AFGHANISTAN – “There was blood down my leg after I got shot,” recalled Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ethan Burk, who was present during the Sept. 14 insurgent night attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand province.
Burk, a hazardous materials management coordinator with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), was on his way to work when he heard the first rocket-propelled grenade explode behind him.
Avoiding the giant fireball from the explosion, he had driven straight into an ambush of heavily armed insurgents firing at his four-wheeled tractor, which had no armor to stop the barrage of bullets striking all around him.
“I could see the muzzle flashes from the corner of the compound,” said Burk, a Milford, Texas native. “That’s when I realized they were all aiming at me. I felt something hit my arm, but I thought I had just banged it on something. Then I rolled out of the [tractor] and ducked. When I reached for my rifle they started shooting at me again, and that’s when I realized they had a lot more firepower than I did because they were firing too fast for just regular AK-47s.”
Maneuvering behind a barrier, Burk could only see and judge the insurgents’ movements in the darkness by their muzzle flashes. So he pressed on, trying to use the flight line’s light to see where the insurgents had holed up so he could get the drop on them.
After moving to a covered position, one of his friends and the only other Marine in the area, Lance Cpl. Kevin Sommers, a cryogenics technician, jumped over a barrier and almost landed on top of Burk. The two Marines waited for the insurgents to try and flank them. When they didn’t, the pair climbed over concrete barriers to get better firing points at the enemy.
“Once we realized they weren’t coming after us, we jumped over the T-walls and cleared out the area behind the barriers. At that point the British [quick reaction force] showed up, and the [helicopters] were shooting from their main guns at the insurgents fighting position right overhead,” Burk said. “We flagged the soldiers down with a light and yelled ‘Marines, Marines, Marines’ to let them know the situation. The guy in charge of the British QRF told us to go get my arm checked out because he saw the blood on my uniform.”
After Burk and Sommers checked in for accountability, Burk went to a corpsman and found out he had been shot in the elbow by one of the insurgent’s machine gun rounds.
“After I had it X-rayed, they found two pieces of the bullet still lodged in my arm and they had to surgically remove it,” Burk explained. “After the whole ordeal, they asked if I wanted to go home because I was injured, and I told them I just got here, why would I want to go home?”