Escape in Iraq

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team,…

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, approach an entry control point while aboard Stryker armored vehicles during a stop at Contingency Operating Base Adder. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. DeAngelo Wells/Released)

Under Attack and Wounded
Lt. Brown radioed that a truck was on fire ahead, so several trucks veered off the highway through a hole the security detail had created in the guardrail, onto the frontage road. Most of the trucks followed, but another convoy would follow in half an hour, so Hamill reached behind his seat for his Qualcomm satellite computer. “I had just started typing ‘convoy under attack’ when a bullet slammed through the passenger door and struck my right forearm, knocking the computer out of my hands,” Hamill said. “There was no pain, though, only a strong jolt. A huge chunk of my arm had been blown away. Blood gushed from my arm all over the computer.”

“I needed to find a way to stop the bleeding,” he said. Hamill grabbed a pair of clean socks from his bug-out bag. “I wrapped a sock around my arm and handed the radio to Nelson and shouted for him to run communications until I could get the bleeding stopped. The sock wasn’t long enough to tie off so I kept twisting it, hoping the pressure would slow the bleeding.

“The gunfire was so loud. We were right next to the buildings from where the shooters were firing their weapons. Nelson screamed into the radio, but I couldn’t understand a word he was saying over the noise from the mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades. We were being riddled with bullets, but we kept going.

“Our truck was breaking down, and other trucks were passing us. I couldn’t see who was in the trucks and did not know which trucks had been disabled behind us. The trucks were completely out of order. We crept along the frontage road maybe a mile from the exit that leads to BIAP. I noticed in the mirror that some of our trucks near the rear were still on the freeway and moving past us. Some trucks had passed us on the frontage road as well. They were doing what they were supposed to do. It was each driver’s call; If the smoke cleared where you could see, you drove through it as fast as you could. The trucks on the freeway were farther away from the small-arms fire, but since we were on the frontage road, we were at point-blank range.

“I couldn’t see the shooters. They were hidden in the grass and behind the buildings. Some fired from behind parked cars, protected by a screen of women and children. Mortar rounds exploded in front of us; a black cloud of smoke followed each blast. A rocket-propelled grenade slammed into our truck. Our vehicle shook and nearly turned over.”

Hamill’s driver yelled, “We’ve been hit by something—something big!”

Hamill shouted back, “We gotta keep going!”

“We were still moving forward, bullets hammering the truck,” Hamill said. “I just knew that at any moment our rig was going to explode and at any second we were going to die. We continued on, trucks still on the freeway were passing us; bullet holes riddled the huge tanks, literally unloading the fuel on the road. The trucks looked like water-sprinkler systems wetting down the pavement, which was slick with diesel. The trucks slid through like hogs on ice.”

Other trucks sped past Hamill’s rig. Another driver lost control a half-mile ahead. “He fishtailed a little bit, flipped upside down, and his truck and trailer slid down into the median. An instant later, the rig exploded. The whole truck blew up right there in front of us. The driver didn’t have a chance; it was over in a flash.”

Hamill’s truck limped along as more trucks passed. “We were almost to the exit when I saw another truck at the ramp on its right side, just off the frontage road, in a ditch,” he recalled. “I assumed the driver got off the ramp too fast, lost it and rolled over. The whole top of the cab was mashed down.

“We were barely moving, just crawling, maybe 5 or 10 miles per hour. When we reached the ramp, we began fishtailing and spinning out of control. I shouted to Nelson that we couldn’t block the ramp. We managed to make it to the top of the ramp. Another truck swerved off the freeway onto our ramp, cut in front of us, and made a left-hand turn on the crossover bridge. Another truck that had made the same turn, apparently hit by a rocket, rolled over, and came to rest against the guardrail of the bridge. We slowly started across the bridge over the freeway, passing the disabled truck; there was no sign of life.”

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  • Steve Kelly

    I remember that day. I had just got back to Camp Cedar II on April 8th from my sister-in-laws funeral in Texas when Wayne ask me to go on convoy to Camp Anaconda the next day (April 9th, 2004). I had no sleep and severe jetlag. Working around the clock ain’t no lie. I lost a lot of good friends that day and a lot of people quit. Just one thing. I don’t remember any trucks with “hoods”. All our trucks were Volvos and Mercedes Benz cabovers (no hoods).
    Hey Tommy, you still got that tan Drive It Like You Stole It T-shirt we all signed for you the day you escaped. Glad you made it back buddy. God bless ya.
    CC Steve Kelly
    Camp Cedar II Iraq
    12-03 to 08-05

  • Read his entire book, Escape in Iraq… Mr. Hamill’s retelling of his amazing story changed my life. That’s not just hyperbole. And I’m not an overly religious person. Thank you Mr. Hamill!

  • Tony G

    Thomas Hamill spoke during a class on Anti Terrorism I attended a few months ago. He is an amazing patriot and his story should be told again and again.