News: Air Force sniper recalls brutal Iraq battle
Story by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho – With rockets exploding around him and the entry control point in complete chaos, a security forces airman took decisive action to help quell the enemy threat and treat wounded comrades.
Some were wounded, a few dead, others assisting and many heading for cover. As for Staff Sgt. Daniel Ball, 366th Security Forces Squadron controller, running to a bunker wasn’t an option on that brisk March 2007 morning at Tallil Air Base, Iraq. There was work to be done.
“I was asleep in my bed when I heard a lot of explosions,” said Ball. “After listening for about 20 seconds, I realized it was incoming and not outgoing fire, jumped out of bed, threw on my gear, grabbed my weapon and ran out of the building. We had to go find the points of impact and clear them of any hazards or wounded personnel.”
That was Ball’s third tour in Iraq and the M-107 long range Air Force sniper was already seasoned.
“Our tech. sergeant, another Airman and I got into our (vehicle), and called (the Base Defense Operations Center) to let them know we were mobile,” recalled Ball, graduate of Yuba City High School, Calif. “After about 30 seconds on the road, we heard a panicked radio call. It was our commander and he needed help near (the base’s entry control point).”
Ball’s team lead called BDOC to let them know they’d respond and assist. When they got on scene Ball noticed a truck fully engulfed in flames and human remains thrown around the ground. With rockets still landing in the area, Ball quickly grabbed the medical kit and rushed to assist some of the wounded soldiers.
“I found my commander was already there and had put a tourniquet on one guy’s lower leg,” said Ball, who then noticed quite a bit of bleeding on the soldiers upper torso. Ball began to apply combat dressings.
Looking around, Ball saw chaos in all directions, he said, and remembered seeing one Soldier kneeling over a few of his dead comrades, throwing up.
“The smell was one of the worst things about that day,” said Ball. “It’s a smell you can never forget.”
Ball’s been in the Air Force roughly seven years and has completed several advanced training courses, including: advanced designated marksmanship, long-range sniper training, detainee operations, convoy security, emergency services team training and combat life saver.
It’s the combat life saver course that resonates keenly with Ball because he believes that course is vital for every service member to know, as it was needed several times during his deployments, he said.
“Daily life in the desert changes with each deployment and location,” said Ball. “Sometimes you can wind up living in a hardened facility. Other times you may find yourself in tents without hot chow or a hot shower. Only showering every couple of days after working 12-16 hour shifts in (more than) 70 pounds of gear isn’t pleasant, but it was still better others had it.”
Ball has worked with Army Special Forces and the 820th Battle Group from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. He’s done everything from combat operations to treating a female Iraqi teenager who was wounded when a stove allegedly blew up on her.
Ball said he suffered nightmares but is confident he’s always done the right thing and did his best to save lives.
Still, Ball has advice for any airman who may find themselves trekking similar paths to one’s he’s endured:
“Don’t hold shit in and let it eat away at you. Talk to someone,” said Ball. “Also, you’re never fully prepared for a combat zone until you get into it, but be as ready as you can. You need to take all your training seriously no matter how many times you’ve been through it. It could save you or someone else’s life.”
Remembering the good and the bad days in the deserts of Iraq, Ball can confidently say, “I did my job.”
Editor's note: This is part 2 of series on 366th SFS Defenders. Be prepared to read the riveting stories of Staff Sgt. Matthew Smith, Tech. Sgt. James Zientek, Tech. Sgt. Francis Woznick, Master Sgt. Ryan Glosson, Senior Master Sgt. David Williams, Joshua Williams and other brave Defenders in the coming weeks.