Regional Command Southwest
Story and photos by Cpl. Adam Leyendecker
However, on April 20, Lance Cpl. Jesse K. Knerr, section leader for 3rd Platoon, E Company, 3rd LAR, and native of Portland, Ore., found that when insurgents have their backs against the wall they are left with no choice but to fight.
The mission of the day was to conduct a search of an area that hadn’t been explored by coalition forces, but was suspected of being a site for possible insurgent fighting positions.
When Knerr and his fire team patrolled the area, they found structures made of rock, which blended into the ridge of the mountain. This was different than the buildings they were accustomed to seeing, which were mainly mud huts.
Knerr signaled for his team to search the structures, where they found battery packs, rocket-propelled grenades, enemy propaganda and half-eaten meals that were still warm.
After radioing in the intelligence, Knerr and his fire team followed a trail outside the buildings, which led up the ridge of the mountain to a small cave with an even bigger cave about 100 meters above it.
As they walked up the ridge, the fire team found fighting positions all along the ridge. Suddenly, they began taking small-arms fire from insurgents in the bigger cave, only about a football length away from their positions.
The fire team immediately found cover. It was around 4:30 p.m. when Staff Sgt. Yobani Tejada, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, received a radio call from Knerr stating that his team was engaged by enemy fire on the mountain ridge.
Tejada, who was in a Light Armored Vehicle 25 at the bottom of the mountain, told the Marines to find cover so they could provide fire from their turret and call in air support.
Knerr realized he had to come up with a plan which would get his Marines out of there safely.
Spotting an area which supplied sufficient cover, Knerr directed the Marines to suppress the enemy’s fire while each of them advanced toward the area.
After the Marines were clear, Knerr radioed back to Tejada, who had two vehicles simultaneously suppressing the enemy’s fire. The insurgents returned fire with rocket-propelled grenades, but came no closer than 100 meters of the vehicles. Air support arrived in the form of F-18s, which destroyed the enemy positions.
Afterward, Knerr was thankful that he and his fire team made it out safely.
“I knew that we all had to come together at that very moment when we were under fire and execute my plan perfectly or lives could be lost,” said Knerr. “In a situation like that, there is no room for error.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua I. White, a corpsman who was with the fire team, said he and the other fire team members give credit to Tejada for preparing them for the situation.
“He’s always told us to strengthen our mind, or we’ll lose it,” said White.
In this particular battle, the strong mental awareness of Knerr and his fire team made all the difference in successfully getting the team out of a dangerous situation.