Panama City, Panama - For some the hours of training in the basic combat skills seems to be a waste of time. Many feel that these wasted hours could be used in another.
But for Spec. Michael Bankhead a Sniper assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment the long hours of training has paid great dividends - it saved his life in a recent firefight in Panama City.
According to Maj. Jack Cage, executive officer for 1-9 Inf., the action started early in the morning while the troops were making security rounds.
"At 2 a.m. we started receiving extremely heavy fire. Previously it had been sporadic and relatively ineffective. It started getting much closer, and instead of individual pot shots, it was automatic fire aimed at our area," Cage said.
"Our mission was to secure a large perimeter around the eastern side of the Panama City area. Our regiment has three of those quadrants protecting essentially the Southeast (of the city). About 2 or 3 a.m. when it started kicking in, it turned out to be a Christmas I'll remember for the rest of my life," Bankhead said.
Bankhead, visibly shaken from the events, was hesitant on speaking of his actions.
"We were pinned-in downtown," Bankhead said. "We came under fire. We started returning fire. We had several detainees with us at the time. They were burying their faces in the concrete. Twenty-two (caliber) and Uzi (automatic) fire started coming from the building across from us. We started to return fire." That was when Bankhead spotted someone on the roof with a weapon. Bankhead returned fire.
Bankhead credits the quick action of his spotter, PFC Kevin Wylie, for giving him the opportunity to take the necessary actions in defending himself from the attacker. He also credits the training picked up at the sniper school. "Thank God I remembered what the (sniper) school taught me." said Bankhead.
"I think the good news in this whole adventure is the fact that none of our soldiers were hit or wounded. I think that's what it's all about. Plus, we achieved our mission. So this is the best Christmas present that we could've had," Cage said.