Soldier displays courage under fire
October 20, 2010
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - "It kind of felt like Chuck Norris kicked me in the side," is how Pfc. Phillip Mexcur describes what it feels like to get shot. But that is the extent of the theatrics Mexcur will offer in his narration of the day he was hit by two rounds of sniper fire; a story he tells in such a subtle tone his voice barely reaches above a whisper, as if he were telling a bedtime story rather than a near-death experience.
For most Soldiers this would be the end of the story, but not for the 22-year-old fire support specialist with 1st Platoon Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Infantry (Mountain) Regiment. During a patrol near the village of Yazeen Sept. 25, which happened to be the two-year anniversary of his graduation from basic training, he was hit with two rounds of sniper fire. The rounds were stopped by the side plate of his body armor.
Immediately after realizing he wasn't injured, he performed a casualty assessment of his platoon sergeant, gave the distance and direction of the sniper fire and directed close-air support, all within two minutes of being shot.
"I wasn't hurt, so there was no point in not doing my job. Even if I was bleeding out, I'd still want to do my job," said Mexcur.
After the second shot, he dropped to the ground and his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Robert Smith, checked him out.
After Rogers determined he was OK, Mexcur's first concern was his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Mike Keirnan, who was hit by the sniper fire in the foot.
Then Mexcur's training as a fire support specialist kicked in and he got on the radio.
"He instantly got on the radio and started calling in CAS. That's when the F-16 [Fighting Falcon] came out of nowhere," said Sgt. Dustin Rogers, Mexcur's team leader. "That's the type of guy he is; he's way more mature than his rank. He is really into his job."
Mexcur wanted to call in a medical evacuation helicopter for Keirnan, but Keirnan wouldn't allow it.
"He did not want to give the enemy the satisfaction of knowing they wounded one of us," said Mexcur.
So instead, Rogers went to a local villager and bought a wheelbarrow for $10 and used that to get Keirnan back to their trucks.
Keirnan was still able to give some direction to his Soldiers. However, Mexcur saw he needed help, and the private first class, with just two years in the Army, stepped in to lead alongside his platoon sergeant.
"Thirty percent [of the orders] were coming out of his mouth. For the rest, I just knew what needed to get done," said Mexcur.
For Mexcur, it was not a big deal.
"I have a different way of looking at things. I respect the rank, but I didn't do anything that a person my age, with my experience, shouldn't have. I guess it is just the way our parents raised us," said Mexcur.
Some of the other Soldiers say Mexcur is blessed with the luck of the Irish. Mexcur even wears a Celtic cross he found in his Kevlar band.
"I kept it in my pocket until that day, when I put it in my Kevlar band ... and then I got shot," says Mexcur as matter-of-factly as if he were telling you his favorite color.
Despite any luck that may have been involved on Sept. 25, it was his even-keeled nature and uncanny maturity that gave him the ability to rise to the occasion and perform above well above his rank, Rogers added.
These qualities, combined with his intense commitment to his job and fellow Soldiers, are what make Mexcur's future in the Army a bright one, said Rogers.
"He really is a professional; one of the guys who gets stuff done. He's one of the few guys you can really rely on," said Rogers.