Sgt. Jonas Jerome Allen, a Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division's Long Range Surveillance, poses for a photo in front of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. During a battle in Kapisa province, Afghanistan, Allen repaired a fellow gunner's MK-19 grenade launcher while under fire, Sept. 9, 2007. Location: Kapisa province, AF. Photo Courtesy of Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO (March 1, 2008).
The story of Sergeant Allen's fight with the Taliban is after the Jump.
A Bad Time for Murphy’s Law
Story by Sgt. Jim Wilt
Combined Joint Task Force-82 Public Affairs Office
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – It’s a simple law: “If it can go wrong, it will.” Murphy’s Law is known and experienced by people all over the world.
Sometimes the law is followed by a special clause: “At the worst possible time.”
Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s Long Range Surveillance Detachment are no strangers to the law or the clause that often follows it.
During a fire fight Sept. 9, 2007, near the village of Qaleh Saleh, Tag Ab District, Kapisa province, Afghanistan, Army Sgt. Jonas Jerome Allen and Spc. Charles Villasenor had a little run in with Murphy’s Law.
Fortunately for the two Paratroopers and their fellow Soldiers, a second law came into effect after the first. This time the law wasn’t named after Murphy; it was named after Sir Isaac Newton.
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” is Newton’s third law of motion.
Paratroopers from the LRSD, along with a Marine Corps Embedded Training Team and soldiers with the Afghan National Army’s 3rd Kandak, 3rd Brigade, 201st Corps, were on a mission to assess damage from an earlier engagement when the unit began taking enemy fire.
Allen was manning a .50 caliber machine gun in one vehicle while Villasenor was behind a MK-19 grenade launcher when the fighting began.
“When we began taking fire, I began suppressive/terrain denial bursts at a low wall about 130 meters (429 feet) to my front,” Villasenor, a native of Santee, Calif., said.
Soon after the fighting began, Murphy’s Law came into effect.
“I fired four to five bursts and I had to reload due to a break in the link; when I charged the weapon I noticed that the right side charging handle was still towards the back of the weapon,” Villasenor said.
“During his reloading there was a malfunction with the MK-19,” said Spc. Christopher L. Baker, who was driving the truck Villasenor was manning the gun on at the time. “When he couldn’t fix the malfunction I called ‘gun down’ over the radio.”
“When I heard over the radio that [Villasenor’s] gun was down, I was still shooting my weapon and we were taking contact from a house and the rooftop,” Allen, then a specialist, said. “I glanced at [Villasenor’s truck] and saw that the gunner was having trouble and I knew we need the MK-19 rocking.”
“I could not fix the gun at that time because what I had was a major malfunction and it requires the weapon to be almost completely disassembled in order to fix,” Villasenor said.
“The driver, Spc. Baker, made the radio call, ‘gun down,’ and I had him back away from our position,” Villasenor said. “I yelled over to the Marine gunner to take our position due to the downed gun.”
“At this time, while taking small-arm and [rocket propelled grenade] fire … Sgt. Allen waved for our vehicle to pull up beside his,” Baker, a Newaygo, Mich. native, said.
Enter Newton’s Law.
“I jumped out and told the gunner (Villasenor) to get out and get into my turret,” Allen, who is Ranger-qualified, said.
“At that time, we were still taking sporadic small-arms and RPG fire when we jumped out and switched trucks,” Villasenor said.
Allen had more experience operating the MK-19 than Villasenor. He also had additional training from his team leader on major malfunctions, Allen said.
Once the two gunners swapped trucks, Villasenor began to fire the .50 cal., while Allen began to work on the malfunctioning weapon.
“I jumped into the turret and saw that the charging handle was stuck behind the bolt and I knew the only way to fix it was to disassemble the weapon system,” Allen said. “I knew I had to hurry because we were taking RPG’s and small-arms fire and I’d rather fire at the enemy than to have the enemy fire at me.”
Allen said he disassembled and reassembled the weapon as fast as he could.
“I just was thinking that if I hurry up and fix the MK-19, I could start engaging the enemy and kill them,” he said.
Once he repaired it, he had the driver of the truck move him into a better position then he put it to use.
“After checking the weapon, we both decided to stay where we were,” Villasenor said. “He had more knowledge on the MK-19 and I am more proficient on the .50 cal.”
“[I] fired the MK-19 into the house and the rooftop we were receiving contact from and after I unloaded an ammo can of 40 mm rounds, I reloaded it and kept engaging the enemy until we stopped taking contact,” Allen said.
Both troopers feel the weapon was necessary in the fight.
“I can say that if I didn’t fix the MK-19 the fire fight could have lasted longer because there is something about a loud boom that the enemy don’t like and it always usually gets quiet, meaning they stop firing or can’t fire once the MK-19 starts firing and blowing things up,” Allen said.
“There is no telling what would have happened. I do know that in a fire fight each heavy weapon is essential,” Villasenor said.
During the battle, the two laws caught up with each other. Murphy’s Law came into play when the weapon malfunctioned. Newton’s law answered Murphy’s with an opposing reaction from Allen.
Both of the Paratroopers have remained in Kapisa province since the event and will be redeploying to Fort Bragg, N.C., before the end of April.