FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, AFGHANISTAN
FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan – When bullets begin to impact all around, a split-second decision can make the difference between life and death for a fellow comrade. For some, what happens next will make them heroes.
As the sun started to slowly rise over Sangin district and the nearby Helmand River, Oct. 23, several Marines and Afghan National soldiers began an episode that would change the lives of two Marines: Lance Corporals Shane Preston and Jason Hallett, both infantrymen with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2.
Marines with India Company received intelligence of a local compound that was filled with improvised explosive devices. The squad that was searching the compound found three IEDs before Halett triggered one of the booby traps, said Master Sgt. Ismael Sagredo, staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge with the embedded training team, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines.
Hallett was severely wounded and Preston suffered a concussion and was bleeding from both ears.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Mitch Ingoglia, a corpsman with the Marines, instantly began treating Hallett, while Preston’s comrades treated him.
“When I got there they had just finished digging Hallett out of the rubble and I immediately started working on him,” said Ingoglia, a 26-year-old native of Dyer, Ind.
The next step required them to move the two Marines out of the area and to the pre-appointed casualty evacuation site. Hallett’s life hung in the balance and the Marines had two issues. The first was that their vehicles were two heavy to cross a newly constructed bridge in the road and the second was an imminent attack on the evacuating Marines.
The Marines had already planned with their local Afghan partners for how to cross the bridge, said Sagredo.
“This was not our original plan, more like ‘Plan C’, but it’s what we had to do,” said Sagredo, a 42-year-old native of Lansing, Mich. “We would use the ANA’s pickups to transport the casualties across the bridge and then move them to our vehicles.”
The Afghan soldiers rapidly responded and their trucks were ready to roll, but as the group carrying the wounded Marines began to move, a massive ambush began. The Marines and ANA came under fire from AK-47 and heavy machine-gun fire.
“The ANA saw the insurgents first and started firing,” Sagredo said.
Marines quickly assessed the situation and countered the attack with a volley of rockets and heavy machine-gun fire at the insurgents. The Marines evacuating the casualties were under heavy fire in an open field without cover.
“I was helping Preston, who had some shrapnel and a concussion, when Sgt. Gilio and I got pinned down,” said Sagredo, who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Iraq. “We had to cover about 200 meters through a field to get to the trucks.”
Once to the trucks, the Marines loaded the casualties on the vehicles. Because of the heavy fire, the decision was made to use the ANA vehicles to return to the base.
Hallet’s life was still on the line as Marines on the forward operating base called for a helicopter to rush the young Marine to a hospital.
Sagredo, Ingoglia, and Petty Officer Third Class Del Reyes rode in the back of the two Ford Rangers with the wounded Marines, under fire the entire trip.
Del Reyes and Ingoglia continued to provide care.
“I was with Hallett the whole trip and I was focused on keeping Hallett’s airway open,” Ingoglia said.
Sagredo maintained communication with the base and fired at the enemy.
Within minutes, the vehicles were on base and the Marines safely on emergency helicopters. The medical evacuation was complete.
While there were many roles played in the day’s events, the actions of a few changed history.
“Hallett is alive today, without a doubt, because of the actions taken by, Master Sgt. Sagredo, our ‘docs’ and the ANA,” said 1st Sgt. Yomen English, first sergeant of India Company, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines.
“I would definitely use the word heroic,” said English. “What they did under fire, well, they definitely weren’t thinking about themselves.”
The Afghan soldiers are heroes too, according to Sagredo.
“Even with the language barrier, nothing was missed and the Afghan soldiers performed phenomenally,” Sagredo said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Marines suffered no other casualties that day even though the firefight continued for several hours before nine rocket artillery rounds silenced the insurgents.
Hallett is recovering at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. Preston is recovering at Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
When the smoke settled, both Halett and Preston were alive because of the brave actions of men protecting their countries and working together to defeat the Taliban.
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This work, Deeds of Afghan, US partnership save Marines’ lives, by Cpl Ned Johnson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.