We were screwed and we all knew it…
We had just begun our patrol in Zarghan Shar, a bad town in Afghanistan, when we saw a group of men watching us from a 2nd floor window.
We darted behind a wall and asked our interpreter to see if the enemy was saying anything on the radio that might indicate what these men were up to.
“They are talking about waiting to shoot until you are below them.”
The men in the window were fighters and they were waiting for us to get closer so they could ambush us.
Due to our rules of engagement, we couldn’t do anything to them unless they shot us first.
We could either go towards the buildings and be shot in the chest, or retreat across the field behind us and get picked off.
This was the first time I understood the burden of leadership. Everyone knew the situation, but our team leader still had to make a call on it.
"We need to go towards the buildings” he said.
We walked into an ambush that turned into a 6 hour long fight. A few of us got hit, including me, but no good guys died.
I woke up in a hospital with my team leader slouched in a chair next to me, kit still on, blood caked to his face. He looked up, tears in his eyes:
"I'm so sorry John."
Remember that leaders are people too, and their job probably sucks.