Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan — April 9, 2012
Outside the wire, anyone can be called on to save a life.
It’s a lesson learned by Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Weaver, a Navy EOD technician from Colorado, during a routine reconnaissance patrol in southern Afghanistan in 2012, when his Navy SEAL team leader suffered a gunshot wound while separated from the team corpsmen.
Weaver jumped into action, braving gunfire to pull the ensign out of danger and prep him for evacuation. His effort likely saved his commander’s life — and earned Weaver a Bronze Star with “V” device for valor in January.
“It sounds clichéd, but everything slows down,” he recently recalled. “You don’t even think. You just do what you were trained to do.”
The patrol came during a spring deployment to the Arghandab River Valley, a hot spot for insurgents trying to enter Kandahar to the south. Weaver worked with a Navy SEAL team operating in the area; his job was to find and disarm the jury-rigged roadside bombs common across the region.
The team was pushing out from its base on a regular reconnaissance patrol in April when things turned sour. As the team pushed in single-file around a mountain wall, gunfire broke out from the river in the distance.
The team split as it took the nearest cover, separating Weaver, an Air Force dog handler and an Afghan soldier with the SEAL ensign. Gunfire was common on patrols, Weaver said, but it was often erratic. This time it was especially close, he remembered, forcing his group to dive into an irrigation ditch below the path.
All except for the ensign. Weaver didn’t realize his friend was still on the path until he heard someone calling his name.
“He was, like, as calmly as could be, ‘I’m hit, bro.’ ”
Weaver pulled his friend into the wet irrigation ditch and watched the surrounding muck turn red. The bullet had entered the ensign’s inner thigh, dangerously close to the femoral artery. Weaver placed a tourniquet on him and prepared to move him, but the group suddenly began taking fire from a different angle.
“It was a dual ambush,” Weaver said. “And they had the high ground on us. I knew if I didn’t move him, that was it. We were done.”
The group headed for a rock outcrop in the original path, covering one another as they clambered back up the irrigation ditch wall and toward the shelter. They arrived intact, but still separated from the rest of the team. With several radios damaged in the post-gunfire scurry, they used the ensign’s to recall the group.
The team reunited. It detached several members to cover the inbound helicopter that would evacuate the ensign. The team then pursued the shooters, eventually finding one, Weaver said.
As much as two hours had passed between the time the team leader was shot and when he was evacuated, Weaver recalled, but it felt like minutes.
“Time just escapes you when you’re in a situation like that,” he said.
Flash forward almost three years, and Weaver would be reunited with the friend he saved, this time at Weaver’s Bronze Star ceremony. The ensign told the story of the day’s events, and Weaver was presented the award by the commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, Rear Adm. Frank Morneau.
Now doing underwater EOD out of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia, Weaver said the 2012 patrol was the most exciting thing he had experienced on deployment.
“You train for this stuff all the time,” he said. “But you always ask yourself — you never really know how you’re going to react when it happens.”