Air Force Sniper Recalls Battle in Iraq


MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- With rockets exploding around him and the entry control point in complete chaos, a security forces Airman took decisive action to help quell the enemy threat and treat wounded comrades.

Some were wounded, a few dead, others assisting and many heading for cover. As for Staff Sgt. Daniel Ball, a 366th Security Forces Squadron controller, running to a bunker wasn't an option on that brisk March morning in 2007 at Tallil Air Base, Iraq. There was work to be done.

"I was asleep in my bed when I heard a lot of explosions," Ball said. "After listening for about 20 seconds, I realized it was incoming and not outgoing fire, jumped out of bed, threw on my gear, grabbed my weapon and ran out of the building. We had to go find the points of impact and clear them of any hazards or wounded personnel."

That was Ball's third tour in Iraq and the long-range Air Force sniper was already seasoned.

"Our tech. sergeant, another Airman and I got into our (vehicle) and called (the Base Defense Operations Center) to let them know we were mobile," said Ball, a graduate of Yuba City High School, Calif. "After about 30 seconds on the road, we heard a panicked radio call. It was our commander and he needed help near (the base's entry control point)."

Ball's team lead called the operations center to let them know they'd respond and assist. When they got on scene Ball noticed a truck fully engulfed in flames and wounded Soldiers on the ground. With rockets still landing in the area, Ball quickly grabbed the medical kit and rushed to assist some of the victims.

"I found my commander was already there and had put a tourniquet on one guy's lower leg," he recalled. Ball then noticed quite a bit of bleeding on the Soldiers upper torso and began to apply combat dressings.

Looking around, Ball saw chaos in all directions, he said, and remembered seeing one Soldier kneeling over his comrades.

"The smell was one of the worst things about that day," Ball said. "It's a smell you can never forget."

Ball's been in the Air Force roughly seven years. He has completed several advanced training courses, including advanced designated marksmanship, long-range sniper training, detainee operations, convoy security, emergency services team training and the combat life saver course. He has worked with Army Special Forces and the 820th Battle Group from Moody Air Force Base, Ga.

He's done everything, he said, from combat operations to giving first aid to injured civilans.   Ball said he suffered nightmares, but is confident he's always done the right thing and did his best to save lives. Still, Ball has advice for any Airman who may find themselves trekking similar paths to one's he's endured:

"Don't hold (stuff) in and let it eat away at you. Talk to someone," Ball said. "You're never fully prepared for a combat zone until you get into it, but be as ready as you can. You need to take all your training seriously no matter how many times you've been through it. It could save you or someone else's life."

Remembering the good and the bad days in the deserts of Iraq, Ball can confidently say, "I did my job."

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