This story originally appeared on Field Craft Survival, written by our friend Mike Glover. Mike conducted joint operations with the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force. Issa ‘Abu Ay’as served as a sniper in the joint task force, and Mike worked alongside him as his Special Forces sniper counterpart.
We were occupying buildings near the targeted terrorists in the war-torn slums of Baghdad. Everyone was the potential enemy, a threat until otherwise determined.
A soft-spoken and humble Iraqi sniper by the name of Issa would talk to the locals in the houses we occupied. He had a direct yet soft approach in his demeanor and a tone that was calculated and pointed. But he was compassionate and able to show a great deal of empathy, even to the terrorists we captured. Issa was trained like all Special Forces soldiers in the Iraqi military. He was assessed, selected and trained in Special Forces by US Army Special Forces and eventually would shine in sniper and reconnaissance operations.
I remember staying up all night with Issa, peering out of a sniper rifle with a night vision scope; the task was mundane and eventually deteriorated your ability to focus. Issa was my spotter. Under night vision goggles, I remember him softly calling my name, “Mike, Mike … don’t sleep, not yet.” I would laugh in response, “Never Issa, you’ll sleep before I sleep.” He would say back to me with a smile, “Never.”
Issa was a highly trained professional. He was a Special Forces soldier who conducted hundreds of missions against our common enemy in Iraq and would fight side by side with us, even helping and carrying injured and killed Americans off the battlefield. He had no ego. He acted like we had trained him, to be a humble and quiet professional. He was a model soldier in every respect.
After 2009-2010, we slowly stopped directly operating side by side with these warriors, but continued to offer them material support, and coordination and outer perimeter support. Only in extreme situations did we directly fight with them as we once had. It was the right answer, but it weighed on our hearts every time we heard their calls for support or help. Because of restrictions that transcended our authority, we were often unable to do anything.
In 2013, the Islamic State arrived on the scene and started taking over towns across the country. The remaining members (I emphasize remaining, because so many were lost) of the Iraqi Special Operations that we had trained were on the front line, including Issa. He went where he was told and helped liberate city after city in some of the most dangerous battles in the country’s war-torn history. The unit that America—the US Army Special Forces—helped create and operated with for almost a decade was now on its own.
I was contacted by a friend in Special Forces overseas, who told me that Issa was killed. Immediately, I reached out and talked to his cousin. It brought me to my knees in tears to hear his story. Issa was in Ramadi where they had just retaken the city. But the area was still booby trapped and infiltrated with members of ISIS. Issa had gone with another member of his unit to provide security and while they were out, while maneuvering through rubble, he stepped on an IED.
Issa left behind a wife and three children. He was a man of honor and integrity; a man who would have made a perfect American operator and had all the right skills to be one of America’s finest, but he wasn’t … because Issa believed in his country. He believed that his family would one day live in peace like we do ... live free, which is the cause that drove him every day of his life.
Issa is not only an American hero. He is a hero of Iraq and will forever—as long as I live—be a man I will tell the world about. Blue Skies, Issa!
I set up a GoFundMe account for Issa’s wife and kids. The money will be delivered to them through my Special Forces buddies out there now on behalf of America and the men of the US Army Special Forces. Please give what you can or, at a minimum, pass on his story.
Thanks for reading,
Mike Glover is a former Special Forces Sgm that spent 18 years in the US Army. Mike deployed 14 times to war zones with Special Forces and as an independent contractor for the US government. He is currently a federal firearms instructor for the US government and owns FieldCraft LLC in Northern California. FieldCraft teaches survival and emergency preparedness training, and offers equipment solutions that he learned during his time in Special Operations.