Fighting back tears, 1st Lt. Joshua York addressed an audience at Fort Hood on April 5, recalling the scene on April 4, 2004, during the siege of Sadr City, Iraq.
“Ten years ago, yesterday, all of our lives would significantly change forever,” he said. “Soldiers from Comanche Red Platoon found themselves immobilized in the middle of Sadr City engaged in a fight for their lives.”
York spoke as part of a memorial ceremony held by 2nd “Lancer” Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division to honor those soldiers who gave their all during that battle and throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
York described how the task force responded immediately by mounting every vehicle available — from Bradley Fighting Vehicles to lightly armored Humvees — in order to reach the 19 members of the pinned-down platoon.
“I can tell you, as the 20th soldier, I wanted nothing more than to get to my brothers in their most desperate time of need,” he said.
York said this weekend is all about reconnecting, honoring and remembering all the members who paid the ultimate sacrifice that day.
Lt. Col. Carter Price, the Lancer commander, spoke to those in attendance about how the battalion’s 73 campaign streamers, hanging on an ash-wood staff, symbolize something far greater than the campaigns written on them.
“Together, they represent the tens of thousands of soldiers who served under them,” Price said. “Their weight is the physical manifestation of the (missions) this battalion has borne for this Army and its nation. Today, we honor our brothers who bore this burden most.”
Price said he sought to connect the history and lineage of the Lancer Battalion with the soldiers currently in its ranks.
“Toward this end, we have sought to connect the past with the present, to bring the lineage to life,” Price said. “Today, as you remember your fallen, your enduring commitment to your brothers, (you) forge that mission in great detail.”
Later in the ceremony, York and retired Capt. Lucas Cioffi, the former executive officer of Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the Lancer Battalion in April 2004, read the names of 26 soldiers who died during Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
The siege of Sadr City was a blockade established by U.S. and Iraqi forces in the Shia district of northern Baghdad to stifle the efforts of the Mahdi army in their center of power.
Just a few weeks prior, the Lancer Battalion had arrived to relieve elements of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment of the responsibility of securing of Sadr City.
In defiance of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Mahdi army started an uprising against the coalition forces in early April 2004.
The morning of April 4, 2004, a day some would come to call “Black Sunday,” started like every other day for soldiers assigned to Task Force Lancer at Camp War Eagle in the northeastern area of Baghdad, also known as Sadr City.
While on mission, Comanche Red Platoon came under heavy fire from insurgent forces. The unit was ambushed and pinned down.
The platoon took immediate casualties from rocket propelled grenade and small-arms, fired from several street-level and rooftop enemy positions.
The unit called for support and soldiers from 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment; and 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, and units from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment responded with a quick reaction force.
These elements fought the enemy, often at distances of 30 meters, to get to their brothers-in-arms. After a few hours, the relief force finally made it on-site. Yet after reaching their comrades, the soldiers still fought for several more hours while exiting the city to their base.
Eight soldiers were lost and another 50 were wounded during the battle.
“To all my Comanche Red Platoon brothers, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about all of you,” York said.