Staff Sgt. Konrad Reed.Staff Sgt. Konrad Reed
Unit: 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division
Medal: Bronze Star with "V"
Earned: April 25, 2003, Afghanistan
Staff Sgt. Konrad Reed should consider calling “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” After all, how many soldiers have lived to describe what it feels like to roll on top of a live grenade?
To top it off, the 24-year-old father of five from Murdo, S.D., survived not one, but two grenade explosions on the same day.
Reed, a field artillery soldier, was stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division’s C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment at Firebase Shkin, a dusty little base near Pakistan.
The unit went into Afghanistan in January 2003 and wasn’t due to leave until August 2003.
On April 25 of that year, the unit mounted a reconnaissance mission to look for 20 to 30 al-Qaida loyalists that local Afghans said were slipping over the mountains from Pakistan and stirring up trouble.
Sure enough, “we almost walked on top of the enemy,” Reed recalled in an April telephone interview from Fort Bragg, N.C. “They were in some kind of assembly area, like they were pulling security.”
Reed, a sergeant at the time, figured he was “less than 12 feet away” when the insurgents started shooting, hitting a staff sergeant from Reed’s unit right in the kneecap.
Reed yelled for a medic, dropped to the ground, and started firing back.
“It’s the greatest feeling, and the worst at the same time,” Reed said of his first taste of combat. “You know people are getting shot, but you’re doing what you’ve been training to do every since you got in the Army.”
Unfortunately for Reed, there was no cover to his front, and nothing close behind him.
“I was completely pinned down,” Reed said. “Things were getting intense.”
Reed’s lieutenant yelled “grenade.”
“Before I could do anything, sure enough a grenade landed top of me,” Reed, who was on his back firing, said.
The grenade “hit my weapon and bounced off to my left,” Reed said. “I rolled to my right and started crawling as fast as I could.
“At this point in time, I pretty much considered myself done for.”
The grenade went off.
“It was incredibly loud. The blast split my [M-16] sling. I lost my weapon,” Reed said. “I got hit in the foot with shrapnel.”
Nevertheless, Reed was surprised to note, he was still alive and able to keep crawling back to a safer position.
“Thankfully, it was a cheap Chinese grenade. They don’t make them as good as we do,” he said.
The second grenade came maybe 20 minutes later.
“It landed somewhere to my left,” Reed said.
Urgently trying to avoid the munition, but not sure where it had landed, Reed took a desperate gamble.
He dived left, tumbling down the hill — smack into the path of the grenade.
“It rolled under me and blew up,” Reed said.
Witnesses told Reed the grenade blew him 6 feet into the air.
“I thought that only happened in the movies,” Reed said one of them later told him.
Reed was unconscious and soaked with blood. Battlefield medics were sure he was dead.
But “the IBA [individual body armor] worked,” Reed said.
Damage was limited to “42 pieces of shrapnel and a bunch of ruined equipment.”
Reed spent three days recuperating from his injuries at Bagram Air Field before returning to his unit for the rest of the deployment. Two servicemembers died in the fight and more than 20 were wounded.
Reed was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” for valor for his actions.