Article and Photographs courtesy of the Copperas Cove Leader Press.


20th Engineers - Answering the Call!


Convoy in Motion!  First Team! 20th Engineer's on the ready!


THE FIRST CAVALARY convoy rolled into Baghdad this week. The convoy came under fire just before entering Baghdad, with an rocket propelled grenade launched at a tanker truck missing its mark. – PHOTO BY PAUL ANDERSON

Rocket propelled grenade fired at tanker filled with diesel fuel misses mark


Leader-Press Correspondent

BAGHDAD, Iraq – “Contact right,” came the message over radios as soldiers in the 1st Cavalry Division were ambushed by anti-coalition terrorists while trying to enter Baghdad for the first time.  



The enemy had launched two rocket-propelled grenades at a tanker truck carrying 2,500 gallons of diesel

fuel. The ambush was followed by a hail of gunfire from American soldiers trying to prevent terrorists from launching another grenade or firing rifles at the convoy.   As it turns out, one missile flew too high and behind the tanker.   The other narrowly passed in front of the driver’s cab.   The fuel truck was part of a convoy transporting vehicles, equipment

and troops with the 20th Engineers Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav from an assembly area in the Kuwaiti

desert to their yearlong mission in Baghdad.  They entered the Iraqi capital on the early morning of March 29.




The ambush was witnessed by at least a dozen soldiers. “You could actually see it travel across and toward the tanker,” said Sergeant Travis Harvey, 26, who was riding on a troop transport vehicle behind the tanker. “I just wanted to get my weapon up and shooting. It was too quick to think.”   Sergeant Sergio Lopez, 22, followed a trail of smoke left by the

rocket and was the first to spot the terrorists that were hiding

behind a burm. “I looked down my sight and saw these two guys who fired the RPG. Since the vehicle I was on was moving, it was hard to get an aimed shot.   So I just started shooting in their general direction.”



Private First Class Matthew Bynaker was manning a 7.62

mm machine gun mounted on a humvee a few vehicles behind Lopez and Harvey. The 20-yearold soldier noticed two other terrorists standing nearby. “I swung around and started laying fire down on them. I’d see dirt fly off in front of them… so I was blowing dirt up at their feet.”   When asked if he hit or killed anyone, Bynaker said,   “It’s a good possibility. I know they all (the bullets) didn’t hit the dirt.” 





Their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Barrett Holmes, said he was proud of his soldiers. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do. They didn’t need a command from an NCO. They were shot at and they returned fire.” Holmes credits the soldier’s exemplary actions to their discipline and extensive training, including extra practice while in Kuwait. Since they first arrived in the Middle East, the troops received more concentrated experience with shooting their weapons (compared to the practice at Fort Hood), and also got some hands on experience with firing  machine guns that were mounted in humvees.  



According to the soldiers, the training was more realistic to what they would experience in Iraq. They agree with LTC Holmes that the practice paid off.   “I really don’t remember thinking about what to do. The training just takes over,” said Bynaker.   “It happened so quick, all I could think about was getting rounds downrange,” Private First Class James Martinez.   The firefight lasted only a matter of seconds. Afterwards, many described the exhilaration they’d experienced.   “I was hyped up,” said Bynaker. “I was pretty fired up on it.  It was a rush.” “I had an adrenaline rush

going,” added Harvey.   “I got kind of mad afterwards,”

said Martinez. “You just want to keep shooting towards

the enemy.”  



The Army dispatched two Kiowa helicopters to the area to scout for any other potential enemies. None were found.   The convoy was halted for approximately 10 minutes and then continued without incident to its destination of Camp Dragoon, a forward operating base just east of the Tigris River near downtown Baghdad.  



The ambush was the only assault on any 1st BCT vehicle during this week’s massive convoy as the brigade prepares to replace the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which has been in Baghdad for nearly a year.   Some believe the terrorists were trying to size up their new enemy. “I think they expected us to be a soft target,” said Sergeant First Class Anthony Ballard, 37, of Fort Hood.. “They were just testing 1st Cav.”



Ballard concluded that the terrorists were taught a lesson that they shouldn’t mess with the 20th Engineers or 1st Cav.