JTAC call sign in Afghanistan was Fire Strike Seven Nine. During the epic siege of Alpha Xray his seemingly supernatural prowess as a JTAC earned him an unsurpassed reputation, as he conjured the seemingly impossible from apparently hopeless situations. For his many fearless acts of heroism – operating behind enemy lines; being hunted and targeted by the enemy; being shot, blown-up, mortared and hit by rockets on numerous occasions – Bommer Grahame was decorated with a high valour medal (see citation at end of this proposal). Yet with typical Yorkshire understatement Sergeant Grahame maintains he was just doing his job in Afghanistan.
Alpha Xray was a mud-walled Afghan compound, which the British soldiers had turned into a heavily fortified position amongst thick vegetation deep in the Green Zone. It was placed at the very heart of enemy territory as a deliberate provocation, and to lure the enemy into battle. In that it succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. The ferocious siege of Alpha Xray forms the heart of this story, along with the close quarters battles fought around Monkey One Echo, and PB Sanford, two further British bases positioned nearby. Together, they formed a triangular kill box, within which to find, fix and annihilate the enemy.
The most desperate battle became known as the ‘Saving Private Graham’ incident. In this Sergeant Grahame and his FST had pushed out a fighting patrol on foot and at night deep into bandit territory. They ended up being ambushed, surrounded and taking horrific casualties. Facing the prospect of being overrun by a far larger enemy force, no one was willing to be taken alive. Bommer Grahame was forced to call in repeated danger close air missions right on top of his own position. It was only by gambling on the ‘bug splat’ of those bombs – the spread of lethal shrapnel and blast caused by the trajectory of the bombing runs – that he prevented the patrol being decimated.
At the same time as calling in air power, Sergeant Grahame had to have his personal weapon at the ready at all times to defend against close attack. Several times during his deployment he found himself calling in desperate air missions, whilst at the same time engaging the enemy at close quarters with assault rifle and grenades. Sergeant Grahame’s ability to cheat death during his six-month combat tour was unsurpassed, and added to his talismanic reputation. Repeatedly, the enemy targeted ‘the soldier with the black aerial’ – with bullets, mortars, rockets and bombs – knowing that he was the one who, more than any other, was killing their brother fighters.
By the time Bommer Grahame’s deployment was over, he had directed more deadly air missions in one day’s combat than his predecessor had managed during his entire six-month tour. Yet Bommer Grahame remained modest and self-effacing with the young 2 Mercian lads: ‘I’ve done nowt special. I’m just doing me job. So get the tea on.’ Sergeant Grahame’s is a classic soldier’s tale of ‘zero-to-hero’. He’d failed at school, hit trouble in his teens, and almost blown his childhood dream of joining the army. It was his CO at the Light Dragoons who had saved him from prison and turned him into an elite JTAC warrior, yet Sergeant Grahame remained a squaddie at heart.
In Helmand he proved himself to be outspoken and unyielding with his commanding officers, and possessed of a fearless and maverick spirit when faced by a fanatical adversary. He had gone into battle with one aim: to kill the enemy and safeguard his fellow soldiers. He had done so with his characteristic hard, uncompromising, northeast-of-England salt-o’-the-earth attitude – an attitude that brooked no bullshit from anyone, regardless of rank. At the end of those months of combat he had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers to such a degree that upon his leaving, the young lads of 2 Mercian were all teared-up at losing him.
Fire Strike Seven Nine is the story of 180 days of combat – an unrelenting tale of extreme action and insane bravery, set amongst the madness of war. The story has repeated peaks of intense drama, as the battle rages between Alpha Xray, Monkey One Echo, and PB Sandford. For the first time, this book tells the story of the high-octane and high-tech world of the JTAC operatives – a group of elite warriors who operate largely in the shadows. Fire Strike Seven Nine provides a unique and timely insight into the way these warriors fight, the high-tech systems they utilise, and their murderous impact on the battlefield.