Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hernaldo Garay, 82nd Airborne Division

A young Army veteran recently joined my son John’s team at Summation Legal Technologies and John thought I would like to interview Hernaldo for my blog. John said that Hernaldo’s platoon were the main scouts for their battalion and they did everything including initial recon, lasering targets for “fast bird” bombers, surveillance, escorting high-value packages, etc. One day he was escorting a high value package in a convoy and they were attacked. It was interesting how they have very specific, automatic responses when anything happens. I am starting to see how our troops with their training and coordination are so much more effective than any other fighting force on the world. Have him tell you the story.

Needless to say I was intrigued, not least of all because Hernaldo Garay served in the Army 82nd Airborne Division that my Grandson Johnnie Walton is in now. I just spent about 30 minutes on the phone with Hernaldo and it was an honor to hear about the war from someone who served in it.

Hernaldo joined the Army shortly after the attack on 9/11 and not long after graduating from high school. His 82nd Arborne division was involved in the initial invasion of Iraq. Soon after entering Iraq, his company of about 100 men drove to the town of Al Samawah. They travel at night with no lights, guided only by night vision goggles, as that is the safest way to go. Hernaldo and his mates were in trucks, nervously talking with their Sergeant, a Gulf War vet, about what war would be like while the brass were in a building making plans. Suddenly the battalion came under attack from insurgents firing rockets and mortars. When an airburst exploded about 20 meters from his truck, Hernaldo knew about war.

The plan took them next to Fallujah. They were one of the first coalition troops in that city. Hernaldo’s squad of four armored trucks with 16 troops and the division commander, a Full Bird Colonel, entered Fallujah at night. Duty in Fallujah involved reconnaissance to identify houses containing bad guys, kicking in doors and capturing the ones who were making and exploding IEDs that were blowing up our guys on the roadways.

Hernaldo told me about one harrowing experience when he and just three other troops were on recon, surveiling a building off Highway 5 on the outskirts of Baghdad. Suddenly they were ambushed by about 80 insurgents firing AK 47s and RPk machine guns. Our four troops were armed with their M4 semi-automatic weapons and about 200 rounds each. In the first minute, while one trooper was frantically trying to call in air support, the other three were firing in the direction of the enemies using up bullets at a furious rate. When the two Kiowa helicopters arrived three minutes later, Hernaldo was down to his last magazine and the enemy had advanced nearly to the highway. Just in the nick of time the Kiowa mini-guns opened up on the 80 enemies, killing the lot.

Hernaldo had so many great stories but that’s all I could capture on one phone call. His last words to me were these: I wish your grandson the best when he goes back to Iraq. Also do trust that he is in the best, most elite division that there is, the Army 82nd Airborne.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Bill, for the wonderful interview with Hernaldo an American hero. I am so proud of all our men and women in the Military.

You sound so proud of your grand son as well as you should be. Hernaldo is right about the 82nd Airborne being the elite; my older son Scott was in 82.

Keep up the great blogs.....
How is your injury coming along?


7:14 PM  
Blogger pappy said...

Great post, We are truly blessed with heroes such as these. I was able to go back in during the first gulf action but to old for the secound. Would gladly back these guys up.

1:20 AM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Thank you for your service.


3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go get 'em, Pappy!

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice colors. Keep up the good work. thnx!

7:23 AM  

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