself, ‘I just got shot in the head,’ I would hear some­thing and move and again think, ‘I just got shot in the head. What just hap­pened?’ ” Albers said.

The events that day stuck in his mind for days to come, he said, and serve as a reminder to stay vig­i­lant and to enjoy every day, no mat­ter how tough.

Medics evac­u­at­ed Albers, and after hos­pi­tal staff gave him a bat­tery of tests, they found him to be per­fect­ly healthy, minus a small burn mark across the top of his head.

The patrol that day was a nor­mal one for any infantry­man fac­ing risks that accom­pa­ny a deploy­ment to a com­bat zone. Albers knew this, but he want­ed to be in the mil­i­tary ever since he could remem­ber.

“Accord­ing to my par­ents, I have want­ed to join the mil­i­tary since I could talk — it was either Marines, Air Force, this, that,” Albers said.

When he was 17, Albers spoke with a recruiter, who is now a first sergeant in the same squadron, and decid­ed the time was right. Now at age 20, he said he feels the deploy­ment is going well and has enjoyed every part of his three-year mil­i­tary career. He is the only mem­ber of his large fam­i­ly cur­rent­ly in the mil­i­tary, but his father and grand­fa­ther are both vet­er­ans.

“My favorite part is the cama­raderie, espe­cial­ly after this inci­dent. Every­one has been very sup­port­ive,” Albers said. “They are all like my broth­ers now.” The team watched over him at first, mak­ing sure he was doing all right, he said.

“Every­one was cool about it. Every­one was here for me, mak­ing sure I was OK and if I had to talk to any­body they were here for me,” Albers said. “We joke around about it, now that I they know I am fine, and now that I got the Pur­ple Heart.”

Albers’ expe­ri­ence a big part of the jokes shared about the team. These sim­ple actions prove to Albers that they care and help him to not take the inci­dent too seri­ous­ly. His fam­i­ly also has helped to keep him smil­ing about the inci­dent.

“My nephew, Talon, got on his mom’s [social media page] and sent me a mes­sage, ‘I am glad you’re OK, but no more mess­ing around. That was scary, don’t be mess­ing around any­more,’ ” Albers recalled.

The 1st Squadron, 113th Cav­al­ry, will be in Afghanistan for anoth­er month or two, and after­ward, Albers said he is look­ing for­ward to spend­ing time with fam­i­ly and friends and going back to school when he returns.

The shot has not deterred his desire to be in the mil­i­tary, and he plans to reen­list when his cur­rent con­tract ends. Albers plans to stay in the infantry, and has hopes to move up in the ranks to become a squad or pla­toon sergeant.

The hel­met, which will be sent to his house after mil­i­tary offi­cials exam­ine it, will serve as a train­ing tool to teach his sol­diers the impor­tance of the prop­er wear of their pro­tec­tive equip­ment, or at the very least, to keep their heads down.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →