2019年11月1日 星期五

At War: 7 Combat Deployments in 6 Years, Then a Bullet Nearly Killed Him

Most bomb technicians in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have heard his name before
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By John Ismay

Domestic Correspondent

Dear reader,

Last week, At War published a story about Sgt. First Class Jeffery Dawson, a decorated Army explosive-ordnance disposal technician who was shot in July while supporting a C.I.A. mission in Afghanistan.

Most bomb technicians in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have heard his name before. It's because the 2013 mission for which Dawson received the Distinguished Service Cross represents one of the worst-possible scenarios a bomb tech can encounter: suicide bombers, fields of buried improvised explosive devices, enemy gunfire and multiple casualties — all while operating in the dark, using night-vision goggles.

At least 10 I.E.D.s detonated in and among Army Rangers during a nighttime raid in Afghanistan in 2013, and though a number of Americans were killed on the mission, many more would have likely died had Dawson not been there. As these improvised bombs began exploding and killing members of the Ranger force, Dawson was wounded twice but continued working — clearing paths of I.E.D.s so that medics could reach wounded soldiers, sweeping additional paths in order to recover the remains of soldiers who had been killed in the cavalcade of explosions, clearing a larger area for use as a casualty collection point and personally rendering first aid to a wounded comrade. (You can read the narrative of his award here.)

His partner that night, Specialist Samuel Crockett, was initially awarded the Silver Star for his actions. Later, that medal was upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. Crockett is now a warrant officer flying Black Hawk helicopters.

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Dawson has stayed at the same unit — the 28th Ordnance Company in Fort Bragg, N.C. — since the 2013 assault. With around 44 soldiers total, including its command and administrative element, it's a small outfit. Members of the unit told me that when the company had just three deployable platoons, one of them was always deployed overseas in combat. And now with four platoons, one of them is still always deployed. Dawson was serving as a platoon sergeant when he was hit in July.

It's not a place you go if you want an easy job.

The E.O.D. techs at the 28th are tasked with supporting the 75th Ranger Regiment, and former members of the unit say they routinely deploy twice as much as Army regulations allow. Many noncommissioned officers there end up volunteering for extra deployments because of personnel shortages, or because a deploying platoon has a higher number of soldiers who are new to the company and lack operational experience.

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Dawson's injury left members of his unit very angry, for many reasons. They felt he had been forgotten by a chain of command that wasn't there when he arrived at Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda, Md. The commanding general of all Army E.O.D. forces, they pointed out, is stationed only 70 miles away in the town of Aberdeen.

No one from Dawson's battalion or the group above it was there when he arrived, either. A spokesman for the Army's 20th C.B.R.N.E. Command in Aberdeen said that representatives from Dawson's higher chain of command did eventually visit him while he was at Walter Reed, but declined to offer more details.

For several former members of the 28th, this was their breaking point in a string of issues that have bedeviled the 28th for its entire decade-long existence: poor recruiting into the unit by Army leadership, fights for specialized equipment they need for Special Operations missions and a lack of adequate medical and mental-health care, to name a few.

Dawson is currently at a veterans' hospital in Tampa, Fla., still recuperating in an inpatient department. Though he was formerly using a wheelchair, he posted a video on Wednesday of his progress taking steps with a walker. In just over six minutes, Dawson made it 158 feet down the hospital hallways. He hopes to leave the hospital soon and move into an apartment nearby so he can continue his treatment there.

— John

John Ismay is a staff writer who covers armed conflict for The New York Times Magazine. He can be reached at john.ismay@nytimes.com.

At War Event: A Conversation on the Wounds of the War on Terror

Since 2001, improvised explosive devices, manufactured by irregular fighting forces, have inflicted unforgiving wounds on hundreds of thousands of troops, which in turn has compelled medical practitioners to rethink traditional methods of trauma care and long-term healing. On Nov. 14, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times journalist and Marine veteran C. J. Chivers will moderate a conversation on the wounds of war with Dr. Mary Alexis Iaccarino, director of brain-health services for Home Base, an organization in Boston that provides free mental health care to veterans; Capt. Gregory Galeazzi, an Army veteran and Harvard Medical School student who was hit by an I.E.D. in Afghanistan and lost both of his legs and part of his right arm; and Dr. Dave Lounsbury, a retired Army doctor and editor of "War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq" and "Emergency War Surgery."

  • Tickets are $5 for military veterans, active-duty personnel, reservists and retirees with code NYT. Buy them here.

Behind the Numbers: $10 Billion

Microsoft was awarded the Defense Department's 10-year JEDI cloud computing project over Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, has been a target of President Trump's criticism.Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

That is the value of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract the Department of Defense awarded Microsoft last Friday, giving the technology giant the task of modernizing the military's outdated cloud computing systems. Among the many companies battling for the 10-year contract were Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Google, each of whom lobbied the Pentagon for the chance to overhaul a system that must keep pace with the military's increasing reliance on remote sensors, artificial intelligence and semiautonomous weapons. Amazon, which reigns supreme in the cloud computing industry and whose services have been commissioned by the C.I.A., was long considered the front-runner in the contest, so the sole award to Microsoft came as a surprise to the defense and tech industries. In the weeks before the decision was made, President Trump expressed his public hostility toward Jeff Bezos, Amazon's C.E.O., raising suspicions that he may have influenced Pentagon's ultimate decision. "In 20 years of covering tech, I've never seen a battle for any type of contract reach this level of nastiness," said Daniel Ives, an analyst for Wedbush Securities. Read the full Times report on the JEDI saga here. —Jake Nevins, Times Magazine editorial fellow

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