Everything just suddenly exploded'
Staff Sgt. Erasmo Espino Jr. | Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan | May 19, 2006
To the south was a small river, flanked by trees and other vegetation, a few buildings. To the north were mountains pocked with crude structures.
And soon, in every direction, Taliban.
Army Staff Sgt. Erasmo Espino Jr. and the rest of his team were driving back from a three-day patrol in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province when gunfire exploded on them from an estimated 200 enemy fighters.
It didn’t take long for Espino, a medic, to recognize how dire the situation could become.
“Wow,” he thought, “there’s a lot of people shooting at us.”
The night before — May 18, 2006 — his group of about 30 American and Afghan soldiers had overheard enemy transmissions that insurgents were massing to ambush them, but that kind of chatter was routine, he said.
That morning, they started to head back to base in a series of Ground Mobility Vehicles.
“There was only one way in, one way out, so we pretty much had to take the same road that we used to come in through,” Espino said.
About 5 p.m., the team noticed that no local Afghans were outside.
“It was like a ghost town,” he said.
The soldiers had a bad feeling, but they had been through ambushes before, so they pushed on.
“That’s when everything just suddenly exploded — just an eruption of fire coming from pretty much everywhere,” Espino said.
Initially, the team kept the enemy at bay, but then American troops started going down. The enemy fighters were well hidden and, in the daylight, muzzle flashes were hard to pick out.
“When you have 150 guys shooting at you, you’re going to start to take casualties,” Espino said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what unit you are.”
As Espino drove through the kill zone, his turret gunner got hit in the neck.
The gunner collapsed inside the vehicle with blood spurting from his neck. Espino, still driving, tried to stuff a rag into the wound.
He was finally able to stop and tried to treat the gunner, but they hadn’t escaped the kill zone.
“The guy’s calm, he’s talking to me ... but you can tell he’s kind of leaving me,” Espino said. “And, eventually, he just kind of stopped responding. He closes his eyes.”
Then the radio came to life A call for a medic. Then another, and another.
Espino wondered how he’d make it across that gauntlet to reach his fellow soldiers. But there was little time for an internal strategy session.
“Everybody was screaming for a medic,” he said. “So I just take off running.”
The first soldier he came to had been shot and then dragged by his vehicle before falling to the ground.
Espino was able to patch up the man’s chest wound enough to save his life...
There is much more to this Hero's story. Go here.
Thank you for your service, Staff Sgt. Espino.