Articles

This Green Beret survived an ambush after being shot three times

A distant, flashing image of blue sky, rolling mountains and snowy rivers visited itself upon an injured soldier flying away from a violent firefight on the ground below – just barely beyond view from the naked eye.


This vivid, yet paradoxical scene is what former Green Beret Dillon Behr recalls seeing when looking down in a weary, half-conscious state from a Black Hawk helicopter while being evacuated from a near-death combat encounter in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Also read: This Marine sniper threw the enemy's grenade back to save his brothers

"I was able to look back in the valley below and see a lot of my teammates still there fighting. It was a beautiful scene from a distance, yet what had just happened down below was basically hell on earth," Behr explained.

This violence, heroism and near death for Behr is now known as the famous battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan, 2008; the mission on that April day was called "Operation Commando Wrath."

Dillon Behr

Behr was part of a 12-man US Special Forces A-team tasked with taking out a high-value enemy target up in the mountains; his unit was joined by another supporting 12-man Green Beret A-team and about 100 Afghan Commandos. Behr was part of the 3rd Special Forces Group, ODA 3336.

While Green Berets are, among other things, experienced with helicopter rope drops and various kinds of airborne attack raids typically employed in assaults of this kind, Behr's unit was forced to climb the side of a mountain and attack on foot, due to the rugged terrain and relative inexperience of supporting Afghan Commando partners.

Behr recalled the combat scene on the mountain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, as dreary with gray rocks, some small trees and not much vegetation. The uneven terrain was accompanied by some snow on the ground and a partially iced-over river. Concrete-like looking mud huts and small villages were scattered in rows and villages along ridges of the mountainside.

Having completed Special Forces training, selection, and preparation, Behr had spent years preparing for the life-and-death combat scenario he knew he was about to encounter.

He was a trained fighter, trainer and teacher working as part of a close-knit group focused on a specific attack mission. Behr was an intelligence and communications specialist, yet like all Green Berets, he was first and foremost a fighter, equipped and ready to respond to fast-evolving combat situations.

Insurgent Attack

"As we started climbing, we encountered insurgents… around 200 enemy combatants. They had the high ground and had us surrounded," he recalled.

Dillon Behr

During a subsequent, fast-ensuing firefight, Behr and his fellow Green Berets used what rocks, small trees and ditches they could find to both avert enemy gunfire and launch counterattacks.

"We had intelligence that a high value target was going to be there, someone traditionally hard to track down. We did not know there would be so many fighters and enemy forces there. We happened upon a much larger meeting of enemy combatants than we had expected," he said.

At one point during the unfolding 7-hour firefight, Behr was abruptly thrown to the ground by a larger caliber bullet cutting through the side of his pelvis. The bullet blew out the ball and socket of his hip.

"It was like being struck by a car or baseball bat and being electrocuted at the same time," he said.

This near-fatal strike, unfortunately, was only the beginning of Behr's effort to stay alive. While fellow A-Team Green Beret intelligence specialist Luis Morales was tending to his injury, a second bullet ripped through Behr's bicep and continued on to hit Morales in the thigh.

Behr described the painful sensation of feeling a bullet cut through the muscle in his bicep as minor compared to the initial hit to his pelvis… a scenario which can make it seemingly impossible to imaging the magnitude of pain he experienced upon first being shot.

As he fought to stay conscious and his teammates scrambled to stop the bleeding, Behr himself was focused on the survival and safety of his fellow Green Berets under attack.

"I have vivid memories of laying there almost helpless and being concerned about a building across the valley that had direct access to our team. If someone was to shoot from there, we were pretty exposed. I remember directing some people on the team and having them take that out with a large bomb," he said.

US air support then arrived to destroy attacking insurgents; shrapnel from a bomb mistakenly struck Behr, perforating his intestines.

When confronting what he thought was certain death, Behr thought of his fellow Soldiers and family back home in Illinois.

"There was a point where I thought I was going to leave this world. At one point I thought I was not going to make it, so I said a prayer to myself and felt a calm come over me. Then, all of a sudden, Ron Shurer, the medic on our team, slapped me across the face and said 'wake up you are not going to die today,'" he said.

The intensity of the firefight, volume of enemy bullets and massive scale of the attacks are still difficult for Behr to recall and describe, the sharpness of certain powerful and violent memories have found a permanent resting place in his mind.  Then, at the very moment Behr thought he might have an opportunity to live, the attacks worsened.

Just after telling Behr he would not die, Shurer himself took a bullet in the helmet right above his face. Fortunately, the bullet bounced off his helmet.

"It could have been much worse," Behr said.

Four Americans were critically injured and MEDEVAC'ed to Landstuhl Army Medical Center and then Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two Afghan Commandos were killed, including an interpreter.

In total, 11 Silver Stars and one Air Force Cross were awarded for the events of that day.

"The heroic part is what my team did and how they kept it together under heavy enemy gunfire. They risked their lives to get me and the other injured guys on the team off of that mountain. They were dragging and dropping me over the ledges and trying to catch me off of the ledges," Behr explained.

Life After Near-Death in Combat

Despite this accumulation of combat trauma and near death experience, Behr has made an astounding recovery. Following medical treatment, Behr went on to earn a Masters degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University before starting a non-profit gym for injured Soldiers at Walter Reed.

When asked how he was able to go on after his combat experience, Behr said "I don't know what else to do. We're given abilities and skills and it is a shame to waste them.  Even after we leave the military, we have a responsibility to become leaders in our communities."

These days, after working for a period as a cyber security threat intelligence analyst at Discover, Behr now works as a professional liability and cyber liability broker for Risk Placement Services, a Washington D.C.-area firm.

In a manner quite similar to his fellow Green Berets, known as "Quiet Professionals" often reluctant to discuss the perils of combat, Behr does not wish to highlight his war zone activities. He does, however, say the experience has changed him forever.

Behr is now married to a former Red Cross volunteer who helped him recover from his injuries.

"I value relationships more than I ever did previously," Behr said.

Behr is also involved with the Green Beret Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Green Berets and their families. You can visit the Green Beret Foundation website here.

Humor

The truth about cell phones in Basic Training

Thank god you got out when you did! The moment you received your DD-214, it was officially an end of an era. Hopefully, your branch won't fall victim like all those other, weaker branches did. It's Lord of the Flies in here.

New recruits are arriving in droves and they're pulling out their cell phones to record themselves talking back to their drill sergeants. If the drill sergeants have a problem with it, they whip out their stress cards, go back to eating their Tide Pods, and continue listening to their music (which, coincidentally, has gotten progressively worse since your generation, too).

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

5 reasons your troops are more important than promotion

If there's one complaint common across the military, it's that commanders too often care more about their careers than the well-being of their troops. It's problematic when higher-ups are willing to put lower enlisted through hell if it means they look good at the end of the day.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

'Operation Cure Boredom' is a funny, unrepentant look back at life in the 1990s Air Force

The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it's a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin's 1990-1994 enlistment in the world's best Air Force.

This chapter, called "Guest on the Range," is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

The top 6 reasons people decide to join the infantry

Deciding to join the military is a huge step for anyone looking to make a life-altering change. One of the most appealing aspects of becoming a member of the armed forces is the vast array of professional opportunities the service offers.

You can sign up, ship out, and, within a few short months, be guarding a military installation as your newfound brothers- and sisters-in-arms sleep.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

These high-tech glasses could change how sailors train

Training has evolved over the years but the core elements have always remained the same. There's an instructor and a bunch of students. They go over material, both in theory and in practice, mastering the skills required by the job. But no matter how good the teacher, students will always need a refresher from time to time. So, that means it's time to go back to school — or does it?

Now, mixed-reality technology — including smart glasses — could change the way sailors learn the skills they need to serve.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

6 US conflicts that would (probably) make terrible video games

When developers set out to make video games, their focus should always primarily be on crafting a fun and engaging experience. Oftentimes, you'll see video games set far in the future so that developers can place an arsenal of advanced, sci-fi weaponry in the hands of the player — because it's fun. Other times, they'll take cues from real wars and toss the player directly into the heat of a historical battle — because that's fun, too.

Keep reading... Show less
Tactical

How to start a fire with only one hand

Heading out into the wilderness for a camping trip is exhilarating and refreshing. Starting a campfire and roasting some marshmallows under the stars is a great way to get in touch with Mother Nature. Although the idea of spending a night in the great outdoors sounds incredible, campers should always remember to bring specific tools and learn important survival skills in the event they sustain an injury and help is far, far away.

It gets cold out there at night, so it's important to know the basics of starting a fire to keep warm — even in the dire circumstance that you've been injured. Do you know how to start a fire with just one hand? You never know — this skill might just save your life.

Keep reading... Show less