Story and photos by Cpl. Meredith Brown
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – Some days it is better to be lucky than good.
For Sgt. Jacob P., a Danish tank commander with Jutland Dragoon Regiment, luck was definitely on his side on two separate occasions in January.
On Jan. 5, Jacob was manning the turret in his Leopard 2 tank while providing overwatch during Operation Shamali Kamarband when he came under enemy fire. Jacob was shot in his right shoulder and fell down inside his tank. He immediately came back up after looking through his optics and located the enemy, engaged him and killed him by returning fire with his machine gun.
Following the firefight, the Holstebro, Denmark native had to be medically evacuated to Bastion Role 3 Hospital, adjacent to Camp Leatherneck, for treatment.
During his stay, Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general Regional Command (Southwest), was making his routine visits through the hospital when he came across the soldier. He came back to his office and told Sgt. Maj. Michael F. Jones, sergeant major RC (SW), he needed to go visit him. During his visit, Jacob clearly recalled his story to Jones.
Then on Jan. 22 during a battle circulation tour, Toolan and Jones visited a Danish task force, operating out of Forward Operating Base Price, to say farewell, congratulate them on their many achievements and the accomplishments in Helmand and Nimroz provinces.
“At that time, the commander pointed out Jacob to the [commanding general] and we had him come up and do a photo session,” said Jones. The (commanding general) got inside the tank and Jacob showed him several technical aspects of the tank.”
It was just 10 days later that Toolan and Jones once again found themselves in the Bastion Role 3 Hospital visiting Jacob.
While talking with Toolan, Jacob recalled the events surrounding his second medical evacuation in a month.
Jacob and his crew were out on a patrol showing the incoming officer-in-charge the lay of the land.
They were South of Route 611, the main road between Sangin and Kajaki districts, when Jacob noticed something was wrong with one of the tracks on his tank. He stopped the convoy and got out to inspect the track. He noticed that a portion of the track was offset, so he got a hammer and started hitting the track to put it back into place, making the tank more mobile so they could continue their mission.
It was then Jacob had a feeling that someone was watching him. He looked back over his shoulder and saw somebody approximately 500 meters away. The man proceeded to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the tank. The RPG fell short as Jacob dived for protection as far from the tank as possible. He came up unscathed and began inspecting the tank for damage.
After inspecting the tank and deeming it okay, he made an attempt to return to the tank when he was shot in the right shoulder by a sniper. He immediately began yelling to his crew with instructions on the location of the enemy so that they could engage the insurgent.
With sniper fire hitting the ground all around him Jacob made another attempt to return to his tank. It was then he was shot in his left thigh. Once again he was forced to seek cover.
When he thought he could make it to the tank, he tried again. As he was crawling into the tank another round from the sniper shot him in his left leg.
Despite the fact that he had just been shot three times, Jacob instructed his crew from inside the tank on the location of the insurgent. They fired a 120mm round that fell short. However, the second round was a direct hit in the insurgent’s abdomen.
Jacob contributes his success and health to his crew of 12 years.
As they headed back to the nearest patrol base, the gunner and loader began to render medical care to Jacob. They cut off his clothes, assessed the wounds and began to bandage them.
The loader plugged the wound in his shoulder with his finger to stop the bleeding.
After the convoy arrived at PB Clifton, Jacob was waiting for the medical evacuation, when the Taliban released the name of the sniper they had lost.
A British commander came up to Jacob and thanked him for killing the sniper. The sniper had killed five of his men.
“I’m so happy I took the guy out, it really meant a lot to me,” said Jacob.
“It meant a lot to you last time too,” Toolan chuckled in response. “You’re not only going to go down in Danish lore, but you’re going to go down in USMC lore.”
“He was humble,” recalled Jones. “Like we read about when people have done great deeds on the battlefield. Even to the point of almost ducking his head and lowering his eyes to say ‘I did what anyone else would have done in those circumstances.’”
“I thought that was so profound for me to see this man had been injured twice, on two separate occasions on the battlefield, pretty extensively, conducted himself the way he did, it was pretty humbling,” said Jones.