AF Tech Sgt John Chapman, "A Grainy Picture of Valor"

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AF Tech Sgt John Chapman, "A Grainy Picture of Valor"

While the whole world erupts over whether Kaepernick should be standing for the National Anthem the NYT put out an article which is just heart breaking all around.

Britt Slabinski could hear the bullets ricochet off the rocks in the darkness. It was the first firefight for his six-man reconnaissance unit from SEAL Team 6, and it was outnumbered, outgunned and taking casualties on an Afghan mountaintop.

A half-dozen feet or so to his right, John Chapman, an Air Force technical sergeant acting as the unit’s radioman, lay wounded in the snow. Mr. Slabinski, a senior chief petty officer, could see through his night-vision goggles an aiming laser from Sergeant Chapman’s rifle rising and falling with his breathing, a sign he was alive.

Then another of the Americans was struck in a furious exchange of grenades and machine-gun fire, and the chief realized that his team had to get off the peak immediately.

He looked back over at Sergeant Chapman. The laser was no longer moving, Chief Slabinski recalls, though he was not close enough to check the airman’s pulse. Chased by bullets that hit a second SEAL in the leg, the chief said, he crawled on top of the sergeant but could not detect any response, so he slid down the mountain face with the other men. When they reached temporary cover, one asked: “Where’s John? Where’s Chappy?” Chief Slabinski responded, “He’s dead.”

Well, according to new interpretation of existing evidence, namely some video that they've enhanced, it looks like Chappy wasn't dead, and continued to fight, killing two more AQ guys before being killed supporting a Chinook landing under heavy fire with Rangers on board.  

[By the way, I don't get the referring to him as the "radioman" because Chapman was the AF Combat Controller on scene, which is a bit more involved than just being the RTO.]

It's a tough read not just because of Chapman, but for Slabinski too, who you have to feel bad for.  You should read the entire thing, but in defense of Slabinski:

[Maj. Gen. Gary Harrell, a retired Delta Force commander who was involved in the broader operation that included the mountaintop episode] cautioned anyone who had not been there against second-guessing. “It’s easy to say, ‘Well, I’d never leave someone behind,’” he said. “It’s a lot harder when you’re getting your ass shot off.” 

He added, “If anybody thought Chapman was alive, we would have been trying to move heaven and earth to get him out of there.”

Chief Slabinski, who is now 46 and retired, acknowledged that he might have made a mistake under intense fire in thinking that Sergeant Chapman was dead. Still haunted by what happened on the mountain, he replayed the events there to explain his decisions that day.

“I’m trying to direct what everybody’s got going on, trying to see what’s going on with John; I’m already 95 percent certain in my mind that he’s been killed,” he said in an interview. “That’s why I was like, ‘O.K., we’ve got to move.’”

And Chief Slabinski has paid a price....

At times, Chief Slabinski said, he feels as if he had never left Takur Ghar. He still has “visions” in which he sees fighters on the mountain moving in slow motion, and hears the sound of grenades and gunfire. He has trouble sleeping, and says he has received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress after a dozen years of war.

Like I said, go read the whole thing, it is well worth it.

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I'm a medically retired OIF and OEF Master Sergeant.

Just hang in there brother, you did what you had too,

I got you in my church prayers list for your recovery


Izy Veguilla

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.