Friday, March 10

Roadside Bomb (IED) vs. God's Plan

Here is a picture of my friend David Jones' tank as it burned after being hit by a rocket or bomb in Baghdad today. David and his entire crew were able to escape by following the emergency procedures they had practiced over and over again for months. Everyone back at camp couldn't believe they had gotten out alive, let alone virtually unharmed.

God isn't done with David yet.

Here is the powerful story from David:

By now, I’m sure that most of you have heard what happened to my tank crew and me on the morning of 10 March. I had hoped to keep most of you from knowing, but with it being all over the news and everyone talking about it back at FT Hood, I should have known that people would find out eventually. It isn’t that I want to keep secrets from anyone; it’s just that I had hoped to save all of you from worry and needless heartache.

But since the cat is out of the bag, I suppose that I should spin you the tale, partly to dispel any rumors and mainly for all of you to know how God has answered your prayers for safety.

My wingman and I were patrolling the major MSRs (Military Service Roads) in our Battalion area. This is the primary mission of the tanks right now, securing the roads to allow other military vehicles that are less protected freedom of movement. I was the lead vehicle, taking my tanks down the exit ramp of one road to merge onto another. About halfway down the exit ramp, my tank was struck by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).

This was no ordinary IED though. The insurgents have discovered a particular type designed to penetrate the armor on our vehicles. The Abrams Battle Tank is an amazing vehicle, and by far the safest vehicle to be traveling on. However, it was designed to fight against other tanks, and the armor is placed where it can offer the best protection against incoming tank and artillery rounds. The insurgents know this, and are targeting the areas of the tank that are the most vulnerable with these advanced IEDs.

So when the IED hit C11 (my tank’s identification number), it hit below the armored skirts on the sides and penetrated through the track, punched a hole in the hull, and went into the fuel cell. The Abrams tank has two front fuel cells that allow the tank to go for a long time before needing to refuel. The IED hit the tank on the right side, igniting the fuel instantly. I think that the blast confused me for a moment, because it threw me from my TC’s (Tank Commander) station and into other side of the turret. I saw fire coming up from under my gunner’s feet, and my driver reported that the fire was in the driver’s hole as well.

When the tank is on fire, the only thing that you can really do is get yourself and your crew out. We evacuated the vehicle and tried to put out the fire. Even after spraying three fire extinguishers, the flames were still coming out of the driver’s hole and all the rubber on the track was still burning. The metal was simply too hot for us to put out the fire. I ordered the crew to abandon the vehicle and used my wingman tank to provide security until help could arrive. If any of you saw the pictures or new footage of the tank burning, they were taken after we had evacuated and moved away from the vehicle.

By far, the most important thing was that no one was seriously injured. The blast was strong enough that a crewman on the tank behind me had his shoulder thrown out of socket after hitting the inside of the turret. I twisted my knee getting out of the tank, but it isn’t sprained that bad and should be fine in a few days.

It took us the rest of the day to recover the tank. The metal was so hot that everything inside the turret melted, and the tank was smoldering for about eight hours after the fire was finally put out by no less than five fire trucks. All of the small arms on the tank cooked off a few minutes after the fire started, but the real fireworks came when the main gun rounds went off. I had about twenty rounds for the 120mm main gun on the tank, and after we thought that the fire was completely out, it finally got hot enough inside the ammo compartment for them to go off. To get an idea of what that looked like, imagine the largest Roman candle that you’ve ever seen and multiply that by a very large number.

The tank was a complete loss. It burned for so long that the only thing salvageable is perhaps some of the armor. As the tank lost hydraulic pressure the main gun slowly lowered, and I knew that she had given up the ghost. Because of the countless number of hours spent on their vehicles pulling maintenance, training, or on missions, tankers grow a certain attachment to their modern-day chariots. Each tank has its own quirks and aspects that make it unique. In all the time that I spent on C11, she never let me down. As we were loading C11 onto a semi to haul her away, I commented to my commander that she was truly gone. He replied, “Yes, but if she died, at least she died for you.”

He was right, but for all the protection that C11 and her armor gave me that day, there was a sovereign God who provided even more. There are so many ways that things could have turned out differently, but none of the “what ifs” matter. Everyone told my crew and me that we were very lucky, but I simply believe that we were protected thanks to your prayers and God’s will. Apparently, He has a few things for me left to do on this earth.

I already have another tank, which will soon be christened as the new C11. I have been out on missions since the attack, and have returned to see where we were hit. This experience has done nothing but hardened my resolve to seek out and engage the enemy. We still have a long road before Iraq is secure enough for us to leave. Fighting an insurgency is a very slow and deliberate process, and while you would never know it from watching the news, there are signs that we are doing the right things and that we are winning.

Thanks to David for keeping us all informed. We are praying for daily David!

Links to the Stories:
BBC NEWS | In Pictures | Week in pictures: 4 - 10 March:
Netscape w/ CNN News
Portsmouth Herald
Washinton Post (not specificly about the explosion)
Detroit News

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