April 10, 2003: I thought I was relatively safe after surviving four rocket-propelled grenades fired at a Humvee I was in on the streets of Baghdad. But I was wrong.
Being a correspondent for the AssociatedPress, I was embedded with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines unit. We reached the Al-Azimiyah Palace, a 17-acre compound on the Tigris River. At the Palace, I was exploring a room where Saddam Hussein, his two sons and key aides had reportedly held a meeting the night before. Marine Captain Shawn Basco, the battalion’s forward air controller was also in the room. He couldn’t believe they had escaped 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs that had pulverized the palace.
After striking a “Hero” pose on Saddam’s Mother-of-Pearl inlaid chair, he invited me to join him as he was coordinating CASEVAC missions. Something told me to check in with my platoon commander first, then join in.
Within only a few minutes, I found Basco directing medevac missions alright… from a litter. He had been cut down by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade that sailed over the garden wall and exploded near the LZ.
“I can’t feel my foot,” said Basco, an F/A-18 Hornet pilot. Basci scribbled a note on cardboard for the pilot of a CH-46E Sea Knight from Marine Med. Helicopter Squadron 268, “Red Dragons.” They’d just landed in the garden to pick up six casualties and the body of Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey Bohr, the second member of the battalion to be killed. The note read, “Need water and ammo ASAP.”
A Navy corpsman learned of Basco’s injury, and ordered him aboard the next CASEVAC. The pilots, through repeated runs and underheavy fire, brought back H20 and ammo to 1/5 and took out its wounded. Basco was awarded a Bronze Star with “V” device and the pilots were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses. They were chosen by the USMC to fly Pres. Bush in “Marine One.” Capt. A. Espinoza and Maj. D. Presto arrived at their new assignment at about the time Basco healed enough to fly supersonic again.