Militia Found a Gap in U.S. Armor
A simple yet audacious attack by a guerrilla fighter in Najaf killed two American soldiers in their 69-ton Abrams tank. To his buddies, 2nd Lt. Mike Goins looked indestructible atop his Abrams tank as he maneuvered through Najaf’s besieged cemetery. His command of the 69-ton machine in the maze-like graveyard led a superior to dub the 6-foot-3-inch soldier his “killer tanker.” “He loved that tank and believed he was invincible in it,” said Capt. Kevin Badger, commander of the “Mad Dogs” company of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment. “He believed his training and his equipment could defeat the enemy.” But a week ago, Goins and his loader, Spc. Mark Zapata, fell victim to a surprise attack that stunned soldiers at the military base here for both its simplicity and audacity. A member of rebel cleric Muqtada Sadr’s Al Mahdi militia quietly scaled the back of the tank in broad daylight with an AK-47, shot the men at point-blank range through the open hatch, and fled.