Memorial Day is like any other day when you're in an Army at War.
On Memorial Day, May 26th, 2003, at approximately 7:00AM, Major Mathew E. Schram was leading a resupply convoy in Western Iraq near the Syrian border. Major Schram was the Support Operations Officer for the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (out of Ft. Carson, Colorado). He had responsibility for organizing the logistical arm of the regiment - ensuring that the Cavalrymen never ran out of food, fuel or ammo.
Normally, Major Schram would
not only accompany 2 or 3 convoys per week as his responsibilities kept him at the main resupply point. However, due to the problems with attacks on supply convoys (i.e. Jessica Lynch's 507th Maintenance Company ambush), he decided to lead this one. He also decided that there was a side benefit to the ride - he would be able to talk with the field commanders and troops that he supported. Major Schram wanted to make sure that his "customers" were happy. Anyone who knew Mat Schram knew that he was obsessive-compulsive about making sure "his soldiers" were taken care of...that's why he was one of the top logistical officers in the US Army.
Major Schram's convoy consisted of eight vehicles - one 5,000 gallon water tanker, two 3,000 gallon water trucks, one water pump truck, two 5,000 gallon fuel tankers, one truck with MREs and bottled water, and Major Schram's command Humvee (bumper numbers: S&T 323, 344, 350, 237, 210, 204, 219, and HQ12).
The convoy was headed North from Al Asad Airbase - Foward Operating Base (FOB) Webster (grid coordinate KC 640 430) along Route 12 to FOB Jenna (KC 360 748). After delivering supplies at Jenna, the convoy would continue on to Al Qaim - FOB Tiger (GT 146 911) which had the 1/3 Armored Cavalry.
At 7:15AM, vicinity KC 6514 6181, Major Schram's convoy approached a ravine where the bridge crossing the ravine had been destroyed. The convoy had to go down the embankment, into the ravine, and back up the other side to get back onto the highway.
Once the lead vehicle started up the far bank of the ravine, the convoy came under intense fire from Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), machine guns, and small arms fire. It was an ambush. Fifteen Iraqi insurgents had been waiting by the ravine.
An RPG hit the lead tanker vehicle, disabling it in the kill zone. It was a perfect ambush set up. If the insurgents could knock out the first and last vehicles, then the entire convoy would be stuck in the kill zone. Bullets flew from insurgents on both sides of the ravine. The insurgent grenadiers were trying to concentrate fire on the last American vehicle to bottle Major Schram's convoy in the ravine. The attackers would then be able to kill the Americans at will.
ordered and his driver, Specialist Chris Van Dyke, had worked out plans in case of an attack - the Major manned the radios and would shoot, the Specialist would drive and work the maps - Specialist Van Dyke accelerated from their position in the convoy into the insurgents' positions. Major Schram sent a message to Headquarters for help and began returning fire out of the Humvee. The Iraqi grenadiers recognized the threat and shifted their fire from the rear truck to Schram's Humvee, HQ-12.
Multiple grenades exploded at the front and rear of HQ-12. Specialist Van Dyke was blown out of the vehicle. Once he stopped rolling on the ground, he got up and ran back to HQ-12. He got back in and drove the Humvee out of the Kill Zone.
When he turned to get orders from Major Schram, Van Dyke realized that his Major had been killed. Even though he wore body armor,
two 7.62 rounds a light anti-tank missle had struck the Major gone through his armpit (where there is no body armor coverage) and struck his heart, killing him instantly. Two 7.62 rounds also struck the Major after he had been killed.
The Iraqi insurgents had fled after they fired their grenades at HQ-12 which was heading for them at full throttle.
Immediately, from a nearby FOB, two Apache helicopter gunships were launched along with a MedEvac helicopter. A Quick Reaction Force from FOB Webster was on the scene in less than ten minutes. Aside from the death of Mathew Schram, the convoy suffered only two wounded. Specialist Van Dyke was wounded in his hand and was able to continue his mission. One other soldier in the lead vehicle suffered a broken femur from the initial grenade attack.
The MedEvac brought Major Schram's body and the injured soldier back to the hospital at FOB Webster. The military conducted a funeral for Major Schram in Iraq. Two hundred soldiers were present. Everyone that knew Mat loved him.
The military said it would take ten days to get Mat Schram's body to his family in Wisconsin. It took less than a few days. Also, in a few days after the ambush, the Army had rounded up all of the attackers and put them in prison.
I was at my desk at work on Tuesday, June 3rd. The phone rang. I looked at the caller ID to see that it was a call from Ft. Leavenworth. I picked it up.
It was John, a friend of mine and Mat Schram's. We had all served together years ago and had stayed in touch. He told me to sit down. I did. He told me that Mat had been killed in Iraq.
After composing myself, we finished our conversation and I promised to see John's wife, Patti, at the funeral. John had to be at Special Operations Command and couldn't make it.
I shut the door to my office, sat back down at my desk and wept for a long time.
At the funeral, Mat's family displayed his last letters and emails that he sent. All were strong, positive messages (sooo very Schrambo-like). Here's an example of the kinds of things that Mat told his family (from the Green Bay Gazette):
Phil Schram of Hartland said his brother had visited Wisconsin over Christmas. The family knew then war was likely. Mathew Schram had been involved in the first Persian Gulf War and, later, in Somalia.
“He was anxious to get over there and get to work. He loved the military. He loved the structure. He loved serving under George W. (Bush),” Phil Schram said.
The one part that I left out of this post is that Major Schram's convoy was followed by a car with a major weekly magazine reporter in it. Once the action began, the reporter and his driver turned and got the hell out of there. If it wasn't for Mat's charge up into the ambushers, they never would have made it out of there alive.
The weekly magazine never ran a story about my good friend, Mat.
It took a few weeks for me to decide what to do.
It's Mat Schram's blog as much as it is mine.
So, today, on the anniversary of the sacrifice of my friend, please take a moment to pray for the families who have lost their loved ones in our fight against terror. Mat would have liked that.
One last note, there is a way to contribute to help Mat's fellow Officers attend graduate school. Some of Mat's family and friends got together to create:
The fellowship, for Florida Institute of Technology's School of Extended Graduate Studies ' (SEGS) Ft. Lee, Va. center, will support U.S. military officers enrolled in the SEGS Logistics Executive Development Course (LEDC)-Florida Tech (FT) cooperative graduate degree program. The program is at the Army Logistics Management College at Fort Lee. Major Mathew Schram graduated from this school in 2001. This is the first fellowship established for a Florida Tech SEGS center.
The endowment will support one or more annual fellowships for military officers. The first fellowship will be awarded for the fall 2004 semester. To make a contribution to the fellowship, call the Florida Tech Office of Development at (321) 674-8962.
Update 08-09-07: Specialist Chris Van Dyke contacted me on August 9, 2007, and informed me that some of the content was incorrect. I put this together from Army and other accounts (mostly from the incident report by the 3rd ACR). Changes will be noted by striking out the original content. Thanks to Chris for his service and for letting me know more about my friend. The changes were made immediately upon receipt and acknowledgement of Chris's email.