In the dark skies over western Iraq one night in June 2003, US military aircraft from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment flew westward toward the border with Syria. Near that border was a wadi—a depression in the desert ground formed by the sporadic flow of water through the area. Inside the wadi was a camp of foreign fighters. The camp had been identified by US intelligence. The Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters carried Rangers from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment toward the wadi—designated Objective Reindeer—while another element from the company approached on the ground.

One of the Rangers onboard the aircraft was Josh Richardson, a junior officer serving as Bravo Company’s fire support officer. As soon as the helicopters approached the objective, they began taking fire. Josh joins this episode to describe the operation to clear the training camp and the fight the Ranger company found itself in. Twenty years on from that night, he reflects on what he learned during that mission and the lessons from that combat deployment that influenced him throughout the course of his Army career.

Listen to the full story below, and if you aren’t already subscribed to The Spear, be sure to do so on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app.

Image credit: Senior Airman Daniel Snider, US Air Force