Smitty Steps Up (continued)
Radio Traffic on the Whiskey Net
I was a nearly a click [kilometer] down the trail when Smitty called me on the Whiskey frequency and, breathing heavily, told me what had happened.
Smitty: "Six Actual, this is Six, Over."
I could picture him crouched there, hunched in the depression at the lip of the LZ where I had last seen him, handset tight up under his helmet so he could talk.
Me: "This is Six Actual, go."
Smitty: "Be advised the first bird's away. Six men medevac'ed, including SSgt XXX, over."
I knew the bird was up. I had heard it without being able to see it through the canopy. But I had heard no more incoming fire since we left. Maybe the staff sergeant had injured himself. But bad enough to medevac? This wasn't good.
Me: "How'd he get hit? Who else got hit? Over."
Smitty: "No one got hit. He jumped on the bird, over."
So that was it.
I could hear the tension in his voice as he spoke. I knew he half-expected another incoming round to find them at any moment.
And I instantly got it. His superior non-commissioned officer had just taken off, literally.
And Smitty was processing in real-time the very challenging situation he found himself in.
Me: "Jesus, what's your SitRep Smitty?"
Smitty: "Be advised, I have two more birds on station, one ready to come in. I have six more WIA and two KIA to medevac. And lots of gear on the zone."
A moment's silence passed. I had halted my little group and was ready to turn back to the landing zone. My situation had just gotten more challenging too and I was processing my options.
I could hear the other two choppers working a pattern, waiting to swoop in and save some more lives. Or possibly lose theirs if the dice rolled wrong.
But Smitty hadn't said, "Over" even though he had released the mike button. Clearly he had more to say. I waited another couple of heartbeats.
Smitty: "I can do this."
His voice wasn't shaking any more. His transmission on the Whiskey net wasn't a question. It was a statement.
And all the forward observers, Gunny Fab and the mortar fire direction center huddled around a radio down the trail consumed by suspense, everyone who was listening to every word that passed between us, everyone heard him when he said it.
And this time he added, "Over."
Me: "I know you can Smitty. Screw the gear. Get your medevacs out and get out of there, over."
Smitty: "Roger, Six. Out."
Moments later I could hear one of the birds cut its engines so it could auto-rotate into the zone.
It was Smitty’s finest hour.