Making a tough ‘go’ as sappers

Two women prove themselves worthy

continued from page 2

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A UH-60 Black Hawk landed near their campsite, whipping up a small tornado of loose twigs, weeds and leaves. An initial security team ran aboard and strapped themselves in. A Chinook followed to pick up the other students and the dogs.

After the Black Hawk made a soft landing, the soldiers ran out to secure the landing zone. Minutes later, the Chinook descended, its powerful rotors turning up anything that wasn’t rooted to the ground within a radius of 100 feet. The back of the Chinook lowered, and the soldiers ran out.

The students headed toward the final mission of their 10-day outdoor training — breaching a compound of multiple buildings filled with enemy forces. They would use so-called MOUT (military operations on urban terrain) tactics, not unlike those they could use in Afghanistan.

For the soldiers who were mission leaders, it was the final opportunity to show the instructors that they deserved the Sapper tab. Capt. Godman was a squad leader, in charge of 12 men. The soldiers would have to breach the main building using an explosive charge, then search and secure the three other buildings in the compound.

Failure or success

Enemy fire erupted before the soldiers could breach the main building. One soldier peeked around the corner to get a look at the door they had to breach, and was hit instantly. Other soldiers panicked, not sure about what to do.

Capt. Godman and her unit moved to secure one of the smaller buildings, a two-story structure. She directed her men to clear two floors of the building simultaneously. She told a team leader to go out the bottom window and meet her in the back of the building to go clear another building.

But when she got out there, she was alone, and she was gunned down by the enemy. Capt. Godman thought she had failed the mission, but she didn’t know the instructors had moved her team because they were standing too close to explosives that were going to be detonated.

The soldiers finally blew open the door to the main building and were confronted by the enemy up close. Inside, at least one troop was hit by enemy fire and had to be evacuated.

Capt. Armstrong administered a tourniquet on one of the wounded. Her battle buddy, Sgt. 1st Class Johnathan Guerrero, yelled for cover so they could evacuate him.

The main building had lots of walls and rooms, but no roof, which allowed the cadre to watch the mission unfold from scaffolds above.

“Where’s the [platoon leader]?” Sgt. Winters hollered.

“I’m here, sir,” called a distant voice from the woods.

“What the hell are you doing over there?” Sgt. Winters yelled.

The instructors shook their heads.

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