By Maj. David Kurle, USAF
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Sept. 13, 2006 – Staff Sgt. Mike Myers experienced one of the most frightening events of his life in Afghanistan, while the birth of his child was taking place simultaneously more than 7,000 miles away. Myers, a security forces member on one of the provincial reconstruction teams here, is lucky to be alive after his Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade Sept. 6.
He received news later that day about the birth of his second child in the U.S. -- a son, who was born at almost the same moment he was under attack. "His name is Jackson William Shane Myers," he wrote later that day. "(He) looks just like me and has red hair like his mom. I am very glad he is able to have a dad."
Myers, deployed here from Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, knew his wife was going into induced labor the night of Sept. 5. What he didn't know was how the labor was progressing as he donned his body armor, helmet and rifle, and strapped himself in the driver's seat of a Humvee for the PRT's mission on the morning of Sept. 6.
"You know how labor goes," he said. "You never know what's going to happen. I was hoping my wife and son were okay and nothing was wrong with either of them."
The PRT's mission that day was to conduct assessments on projects the team was supervising -- a bridge under construction, a new road and newly-dug water well in a nearby province.
The convoy also stopped at two Afghan National Police stations so Myers could provide mentoring to the province's police. "Basically, I assess their security capabilities and determine how well they do their job," he said.
The job of the six Air Force-led PRTs in Afghanistan is to promote good governance in the country's provinces and to facilitate the rebuilding of infrastructure and education systems.
While traveling in a convoy of armored Humvees after taking a look at the well-digging project, the team rounded a spur in the mountains on a gravel road when Myers heard gun fire.
"My gunner said, 'contact left - go, go, go,'" he said. "As (the gunner) was shooting, he yelled 'RPG, RPG.'"
A rocket-propelled grenade had been shot at the convoy, but missed. After re-grouping in a village, the PRT vehicles set out again.
"Luckily, there were no casualties," Myers said. "We then pulled out of the village where another ambush was set up for us.
"As soon as our vehicle cleared a building on the right, BAM!"
The sergeant's Humvee, with four other passengers, was hit by an RPG that turned the windshield's bullet-proof glass into a latticework of cracks and jammed the dashboard against the steering wheel.
"I spit glass out of my mouth ... then just gunned it," Myers said. "As I was driving away, I thought that my new son and daughter wouldn't have a father, and my wife would be a widow."
Myers said he drove the crippled Humvee another 15 kilometers before the team stopped to regroup again, the whole time peering through a 3-inch area of clear glass in the windshield to see where he was going.
He didn't know until they were stopped that the Humvee also had a flat tire.
Myers credits the Humvee's armor, his training, and his personal safety and protective gear for keeping him from even getting a scratch.
"The Kevlar helmet saved my head and neck; my ballistic glasses saved my eyes; and my vest had glass shards all over it," he said. "I honestly, truly believe that the training we've had no doubt got us through this."
He also said that God was watching out for him and everyone in the convoy during those first moments of his son's new life. Not one person was injured.
After the mission, Myers called his wife to get news about the birth.
"I was thinking about how I was going to tell her about the day Jackson was born because I knew she was going to ask," he said. Opting for honesty, he told her everything.
"I believe the PRT mission is worth the risk," Myers said. "We're here to rebuild, reorganize and regroup the government of Afghanistan.
"I'm hoping that everything I tell my son about Afghanistan makes him more proud to be an American, and he will stand up and defend his country when the time comes," he said.
(Air Force Maj. David Kurle is assigned to 455th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs.)