Infantry-'Man's' best friend: C-21
March 6, 2008
It is mid-day and Pvt. Christopher Stanfield and his fellow "Dismounted Infantrymen" load up in their Stryker vehicle, C-21 (Charlie Two-One), preparing to roll out on patrol around the Iraqi Media Network, in Mosul, Iraq.
The IMN had become known for their stand on refusing to speak against Coalition forces in Iraq, and as a result, the agency quickly became a favorite target of insurgent forces looking to intimidate the IMN into keeping their mouths shut. This new attention had been the cause of many attacks over recent months, and U.S. Forces had been tasked to beef up security patrols around the area that had been given the name, "The Wild West."
Usually an Airguard for security patrols, Stanfield finds himself as a Dismount this day, riding in the interior of the vehicle rather than in a roof hatch on top. After PCC's and PCI,s are complete, the hatch door shuts and C-21 rolls out of the gate on one of its three patrols it will conduct that day.
Five minutes out of the gate, a large Vehicle-Born Improvised Explosive device (VBIED) detonates. C-21 is hit, a "Mobility Kill." Four Airguards are blown back through their hatches and fold in atop Stanfield and the other Dismount Soldiers.
"That was the loudest explosion I was in my whole time there," said now Spc. Christopher Stanfield, vehicle commander, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "It was pretty massive," he added.
Everything goes black. Any breathable air inside the vehicle has been filled with debris and smoke, making the smallest breath impossible. What is virtually a few minutes seems like an eternity as the team waits for the air to clear to reestablish visibility and lines of communication.
"Once that cleared out we saw the four individuals all folded in on top of us, and I thought, oh man this is going to be bad," Stanfield said.
The driver, cool and collected, gave the Stryker everything it had left, pulling it through the blast site. The Soldiers in the rear of the vehicle soon realize their Airguards and fellow team members had been knocked completely out by the blast.
"Once we got through the blast site we got those four guys revived, and made sure they were OK. We then sent up a 'no-casualty report' to the command," he said. "All of this took seconds, but it seemed like forever."
Through the blast site the vehicle stops rolling, the squad leader moves to check on the driver. Looking up through the Airguard hatch he sees flames coming from outside the vehicle. He attempts to put out the flames with the onboard fire extinguisher to no avail.
"That's when we made the decision... we gotta get out there," Stanfield said. "Dropped ramp ( rear-hatch door) flames shot in, we all got out, pushed away from the vehicle, set up our perimeter, and another team had already showed up for us. That's the greatest thing about the Stryker Brigade."
After securing the perimeter and clearing the threat, the team self recovers "Two-One" and returns to the rear sustaining no casualties, and having only two weeks worth of repair work on the vehicle.
There are 13 stories that members of this team can tell you. Stanfield can tell you five, himself. All are stories of survival and chaos, with different faces, different locations, and different times. However the one consistency in these stories, the one thing that stays the same is, Charlie-21.
Now removed from the field of battle, "Two-One," as it is often called, sits in a cold, dark garage after making a nine-hour flight from its home in Alaska to Rodriguez Live Fire Complex on the South Korean Peninsula. Upon its arrival in Korea "Two-One's" lifestyle finally caught up with it.
"It took a Trip to Korea to take her out," said Stanfield as he gives C-21 a loving pat on its still fire damaged side.
For the first few days in Korea Stanfield's truck was the only one ready and rolling.
"The other trucks we brought out were having problems, but Two-One was rolling around ready to go, and I was like 'see everybody wants to say stuff about how old...' and I was like, 'yea but we're the only one rolling.'"
Unfortunately, a few days later, Stanfield tried backing out of a battle position, but the Stryker wouldn't go into reverse. He had no choice but to inform his leadership that Two-One would have to be parked.
Stanfield feels that his vehicle has more than done its fair share of work, and says all Stryker Soldiers feel the same way he does.
"We won't deploy without it. We all love these trucks; they are the only way we want to move around during a deployment," he said.
As for Charlie-21 it will take some work to get the vehicle back up and running, and if commanding a new vehicle is in the cards, it's a decision Stanfield is willing to live with. However, Charlie Two-One and Stanfield will always have a bond that even an IED can't sever.
"This vehicle's just strong, it's so strong. I owe it," Stanfield said, lowering his head, "it saved my life; I truly feel it saved my life."