Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin died in Fallujah repelling
an attack. For his actions, he was awarded the Silver Star posthumously,
the award will go to his parents.
On the last night of his life, Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin
joined a prayer session with other Marines hunkered down in a bullet-riddled
neighborhood in Fallouja, Iraq. Austin, a 21-year-old machine-gunner,
asked God for protection not for himself but for his fellow Marines of
Echo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division,
based at Camp Pendleton.
The next morning, insurgents attacked from three directions,
firing thousands of rounds from AK-47s and other firearms and hurling
dozens of grenades. With the Marines in danger of being overrun, Austin
exposed himself to enemy fire in order to throw a grenade at their position
20 meters away. The grenade helped repel the attack, but Austin was mortally
The Marines were searching buildings in the war-torn
Jolan neighborhood when they came under attack in one of the bloodiest
clashes between the U.S. military and insurgents that spring.
Austin helped evacuate the wounded and led other Marines
onto a roof to operate a machine gun. When the insurgents kept advancing,
he took a grenade from his vest and moved into the open for a better
"Several enemy bullets struck Lance Cpl. Austin in the
chest," said the official Marine Corps account. "Undaunted by his injury
and with heroic effort, he threw his hand grenade at the enemy on the
The grenade hit the bull's-eye and forced the insurgents
to halt their attack.
When the battle was over, Marines erected a makeshift
memorial to Austin in one of the buildings they had fought to defend.
Sgt. Benny Alicea, U.S. Army
Sgt. Benny J. Alicea, 33,
of Attleboro, Mass., earned the Silver Star in Fallujah when he
saved the lives of six fellow squad members during a November firefight
with insurgents — despite suffering shrapnel wounds from
Sgt. Alicea — then a specialist
serving as a rifleman and grenadier in Company A — and others
went door to door, rounding up terrorist suspects, when they were
ambushed at a two-story house along the primary north-south road
Dropping back into the courtyard,
with gunfire spraying out of the house and from across the street,
he was struck in the hip and buttocks by shrapnel from two grenades
that had been rolled through the front door.
Moving away from the courtyard,
the squad headed for the street. After continuing to fire on the
house, Alicea was the last to emerge.
“That's when my leg gave out
on me, and I just dropped,” said Alicea, who huddled into a
position alongside three wounded comrades in the middle of the road
as multiple rounds flew all around them.
“I just kept firing my weapon,
just shooting, waiting to get hit. I'd pretty much figured at any
given point, it was all over. I just kept firing my weapon, but I
didn't think I was going to make it through it.”
When his own ammunition was exhausted,
he grabbed magazines from the wounded and managed to protect the
position until another Bradley fighting vehicle arrived on the scene.
He helped load the most seriously injured soldiers before finally
being taken away himself.
Chief Warrant Officer Donald Tabron
Master Sgt. Patrick M. Quinn
1st Sgt. Dennis Caylor
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Adamec
Cpl. Jeremiah C. Olsen
WASHINGTON (Army News Service,
Sep. 10, 2003) — Five soldiers who were awarded the Silver
Star for actions during the War On Terror say the award isn't about
their actions - it's about their units.
Chief Warrant Officer Donald Tabron,
Master Sgt. Patrick M. Quinn, 1st Sgt. Dennis Caylor, Staff Sgt.
Jeffrey Adamec and Cpl. Jeremiah C. Olsen were awarded the nation's
third-highest medal for valor in wartime, visited the Washington,
D.C., area to commemorate the second anniversary of the Sept. 11
Four out of the five Soldiers were
from U.S. Army Special Operations Command units.
They visited Capitol Hill, the
Pentagon's Memorial Chapel and will help Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National
Cemetery Sept. 11.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter
Schoomaker awarded the medals to Tabron, Quinn and Adamec Sept. 10.
Caylor and Olsen were awarded at their units.
Only three were available for comment
and the concurred that they are not "big on ceremonies." The
big deal for Caylor, first sergeant for Company B, 1st Battalion,
325th Parachute Infantry Regiment, is being here in Washington, D.C.,
for the commeration of Sept. 11, 2001, and the War on Terror.
"It reinforces what Sept.
11 was all about: The fight on terrorism," Caylor said of the
trip. "The awards are just a small piece in this whole event
of what's going on."
All three said the Silver Star
medals that Schoomaker pinned on them isn't about them. It's about
what their units -- from a parachute infantry company to a 12-man
Special Forces Operation Detachment - Alpha -- did during the war.
"Every single unit functions
as a team on some level," said Adamec, a weapons sergeant in
Co. C, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. "Most of the
awards people get, I do believe, is not just on them, it's a direct
reflection on the abilities of the people around them to do their
"To me, it's a tribute to
everything that my (detachment) did during our fighting in Iraq," said
Quinn, a team sergeant in Co. A, 2nd Bn., 10th SFG. "As I wear
it the rest of my life, I'll always think of the guys I was with,
not what I personally did."
Quinn was awarded the medal for
leading his team and a group of Kurdish militia during a battle with
an Iraqi armored unit April 2-5. During the battle, Quinn's actions
resulted in, among other things, the destruction of two tanks, four
armored personnel carriers, 30 dead Iraqi soldiers and the seizure
of 30 kilometers of ground.
Adamec destroyed four Iraqi armored
personnel carriers and one enemy position with Javelin anti-tank
missiles while under fire when his team attacked a fortified ridgeline
in northern Iraq during the war. Those actions helped secure an intersection
linking Mosul and Kirkuk, Iraq.
Details about Caylor's actions
Now they're back from Iraq, the
three soldiers want the American public beyond Fort Bragg, N.C.,
and Fort Carson, Colo., to understand good things are happening every
day in Iraq.
"There are a ton of amazing
soldiers in the Army and they're doing amazing things everyday," Quinn
said. "And a lot of that story's not getting out."
Someone who never witnessed the
toppling of Saddam Hussein, saw a school or hospital reopen may think
those things are amazing, but the soldiers in Iraq probably thinks
they're common, everyday events, Quinn said.
Caylor said he sees a lot of negativity
around the country about Iraq and the American people aren't seeing
the good things happening there.
"What I'd like to relay is
that people need to be patient," Caylor said about the progress
and conduct of the war. "As quickly as we handled the war --
a minimum of casualties, a minimum of deaths -- I just think we just
did outstanding; they should be applauded."
The medals also aren't about starting
the process of Iraqi democracy, or even democracy in the Middle East,
The medals show the sacrifices the American soldier is willing to
make to bring a better way of life to anyone around the world, he
"It's a testament to pretty
much anyone who's served in the Army to help out somebody else," Adamec
Tabron is a MH-47E Chinook pilot,
in 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Olsen is in 2nd Battalion, 75th
1stLt. David Bernstein
1LT David Bernstein - 508th Parachute Infantry,
KIA in Iraq on 18 October, Lt. Bernstein was on a patrol in his humvee
along with several other vehicles. Their mission was to locate and
destroy an enemy position from which RPGs had been fired at his company.
Ambushed, with his vehicle hit and bleeding profusely from a leg wound,
David helped free his driver who was pinned down by the overturned
vehicle. He then returned fire to the enemy. Gen. Brooks presented
David's parents with a bronze star and a purple heart that had been
awarded to their son
Staff Sgt. Raymond Bittinger
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE,
Iraq, July 20, 2004 — The 1st Infantry Division Commander,
Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, awarded the Silver Star medal with Valor,
one of the highest military decorations, to Staff Sgt. Raymond Bittinger,
an infantryman from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment and
attached to the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery, according to
1st Infantry Division officials.
About 200 soldiers attended the
ceremony July 19, held on Forward Operating Base Gabe in Baqubah,
Iraq. Bittinger, a 33-year-old Chicago native, earned the medal for
valorous actions leading to the defeat of enemy forces and saving
the lives of friendly forces on April 9, 2004, in Buhritz and Baqubah.
Lt. Col. Steven Bullimore, Task
Force 1-6 commander presided over the ceremony. “As Americans,
we love our heroes,” he
said. “We wonder in our heart of hearts what it is that makes
them. In the example of Staff Sgt. Ray Bittinger, two things stand
out. First, he has always been good at what he does. Second is the
simple selflessness of a true professional.”
Bittinger said he was humbled by
the all of the attention and the remarks.
“I consider myself a soldier,
not a hero,” said Bittinger after the ceremony. “I’m
an infantryman. It’s my duty; it’s my job.”
Pfc. Jeremy Church
FORT McCOY, Wis. (Army News Service,
Feb. 28, 2005) -- As the 724th Transportation Company was welcomed
home from Iraq Feb. 25, the first Army Reserve Soldier in the Global
War on Terrorism received a Silver Star.
Pfc. Jeremy Church of the 724th
was pinned during a homecoming ceremony at Fort McCoy, Wis., with
the Silver Star, the Army’s third-highest medal for valor.
Church earned the medal when his
convoy was attacked April 9 by more than 150 insurgents in an ambush
during which Spc. Keith “Matt” Maupin was captured.
Church was the convoy commander’s
driver in the lead vehicle. The convoy was taking fuel to Baghdad
International Airport when the Madr Militia struck. Church’s
actions are attributed with saving the lives of at least five Soldiers
and four civilians.
Church drove aggressively through
the “kill zone” to dodge explosions, obstacles and small
arms fire, according to his citation. When the convoy commander was
shot, Church grabbed his first aid pouch, ripped it open, and instructed
the platoon leader to apply a bandage. Church fired his M-16 at the
enemy as he continued to drive around barriers.
When an improvised explosive devised
blew out a tire, Church continued driving for four miles on only
three tires, all the while firing his M-16 out the window with his
left hand. He finally led the convoy into a security perimeter established
by a cavalry company from 2-12 Cav. He then carried his platoon leader
out of the vehicle to a casualty collection point for treatment.
Then Church rallied the troopers
to launch an immediate recovery mission and escorted them back into
the kill zone.
“Pfc. Church identified the
assistant commander’s vehicle amidst heavy black smoke and
flaming wreckage of burning fuel tankers to find two more wounded
Soldiers and four civilian truck drivers,” his citation reads,
adding that after a hasty triage and treating a sucking chest wound,
he “carried the Soldier over to one of the recovery vehicles
while exposing himself to continuous enemy fire from both sides of
When all the wounded were loaded
in the truck, there was no room and Church volunteered to remain
behind. He climbed into a disabled Humvee for cover, according to
his citation, and continued firing at and killing insurgents until
the recovery team returned. He then loaded up several more wounded
before sweeping the area for sensitive items and evacuating.
Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. James
R. Helmly presented Church with the Silver Star. Helmly also spoke
with the parents of Maupin, who was captured in the ambush.
Even though Maupin’s Army
Reserve unit has returned to its home station of Bartonville, Ill.,
Army officials said other Soldiers in Iraq will never stop the search
Maj. Mark Bieger
Sgt. Joseph Martin
Staff Sgt. Wesley Holt
Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Prosser
Staff Sgt. Shannon Kay
A massive truck bomb had turned
much of the Fort Lewis soldiers’ outpost to rubble.
One of their own lay dying and
many others wounded.
Some 50 al-Qaida fighters were
attacking from several directions with machine guns and rocket-propelled
It was obvious that the insurgents
had come to drive the platoon of Stryker brigade troops out of Combat
Outpost Tampa, a four-story concrete building overlooking a major
highway through western Mosul, Iraq.
“It crossed my mind that
that might be what they were going to try to do,” recalled
Staff Sgt. Robert Bernsten, one of 40 soldiers at the outpost that
“But I wasn’t going
to let that happen, and looking around I could tell nobody else in
2nd platoon was going to let that happen, either.”
He and 10 other soldiers from the
same unit – the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment – would
later be decorated for their valor on this day of reckoning, Dec.
Three were awarded the Silver Star,
the Army’s third-highest award for heroism in combat.
When you combine those medals with
two other Silver Star recipients involved in different engagements,
the battalion known as “Deuce Four” stands in elite company.
The Army doesn’t track the
number of medals per unit, but officials said there could be few,
if any, other battalions in the Iraq war to have so many soldiers
awarded the Silver Star.
“I think this is a great
representation of our organization,” said the 1-24’s
top enlisted soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Prosser, after a battalion
award ceremony late last month at Fort Lewis.
“There are so many that need
to be recognized. … There were so many acts of heroism and
The fight for COP Tampa came as
Deuce Four was just two months into its yearlong mission in west
Mosul. The battalion is part of Fort Lewis’ second Stryker
In the preceding weeks, insurgents
had grown bolder in their attacks in the city of 2 million. Just
eight days earlier, a suicide bomber made his way into a U.S. chow
hall and killed 22 people, including two from Deuce Four.
The battalion took over the four-story
building overlooking the busy highway and set up COP Tampa after
coming under fire from insurgents holed up there. The troops hoped
to stem the daily roadside bombings of U.S. forces along the highway,
called route Tampa.
Looking back, the Dec. 29 battle
was a turning point in the weeks leading up to Iraq’s historic
first democratic election.
The enemy “threw everything
they had into this,” Bernsten said. “And you know in
the end, they lost quite a few guys compared to the damage they could
do to us.
“They didn’t quit after
that, but they definitely might have realized they were up against
something a little bit tougher than they originally thought.”
A fight on dual fronts
The battle for COP Tampa was actually
two fights – one at the outpost, and the other on the highway
about a half-mile south.
About 3:20 p.m., a large cargo
truck packed with 50 South African artillery rounds and propane tanks
barreled down the highway toward the outpost, according to battalion
Pfc. Oscar Sanchez, on guard duty
in the building, opened fire on the truck, killing the driver and
causing the explosives to detonate about 75 feet short of the building.
Sanchez, 19, was fatally wounded
in the blast. Commanders last month presented his family with a Bronze
Star for valor and said he surely saved lives. The enormous truck
bomb might have destroyed the building had the driver been able to
reach the ground-floor garages.
As it was, the enormous explosion
damaged three Strykers parked at the outpost and wounded 17 of the
40 or so soldiers there, two of them critically.
Bernsten was in a room upstairs.
“It threw me. It physically
threw me. I opened my eyes and I’m laying on the floor a good
6 feet from where I was standing a split second ago,” he said. “There
was nothing but black smoke filling the building.”
People were yelling for each other,
trying to find out if everyone was OK.
“It seemed like it was about
a minute, and then all of a sudden it just opened up from everywhere.
Them shooting at us. Us shooting at them,” Bernsten said.
The fight would rage for the next
two hours. Battalion leaders said videotape and documents recovered
later showed it was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaida in Iraq
fighters. They were firing from rooftops, from street corners, from
cars, Bernsten said.
Eventually, Deuce Four soldiers
started to run low on ammunition. Bernsten, a squad leader, led a
team of soldiers out into the open, through heavy fire, to retrieve
more from the damaged Strykers.
“We went to the closest vehicle
first and grabbed as much ammo as we could, and got it upstairs and
started to distribute it,” he said. “When you hand a
guy a magazine and they’re putting the one you just handed
them into their weapon, you realize they’re getting pretty
low. So we knew we had to go back out there for more.”
He didn’t necessarily notice
there were rounds zipping past as he and the others ran the 100 feet
or so to the Strykers.
“All you could see was the
back of the Stryker you were trying to get to.”
A struggle to disarm bombs
Another fight raged down route
Tampa, where a convoy of six Strykers, including the battalion commander’s,
had rolled right into a field of hastily set roadside bombs.
The bombs hadn’t been there
just five minutes earlier, when the convoy had passed by going the
other way after a visit to the combat outpost.
It was an ambush set up to attack
whatever units would come to the aid of COP Tampa.
Just as soldiers in the lead vehicle
radioed the others that there were bombs in the road, the second
Stryker was hit by a suicide car bomber.
Staff Sgt. Eddieboy Mesa, who was
inside, said the blast tore off the slat armor cage and equipment
from the right side of the vehicle, and destroyed its tires and axles
and the grenade launcher mounted on top. But no soldiers were seriously
Insurgents opened fire from the
west and north of the highway. Stryker crewmen used their .50-caliber
machine guns and grenade launchers to destroy a second car bomb and
two of the bombs rigged in the roadway.
Three of the six Strykers pressed
on to COP Tampa to join the fight.
One, led by battalion operations
officer Maj. Mark Bieger, loaded up the critically wounded and raced
back onto the highway through the patch of still-unstable roadside
bombs. It traveled unescorted the four miles or so to a combat support
hospital. Bieger and his men are credited with saving the lives of
Then he and his men turned around
and rejoined the fight on the highway. Bieger was one of those later
awarded the Silver Star.
Meantime, it was left to the soldiers
still on the road to defend the heavily damaged Stryker and clear
the route of the remaining five bombs.
Staff Sgt. Wesley Holt and Sgt.
Joseph Martin rigged up some explosives and went, under fire, from
bomb to bomb to prepare them for demolition.
They had no idea whether an insurgent
was watching nearby, waiting to detonate the bombs. Typically, this
was the kind of situation where infantry soldiers would call in the
ordnance experts. But there was no time, Holt said.
“You could see the IEDs right
out in the road. I knew it was going to be up to us to do it,” Holt
said. “Other units couldn’t push through. The colonel
didn’t want to send any more vehicles through the kill zone
until we could clear the route.”
And so they prepared their charges
under the cover of the Strykers, then ran out to the bombs, maybe
50 yards apart. The two men needed about 30 seconds to rig each one
as incoming fire struck around them.
“You could hear it going,
but where they were landing I don’t know,” Holt said. “You
concentrate on the main thing that’s in front of you.”
He and Martin later received Silver
‘The cavalry’ comes
The route clear, three other Deuce
Four platoons moved out into the neighborhoods and F/A-18 fighter
jets made more than a dozen runs to attack enemy positions with missiles
and cannon fire.
“It was loud, but it was
a pretty joyous sound,” Bernsten said. “You know that
once that’s happened, you have the upper hand in such a big
way. It’s like the cavalry just arrived, like in the movies.”
Other soldiers eventually received
Bronze Stars for their actions that day, too.
Sgt. Christopher Manikowski and
Sgt. Brandon Huff pulled wounded comrades from their damaged Strykers
and carried them over open ground, under fire, to the relative safety
of the building.
Sgt. Nicholas Furfari and Spc.
Dennis Burke crawled out onto the building’s rubbled balcony
under heavy fire to retrieve weapons and ammunition left there after
the truck blast.
Also decorated with Bronze Stars
for their valor on Dec. 29 were Lt. Jeremy Rockwell and Spc. Steven
U.S. commanders say they killed
at least 25 insurgents. Deuce Four left the outpost unmanned for
about three hours that night, long enough for engineers to determine
whether it was safe to re-enter. Troops were back on duty by morning,
said battalion commander Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla.
In the next 10 months, insurgents
would continue to attack Deuce Four troops in west Mosul with snipers,
roadside bombs and suicide car bombs.
But never again would they mass
and attempt such a complex attack.
“From my perspective, Deuce
Four is reflective of the whole 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division … attitude:
aggressive, up-front leadership, outfox and outfight the enemy,” said
Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the Fort Lewis commander.
“They had some tough fighting
in their sector. They were up to the task. The enemy was not.”
Heroics on two other days earned
Silver Stars for Deuce Four'
Like all the others at a recent
ceremony, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Prosser stood at attention as
a narrator read a description of his Silver Star-worthy actions.
It was Aug. 19, and Prosser’s
commander, Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla, had been shot down in front of
him. Bullets hit the ground and walls around him.
Prosser charged under fire into
a shop, not knowing how many enemy fighters were inside.
There was one, and Prosser shot
him four times in the chest, then threw down his empty rifle and
fought hand-to-hand with the man.
The insurgent pulled Prosser’s
helmet over his eyes. Prosser got his hands onto the insurgent’s
throat, but couldn’t get a firm grip because it was slick with
“Unable to reach his sidearm
or his knife, and without the support of any other American soldiers,” the
ceremony’s narrator continued, “Sergeant Major Prosser
nonetheless disarmed and subdued the insurgent by delivering a series
of powerful blows to the insurgent’s head, rendering the man
The narrator paused, and for a
moment there was silence in the audience.
Then the 800 soldiers of the 1st
Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, roared for their leader.
Prosser didn’t blink.
Later he acknowledged the encouragement
of his men, but added, “You can’t forget that you had
to hurt somebody.
“This all happened in about
30 seconds of a 20-year career. A lot of it has to do with God himself,
with love of the job, love of man, love of soldiers.”
The other Silver Star recipient,
Staff Sgt. Shannon Kay, wasn’t present for the recent ceremony.
He has moved on to a new assignment
at Fort Benning, Ga.
Kay was awarded the Silver Star
for his actions on Dec. 11, 2004.
He helped save the lives of seven
members of his squad after they were attacked by a suicide bomber
and insurgents with rockets and mortars at a traffic checkpoint.
He and others used fire extinguishers
to save their burning Stryker vehicle and killed at least eight enemy
fighters. Throughout the fight, Kay refused medical attention despite
being wounded in four places, according to battalion records.
Staff Sgt. Javier Echols
Sgt. Matthew Acosta
Sgt. Zachariah Collett
CAMP LIBERTY , Iraq — It
was a Labor Day to remember for three Soldiers from the 108 th Military
Police Company out of Fort Bragg , N.C. They were awarded medals
of valor by the Multi National Corps-Iraq Commander, Lt. Gen. John
R. Vines, in a ceremony on Camp Liberty September 5.
“We're here to recognize
the valor of these three brave non-commissioned officers that stand
in front of us,” said Vines.
In the early morning hours of April
30, Staff Sgt. Javier Echols, Sgt. Matthew Acosta and Sgt. Zachariah
Collett , as part of squad Warlord 11, were patrolling a Main Supply
Route when an Improvised Explosive Device detonated nearby. An Iraqi
National Guard transport vehicle filled with Iraqi Soldiers was hit
by the blast.
Echols, who received the Silver
Star for his bravery, led his team in the rescue of four Iraqi National
Guard Soldiers who were wounded in the explosion. Amidst a dangerous
crossfire between insurgents and ING Soldiers, the trio managed to
move the wounded to safety and administer medical aid until an evacuation
helicopter arrived on the scene.
For one wounded Iraqi Soldier,
the team crafted a makeshift stretcher from a piece of metal that
had been blown from the transport truck in the explosion.
Acosta received the Bronze Star
Medal with Valor, and Collett , the Army Commendation Medal with
Valor for their fearless efforts to rescue, treat and evacuate the
wounded during the small arms attack.
After presenting the Soldiers with
their medals, Vines expressed his admiration for their courage and
applauded their actions. “In support of the Iraqi National
Guard Soldiers, these three Americans risked everything they had,
their lives, to protect and defend them,” Vines said.
Vines also commended the men and
women of the Armed Forces for their continuing commitment to defend
liberty. “Americans will be able to sleep safely at night,
be able to congregate on Labor Day, at rallies and to go to football
games and all the other things that they do in their daily lives
only so long as there are men and women such as yourselves . Your
epitomized and represented by the great Soldiers standing in front
of us today, and I ask you to join me in a round of applause for
them,” said Vines.
Master Sgt. Robert Collins
Sgt. 1st Class Danny Hall
Collins and Hall, both of 2nd Battalion, 10th SFG, were deployed to
Iraq earlier this year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During offensive operations in the country’s Jazeera region
in April, both men’s aggressive actions in battle led to the
defeat of attacking enemy forces and the survival of their Special
Forces detachment, according to their Silver Star citations.
While searching for an anti-Iraqi forces training
camp and weapons cache, Collins and Hall’s joint coalition
element was engaged by a platoon-sized enemy force with mortars,
rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and grenades. After Collins
personally directed close air support from F-16 aircraft armed with
500-pound bombs, Hall led a dismounted charge into small arms fire
and RPG volleys.
Collins then led his element to engage the
enemy, personally eliminating at least three enemy fighters. In addition
to his combat role, Hall — a
Special Forces medical sergeant — managed to set up a casualty
collection point and a helicopter landing zone to medevac out his wounded
Perhaps Collins and Hall most conspicuously risked their lives when
while pinned down by enemy fire, both men ran into a hail of bullets
to recover a critically wounded U.S. Soldier. They carried the Soldier
to safety, began medical care and saved his life.
Collins acknowledged the personal significance of his Silver Star,
but said he feels that the award symbolizes the heroism of his team
during its battle with anti-Iraqi forces.
“It’s important, but it’s representative of the
efforts of the team, not just my individual effort,” Collins
said. He also stressed that in addition to the pride he has in his
SF teammates, he was just as proud of the other U.S. and Iraqi forces
that fought with them that day in Iraq.
“They fought well and fought hard,” he
Tovo said that Collins and Hall’s uncommon
valor on the battlefield came as no surprise to him after he learned
the details of the battle.
“They epitomize the ideal of bravery that we expect of today’s
SF Soldier,” Tovo said.
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester
WASHINGTON, June 16, 2005 – For
the first time since World War II, a woman soldier was awarded the
Silver Star Medal in Iraq.
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, vehicle
commander, 617th Military Police Company, Richmond, Ky., stands at
attention before receiving the Silver Star at an awards ceremony
at Camp Liberty, Iraq, June 16. Hester is the first woman soldier
since World War II to receive the Silver Star.
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester of the 617th
Military Police Company, a National Guard unit out of Richmond, Ky.,
received the Silver Star, along with two other members of her unit,
Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein and Spc. Jason Mike, for their actions during
an enemy ambush on their convoy. Other members of the unit also received
Hester's squad was shadowing a
supply convoy March 20 when anti-Iraqi fighters ambushed the convoy.
The squad moved to the side of the road, flanking the insurgents
and cutting off their escape route. Hester led her team through the "kill
zone" and into a flanking position, where she assaulted a trench
line with grenades and M203 grenade-launcher rounds. She and Nein,
her squad leader, then cleared two trenches, at which time she killed
three insurgents with her rifle.
When the fight was over, 27 insurgents
were dead, six were wounded, and one was captured.
Hester, 23, who was born in Bowling
Green, Ky., and later moved to Nashville, Tenn., said she was surprised
when she heard she was being considered for the Silver Star.
"I'm honored to even be considered,
much less awarded, the medal," she said.
Being the first woman soldier since
World War II to receive the medal is significant to Hester. But,
she said, she doesn't dwell on the fact. "It really doesn't
have anything to do with being a female," she said. "It's
about the duties I performed that day as a soldier."
Hester, who has been in the National
Guard since April 2001, said she didn't have time to be scared when
the fight started, and she didn't realize the impact of what had
happened until much later.
"Your training kicks in and
the soldier kicks in," she said. "It's your life or theirs.
... You've got a job to do -- protecting yourself and your fellow
Nein, who is on his second deployment
to Iraq, praised Hester and his other soldiers for their actions
that day. "It's due to their dedication and their ability to
stay there and back me up that we were able to do what we did that
day," he said.
Hester and her fellow soldiers
were awarded their medals at Camp Liberty, Iraq, by Army Lt. Gen.
John R. Vines, Multinational Corps Iraq commanding general. In his
speech, Vines commended the soldiers for their bravery and their
contribution to the international war on terror.
"My heroes don't play in the
(National Basketball Association) and don't play in the U.S. Open
(golf tournament) at Pinehurst," Vines said. "They're standing
in front of me today. These are American heroes."
Three soldiers of the 617th were
wounded in the ambush. Hester said she and the other squad members
are thinking about them, and she is very thankful to have made it
through unscathed. The firefight, along with the entire deployment,
has had a lasting effect on her, Hester said.
"I think about it every day,
and probably will for the rest of my life," she said.
SSgt. Timothy Nein
Spec. Jason Mike
The two soldiers crept along the trench line, bullets thumping into
the dirt around them. One was a lanky family man, 36, with two young
sons and a 15-year career at International Paper Co. The other was
a petite, single woman, 23, the floor manager at a Nashville shoe store.
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester handed Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein a grenade. He
had the better arm. Nein hurled it at the insurgents, who were crouched
in the same trench, firing their AK-47 rifles at the Americans in the
Hester and Nein inched forward, the two recalled, Hester firing her
black M-4 assault rifle next to Nein's ear. By the time the soldiers
climbed out of the trench, their lips were chapped from the heat, their
faces smeared with dirt, and four insurgents lay dead or dying nearby.
"I really don't know who killed who," said Hester, who stands
5-foot-4, speaks with a twang and walks with a swagger. "He could
have got three, I could have got one, I don't know. I know for sure
I got at least one."
This account of the 25-minute firefight, near the town of Salman Pak,
is based on interviews with seven squad members and their commanders
and a brief video that ends abruptly with the insurgent cameraman's
death. The three squad members not interviewed were wounded and are
Hester killed at least three enemy combatants, according to her account
and the citation, including two in the orchard before she and Nein
plunged into the trench together to take on the last insurgents.
Receiving the Silver Star, along with Hester and Nein, was a platoon
medic, Spec. Jason Mike, a 5-foot-9, 250-pound former fullback at Jacksonville
University in Florida.
In the middle of the battle, Mike, 22, fired two weapons in opposite
directions after three of the four soldiers traveling in his Humvee
were struck by bullets, he and other members of the squad recounted.
In interviews, the squad and its commanders described how the battle
on March 20 unfolded. Raven 42 was patrolling north near Salman Pak,
about 12 miles southeast of Baghdad. A convoy of 30 tractor-trailers
passed in the other direction. Nein decided to turn the squad around
to shadow the trucks until they were safely out of the area. Squad
members were in three Humvees.
Within minutes, the convoy abruptly stopped. Up ahead, Nein, seated
in the passenger seat of the first Humvee, could see the half-mile
line of trucks suddenly break erratically. Spec. Casey Cooper, in the
gunner's hatch, said he could see it, too.
"They're taking fire!" he screamed. "Go!
The squad's three Humvees roared toward the firefight. Some of the
trucks were already in flames. Nein ordered his driver, Sgt. Dustin
Morris, to get between the assailants and the convoy.
Morris found an opening between two trailers, and the squad drove
through it, emerging in the middle of the kill zone -- where gunfire
is most heavily concentrated during an attack.
A blizzard of small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades followed.
"Flank 'em down the road!" Nein
Just ahead was a paved side
road. Morris accelerated to make the turn. But before he could, Cooper,
exposed in the turret, saw a rocket-propelled grenade coming toward
him. "I saw smoke and a black dot," he
I had time to say was, 'Oh crap.' "
The projectile exploded on the armored lip above the rear passenger's
side window. The Humvee fishtailed and Cooper dropped with a thud into
the cab. His limp body lay across the steel platform where he had stood
moments before. His head bobbed facedown in the footwell. Nein said
he reached back and shook him.
"Coop, are you okay?" he
screamed. Cooper didn't move.
"Believing he was dead, I began to climb up on top of him to
get up on the weapon," Nein said. Cooper suddenly bolted upright.
"I'm okay, I'm okay," Cooper
said he told Nein. He climbed back into the turret.
Incredibly, the Humvee was still running. Morris turned onto the side
road. Bullets poured into the grill. Oil spurted up onto the windshield.
Morris flipped on the wipers, smearing oil over the thick glass.
He stopped about 200 yards down the road. The second Humvee, with
Pullen driving and Hester in the passenger seat, stopped about 50 yards
behind. The third Humvee made the turn and stopped just beyond the
Mike, the hulking medic, looked out from the third Humvee. What he
saw stunned him, he recalled. About 16 to 20 insurgents lined a trench
parallel to the main road. Dozens more were firing from an orchard.
Still more lined a trench that ran parallel to the side road.
The ambush was far larger than anything the squad had seen. The third
Humvee was parked directly in front of the main trench where many of
the insurgents were concentrated.
Nein peered out his window. Lining the side road were seven cars --
BMWs, Caprices, Opel sedans -- the insurgents' escape vehicles. The
doors and trunks were open; they apparently planned to take hostages.
The Americans later found some of the insurgents were carrying handcuffs.
Nein feared the squad was about to be overrun. Instead of dismounting
on the driver's side -- away from the shooting -- he opened the door
and walked directly toward the gunfire.
Hester, watching Nein from the second Humvee, did the same.
"I didn't have a choice. I could have climbed over, that's what
you're trained to do," Nein said. "But once I knew how many
people we were fighting against, it hit me we had to fight back extremely
Nein and Hester, followed by Morris, ducked behind a four-foot berm
that overlooked the orchard. Insurgents, many wearing masks and civilian
clothes, fired AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and RPK machine guns
from behind trees and mounds of dirt.
Nein shot one insurgent in
the head as he peeked from behind a tree. Hester trained her "aim point" --
a red dot that fixes the target -- on the chest of an insurgent firing
an RPK from behind a knoll.
"I just put that little dot on him and squeezed the trigger," she
said. "It hit him and he fell down. I was like, 'Whoa, I just
killed somebody.' Before that first one, it was almost like it wasn't
real. Now it was for real."
Hester shifted her aim to another insurgent. She pulled the trigger.
He fell down.
The most dangerous spot was near the third Humvee, parked overlooking
the main trench and in the line of fire of more than a dozen insurgents.
Within minutes, three of the Humvee's four occupants had been hit.
Spec. Bryan Mack was struck in the left shoulder. No sooner had Mike
bandaged him and put him in the Humvee, Rivera was hit, too, the bullet
apparently entering his lower back and exiting through his stomach.
The bullets were now coming from two directions -- not only from the
trench but also from a 10-foot berm on the other side of the Humvees.
It was only one or two insurgents, but the squad was pinned down. Mike
treated Rivera's wound and shoved him underneath the Humvee as far
as he could for protection.
Then Spec. William Haynes, in the turret, was hit in the left hand.
He fell back into the Humvee, screaming.
He showed his hand to Mike,
who recalled he told Haynes to wrap it. As he did, Mike focused on
the source of the fire. "I could hear
the bullets hitting the Humvee," he said. "They were coming
from both directions, both in front and behind."
With the other soldiers out of action, Mike set up an M-249 light
machine gun, known as a Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW, on the Humvee's
trunk. With his right hand, he fired it into the main trench. With
his left, he gripped an M-4 assault rifle and shot in the other direction
at the insurgent firing from atop the 10-foot berm. He continued shooting
both weapons until Haynes had bandaged his hand and resumed fighting.
Cooper informed Nein that the squad was now taking fire from the rear.
He said the insurgent appeared to be firing from a dirt plateau just
on the other side of the berm. Nein grabbed a grenade, ran at the berm
and lobbed it over.
The firing stopped. To make sure he had eliminated the threat, Nein
backed up, took a running start and tried to climb the steep berm.
Clawing at the dirt with his hands and his rifle, he pulled himself
to the top. No one was there.
Pullen ran over to Nein and
told him Rivera had been seriously wounded. Nein ordered her to treat
him. The fighting was still heavy. Pullen, concerned Rivera was exposed,
returned to her truck and backed it up to where Rivera lay on the
ground. Pullen recalled she placed a bandage over the wound and applied
pressure. Rivera screamed and rocked; he said he couldn't feel his
legs. "Think about your son," said
Pullen, recalling Rivera had a young boy. "Think about him. Think
about anything but this."
The shooting had begun to subside, but with Rivera needing to be evacuated
as soon as possible, Nein believed he was running out of time. Below
him, in the trench that ran along the side road, four insurgents were
still firing up at the squad and then ducking behind a berm.
He looked at Hester, now crouching
next to him. "We've got to
go in there," he said.
Nein rolled over the berm into
the trench, Hester following behind. The trench was uneven, and they
took cover in the small spaces. The insurgents, clustered about 30
yards down and spaced five yards apart, poked out their heads and
fired their AK-47s in bursts. "I could
see the bullets kicking up the dried dirt and I remember thinking,
'I can't believe that's stopping them.' " Nein said.
"We went through there foot by foot," said Hester. "We'd
stop every couple meters or so, two or three meters, and lay down fire.
I'd be firing over his shoulder."
The soldiers tossed grenades
as they moved closer. Hester saw one insurgent about 15 yards away.
She lobbed a grenade toward the figure, then pressed her body into
the side of the trench to avoid the blast. "I
saw one of them go down," she said.
Soon, one insurgent was still firing. Nein lobbed another grenade.
The shooting stopped.
Hester and Nein climbed out the trench. Bodies littered the orchard
and the trenches. The only sounds were the cries of the wounded.
Other units arrived. Mike and Pullen helped transport the wounded
to a makeshift landing zone for evacuation by helicopters.
Hester sat down and stared
into space. She said she didn't feel like a hero, only that "I did my job." In
some ways, she's still staring.
"I think about March 20 at least a couple times a day, every
day, and I probably will for the rest of my life," she said last
week. "It's taken its toll. Every night I'm lucky if I don't see
the picture of it in my mind before I go to sleep, and then, even if
I don't, I'm dreaming about what we did."
Capt Joshua L. Glover
MARINE BARRACKS WASHINGTON, Washington
D.C.(Oct. 28, 2005) -- The annals of Marine Corps history are filled
with stories of men and women who have sacrificed their all in service
to their country. Puller, Basilone, Lejeune, Butler, Daley—names
that are synonymous with valor in combat and Marine Corps lore.
"There is a fellowship of
valor that links all U.S. Marines, past, present, and future," said
Joseph Alexander, retired Marine Colonel in his book The Battle History
of the U.S. Marines: A Fellowship of Valor.
Now, another story of valor can
be added to the Marine history books and for one Marine officer assigned
to the Corps' "Oldest Post," that story is one of modesty
and simply taking care of his Marines.
Dallas native, Capt Joshua L. Glover
was presented the nation's third highest award for valor in combat—the
Silver Star medal.
Glover, a 2001 United States Naval
Academy graduate, received his award during a chilly early morning
ceremony held aboard the Post Oct 28, 2005 from the Commandant of
the Marine Corps, General Michael W. Hagee.
The 26-year-old received the award
for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy
while serving as 81mm Mortar Platoon Commander with Weapons Company
and Quick Reaction Force Platoon Commander, 1st Marine Battalion,
5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division in support of Operation
Iraqi Freedom on April 13, 2004 in Al Fallujah.
When asked about the award, Glover
humbly diverts attention away from himself.
"I received this award because
of something we did as a platoon, and I am really proud of what we
accomplished that day," he said.
Occurring during the second of
his three deployments to Iraq, Glover led and directed his platoon
through enemy lines to recover classified material from a downed
CH-53 helicopter. The platoon was attacked by Iraqi forces employing
machinegun, small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Glover
skillfully maneuvered his force and assaulted through the ambush
to friendly lines, inflicting numerous enemy casualties.
After successfully completing the
mission, Glover was ordered that same evening to recover a destroyed
Assault Amphibious Vehicle and assist in the rescue of a besieged
rifle platoon deep behind enemy lines. Glover and his Marines found
themselves up against a company-sized Iraqi force along the enemy's
main line of resistance where as stated in Glover’s Silver
Star citation, "...he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire
as he engaged enemy targets at point-blank range while directing
the rifle platoon's relief and coordinating recovery operations."
Glover attributes the battle as
a success because of the hard work of the Marines in his charge,
and his common sense approach to leadership.
"When you train Marines you
have to get them to focus on the basics. In a chaotic situation such
as combat, the basics will get them through," said Glover.
According to Glover, it's more
than just training that makes a platoon of Marines successful in
combat. Strong leadership in your Non-Commissioned Officers is vital.
In order to be successful, with the dispersion between elements in
today's combat environments, your NCOs have to be equipped and empowered
to make decisions, he said.
And through something very challenging,
Glover has earned a new outlook on his life.
"I have learned to appreciate
what we have here in the U.S., both the general safety we enjoy and
the quality of our lives," said Glover.
And while the battle for which
Glover was awarded was a success, he feels the enormity of the price
that was paid.
"I lost a Marine that day,
as did another unit in the battalion. We can not separate [the victory
from the loss], and I think we need to do our best to make them and
their families proud," he said.
For those Marines who have been
called upon to defend freedom in far off lands, sacrifice is the
common thread that binds them together. The desire to join their
brethren in combat keeps them ready to go. And, at the Corps' "Oldest
Post," another story can be added to the history books - one
of sacrifice, humility and valor.
SSgt. Charles Good (Green Berets)
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — An Army
trumpet player turned Green Beret was awarded with a Silver
Star, the Army’s third highest
award for combat valor.
Staff Sgt. Charles Good was credited with exposing himself to enemy
fire on the Syrian/Iraqi border to assist in getting a critically wounded
comrade into a Humvee, then negotiating in Arabic a ride from an Iraqi
man for them when the Humvee became crippled by enemy fire.
“Something took over me,” said Good, 34, of Altoona, Pa.,
after the brief ceremony. “That’s pretty much how it was.”
Five other members of his 5th Special Forces unit, based at Fort Campbell,
received Bronze Star medals with valor device Thursday for their actions
in the same clash that ended 24 hours after it started with more than
35 insurgents killed, the Army said.
The injured soldier, Sgt. First Class Joseph
Briscoe, 37, of Liberty, Texas, whose right arm was blown off by
a rocket-propelled grenade during the incident, was among those receiving
a Bronze Star. Briscoe, a father of four, said there’s no way
to appropriately convey his thanks to Good.
“I don’t know what you say to someone who’s responsible
for saving your life,” said Briscoe, who now has a prosthetic
arm. “I hope he can understand how grateful I am to him. ...
I thank him every time I see him.”
The ceremony on Thursday was dedicated to Staff Sgt. Aaron Holleyman,
26, the 5th Group Army medic who treated Briscoe at the base camp.
Holleyman was killed Aug. 30 in Iraq when his vehicle was hit by a
Good joined the Army in 1989 as a trumpet player, and participated
in the 1991 Gulf War. He made the switch to Special Forces 10 years
into his career.
“I really enjoyed my time in the band. ... I just kind of tired
of it. I just wanted to challenge myself,” said Good, who is
engaged and has a 10-year-old son. “I thought I could do this
job. Or else I’d be asking myself the rest of my life if I could.”
The 11 men who originally came under fire were members of the Special
Operational Detachment Alpha 531. Their mission was to curtail foreign
fighters who were infiltrating Iraq along the border in their assigned
territory and clear the area of insurgents.
The Army provided the following account of what happened when their
two-vehicle convoy drove into the hostile village of Sadah on Oct.
The clash started when one vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade
that ricocheted off the roof of the vehicle.
Eight members went after the assailants.
At the same time, Good, Briscoe and a third soldier in a second vehicle
provided security. It was then that Briscoe was hit.
As Briscoe was loaded into the vehicle, Good provided cover fire.
Because they had no radio communication, Good then drove the vehicle
through small-arms fire to tell the others they were going to the base
But before they could get there, the vehicle was disabled by small-arms
and machine-gun fire. Good then negotiated with an Iraqi man in a dilapidated
Toyota to drive them to the base camp. Good said he had been taught
some Arabic during his training.
Good said he was never worried that the Iraqi would hurt them.
“We were still armed,” Good said.
After dropping Briscoe off, Good returned to
the fight with other comrades to assist those left behind. Those
left “fought in a
street-by-street battle” and at times were outnumbered 4-to-1,
according to an Army chronology of events that day.
The unit regrouped that night, then returned the next day to kill
five more insurgents and capture 18 others, the Army said.
Staff Sgt. William Thomas Payne
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 1, 2005 — Staff
Sgt. William Thomas Payne of the 1st Cavalry Division received the
United States third highest award for heroism in combat Feb. 27 during
a brief ceremony held at the crossed sabers monument in central Baghdad.
Although Maj. Gen. Pete Chiarelli,
the division's commander, was on hand to present the award, Payne
took the unique opportunity to have the medal pinned on him by his
father, Carl Payne, a Department of the Army employee working in
"I could never be more proud," said
the elder Payne, a retired Army tanker.
"As a parent it's like a double
edged sword though," he said, speaking of his sons actions. "I'm
glad he was recognized for the duty that he did, but it is tough
to know that your son risked his life in a situation like that."
"I've read a lot of citations
since I've been here, but I have read none that talks of any greater
act of heroism than what Staff Sgt. Payne did that day." Maj.
Gen. Pete Chiarelli"
Payne, from Benford, Okla., and
an infantryman assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry
Regiment, is credited with rescuing a group of soldiers from a disabled
Bradley fighting vehicle while under fire last September.
"Staff Sgt. Payne displayed
gallantry and valor that was truly amazing," Chiarelli said. "He
did it in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Baghdad - Sheik Maroof."
The neighborhood has many areas
that have been dubbed with nicknames like "Grenade Alley",
and "Purple Heart Lane" by the soldiers who regularly patrol
it. The infamous Haifa Street runs along the northern border.
"I've read a lot of citations
since I've been here," Chiarelli added, "but I have read
none that talks of any greater act of heroism than what Staff Sgt.
Payne did that day."
During the late morning hours of
Sept. 12, 2004, Payne's battalion was wrapping up an operation on
Haifa Street. As Bradley fighting vehicles patrolled the streets,
soldiers on the ground set up defensive positions in order to pick
up other soldiers that had been manning observation posts in high-rise
buildings throughout the night.
Payne and his dismounted squad
were in their position along the side of the street when the unthinkable
happened - a car laden with explosives sped onto the street and detonated
into the rear of a Bradley.
"I looked back," Payne
explained, "it was like; there is no way that this was happening."
A split second later the blasts
powerful concussion hit his squad knocking one soldier to the ground.
"When I heard the concussion
I knew it was real and it was time to go," he said.
Although Staff Sgt. William Thomas
Payne was the recipient of the Silver Star medal, he credits his
squad for their teamwork in the successful rescue of wounded soldiers
from a burning armored vehicle last September.
While Maj. Gen. Pete Chiarelli watches, Carl Payne pins the Silver
Star medal on his son, Staff Sgt. William Thomas Payne. Payne was
awarded the decoration for his heroic actions on Haifa Street last
September. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Queen, 3rd BCT Public Affairs
The force of the blast disabled
the 33 ton Bradley bringing it to a halt. It's rear ramp was engulfed
in flames and the upper cargo hatch was blown off.
Small arms fire began to rain onto
the street, so Payne had Sgt. Richard Frisbie shift the squad into
a new position so they could provide cover fire while he and Spc.
Chase Ash went to help the soldiers in the Bradley.
"Luckily I had someone there
to help out," Payne said. "I had a soldier to keep control
of the squad and another to help me with the wounded."
Payne and Ash ran 50 meters to
the burning vehicle while insurgents fired on them. At the Bradley,
Payne climbed up on top and helped two of the crewman out of the
turret. He then turned his attention to the infantrymen still inside
the crew compartment. One by one he pulled them up through the damaged
"I lowered them down the side
of the Bradley to Spc. Ash so he could get them to safety," Payne
said. "There was a lot of gunfire going on."
Within seconds of retrieving the
wounded soldiers from the Bradley the vehicle's load of ammunition
began to cook off from the heat and fire.
According to Payne the whole series
of events lasted nearly five minutes.
"All the training just kicked
in," Payne said about what happened. "It's hard to explain,
I didn't really have time to think about it."
Once back in a safe position on
the south side of the street Payne's squad teamed together again
to further protect the rescued soldiers as the medic treated them.
"Some of the wounded were
unable to get their equipment out of the Bradley," Payne explained. "We
had one soldier that didn't have his helmet and another was missing
Payne's men began giving them whatever
piece of protective gear they could spare.
"They were giving up goggles
and things like that," Payne added. "They were giving them
anything they could to provide them better protection than what they
had when they got out of the vehicle."
When it was safe enough, Payne
and his soldiers put the wounded into another Bradley for evacuation
to the combat support hospital in the International Zone.
"I owe everything to my squad," Payne
said. "If my squad wasn't there I couldn't have completed that
mission. My squad was there for me - that's what it comes down to."
1st Lt. Neil Prakash
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SCUNION, BA’QUBAH,
Iraq -- After leading his platoon through a fierce onslaught, enemy
fire pounding them from every direction, 1st Lt. Neil Prakash went
back in for more.
First Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen.
John R.S. Batiste joined Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor
Regiment at FOB Scunion Jan. 14 to award this 24-year-old tank platoon
leader one of the military’s
highest honors - the Silver Star Medal.
“An incredible officer, his accomplishments on 24 June are
clearly heroic,” said Batiste. “He sets a very
high standard for every one of us. I guarantee veterans of the past
are standing very tall right now.”
Although born in India and maintaining strong ties to the Indian
community, Prakash was raised in Syracuse, New York, in what he called
a very patriotic American household.
An ROTC cadet at Johns Hopkins University, he planned to follow in
the footsteps of his mother, father and older brother - all doctors
- and attend medical school. But after attending an ROTC Branch Orientation
during his senior year, he knew what he was meant to do.
“There was this colonel, he was armored cav, so he had a Stetson
and spurs,” said Prakash. “He was standing on
his tank and he was like ‘alright listen up you (&$(@$#^,
if you want 72 tons of pure power underneath you…’ and
he just went off.”
Prakash made up his mind on the spot and has never regretted it since,
And on the morning of June 24, he was ready.
After spending all night and morning patrolling and setting up observation
posts around the city, 1st platoon pulled in to FOB Scunion at about
“Capt. Fowler came sprinting over, all out of wind, and says ‘Alright,
the whole company is going in to Ba’qubah,’” said
Prakash. “I’ve just been given the order. Ba’qubah
is under siege - the police station, the CMOC - all have been attacked,
so we’re going in.”
The company geared up and by 10:45 a.m., was
maneuvering south into Ba’qubah with 1st platoon in the lead.
They were to seize and secure a set of twin bridges and set up a
blocking position to prevent the enemy from reinforcing.
As they advanced toward their objective, they began receiving reports
of enemy activity in the city. Four-man RPG teams had been spotted
on rooftops, as well as dismounted enemy infantry in alleyways. They
were told to expect IED and RPG ambushes by a well-trained enemy who
meant to stand and fight.
“This was the first time I even got
a little bit nervous. I mean, ever, since I got here,” said Prakash. “I
just got this weird feeling. Everything was silent, there was no movement.
And then all of the sudden something blew up behind me.”
It took the crew about one hour to fight their way through the next
one kilometer stretch of road. Official battle reports count 23 IEDs
and 20-25 RPG teams in that short distance, as well as multiple machine-gun
nests, and enemy dismounts armed with small arms and hand grenades.
Because enemy dismounts were attempting to
throw hand grenades into the tank’s open hatches, Prakash ordered the tanks to open protected
mode – bringing the hatches down, leaving them open only a crack.
As the lead vehicle, Prakash’s tank
took the brunt of the attack, sustaining blasts from multiple IEDs
and at least seven standard and armor piercing RPGs. The enemy fired
mainly at the lead tanks, aiming for the few vulnerable spots. One
round blew the navigation system completely off of the vehicle, while
another well-aimed blast disabled his turret.
Although unable to rotate the turret, Prakash continued in the lead,
navigating with a map and maneuvering his tank in order to continue
engaging the enemy with the main weapon system and his .50 caliber
machine-gun. He watched as men on rooftops sprayed down at his tank
with machine-guns and small arms.
“I just remember thinking, ‘I hope these bullets don’t
go in this one inch of space,’” said Prakash. “Looking
out the hatch, I’m spraying guys and they’re just falling.
They would just drop - no blood, no nothing. We just kept rolling,
getting shot at from everywhere.”
The platoon was finally ordered to turn around and head back north
in order to maintain contact with the enemy and to establish a defensive
perimeter, allowing a recovery team to retrieve a downed vehicle.
Prakash took the opportunity to move his tank back to FOB Scunion
for repairs and provide escort for medical evacuations. After assisting
with repairs, he and his crew immediately moved back into position
and requested to resume the lead.
Moving south back through the city, they encountered no resistance.
Once they neared their objective, however, Prakash identified and engaged
an enemy re-supply truck, destroying the vehicle and its contents.
“We blasted it with a main round from about 100 meters away.
The thing just blew to shreds,” he said. “You could see
the tubes from the launchers go flying in the air.”
The men encountered no further resistance as they moved to the objective,
where they established a blocking position until they were relieved
the following morning.
By battle’s end, the platoon was responsible
for 25 confirmed destroyed enemy and an estimated 50 to 60 additional
destroyed enemy personnel. Prakash was personally credited with the
destruction of eight enemy strong-points, one enemy re-supply vehicle,
and multiple enemy dismounts.
“He led the way,” said Alpha Company Commander Capt.
Paul Fowler. “He’s a pleasure to command because he doesn’t
require very much direction. He uses his own judgment and he’s
simply an outstanding young lieutenant.”
Sgt. 1st Class Gary Villalobos
Sgt. 1st Class Gary Villalobos
of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was awarded the Silver Star Medal
Oct. 12 for his gallantry in combat while outnumbered by insurgents
June 7 in Tal Afar, Iraq.
During a squadron operation in
Tal Afar, Villalobos was tasked to follow and assist an Iraqi Army
platoon and two members of the 1st Brigade Military Transition Team – one
being Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe. After the first member of the team
was injured during a raid on the platoon’s first target, Villalobos,
Crowe and the Iraqi soldiers came under heavy attack from hand grenades,
an improvised explosive device, rocket propelled grenades and machine
Both Villalobos and Crowe maneuvered
down an alleyway where five insurgents ambushed the squad. All but
two of the Iraqi Army Soldiers retreated, leaving Crowe and Villalobos.
Crowe was hit numerous times in the lower abdomen, and fell to the
ground 10 feet in front of Villalobos.
Villalobos reported the downed
officer and returned fire. He called for armor support and killed
at least one insurgent with a grenade. Rather than leave his fallen
comrade, Villalobos risked his life to evacuate Crowe to a Bradley
Fighting Vehicle, preventing insurgents from capturing his body.
“To this day, I’m still
amazed that I did not break contact with the enemy,” Villalobos
said. “If I had a split second to think, I probably would have
broke contact. I just instinctively stayed and fought until the enemy
Sgt. Donald Walters
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — A
year after he was buried, the Army honored Sgt. Donald Walters with
the Silver Star for the actions in Iraq that cost him his life.
Walters, 33, formerly of Kansas City,
Mo., received the commendation posthumously during a ceremony at Fort
Leavenworth National Cemetery, where he is buried. Walters was a member
of the 507th Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss, Texas, that was ambushed
in southern Iraq on March 23, 2003.
Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, who
served in Iraq as the commanding general of the Army’s V Corps,
presented the Silver Star to Walters’ widow, Stacie, and his
mother, Arlene Walters, who has sought a better accounting of her son’s
death to reflect his actions.
In the ambush, which occurred just
days after the start of the war, 11 soldiers were killed and six captured,
including Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was initially credited with putting
up a fierce fight during the battle. Lynch has said she did not fire
a shot during the ambush. Lynch was later rescued from an Iraqi hospital.
“The exact events during the
ambush in Nasariyah will never be completely known but to God and by
those who perished in the struggle,” Wallace said.
Walters, of Salem, Ore., had initially
been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Autopsy reports
indicate he died of gunshot and two stab wounds to the abdomen.
Wallace said Walters displayed a
courage that reflected his gallantry to serve his country and fellow
soldiers caught in the ambush.
His mother and U.S. Rep. Darlene
Hooley, D-Ore., have sought an Army investigation to correct earlier
reports that credited Lynch with holding off Iraqi troops.
Walters, a veteran of the 1991 Persian
Gulf War, is also survived by three daughters.
Master Sergeant Anthony R. Yost
MILLINGTON, Mich. — An Army
Special Forces soldier from Michigan who spent nearly two decades serving
in the military was killed in an explosion detonated by a suicide bomber
in Mosul, Iraq, his parents said.
Master Sgt. Anthony Yost, a 39-year-old native of Millington, who had
been in the military for 19 years, died after the explosion at a building
Friday, his father, Donald Yost of Millington, told The Flint Journal.
Anthony Yost was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group based in
Fort Carson, CO, the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center
and School at Fort Bragg and most recently the 3rd batallion, 3rd Special
Forces group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was a patriotic
and dedicate soldier with many years of service. He had received many
medals including the Meritorious Service Medal, six Army Commendation
Medals and six Army Achievement Medals.
“They said he was a hero, the way he died,” Yost’s mother,
Penny Cairnduff, of Linden, said of soldiers who on Saturday notified her of
her son’s death.
Cairnduff said her son, a graduate of Millington High School, spoke
five languages and was a sniper expert. She remembered her son as a
giving person who loved his children and family.
“He was a smart kid. He loved his job,” she said. Andy was proud
of his Native American heritage and was a member of the Kiowa-Cheyenne Native
American tribe in Oklahoma. Many knew Andy by his beloved nicknames "Apache" and "Chief."
Anthony Yost is survived by a daughter, Cheyenne, 13, of Clio, and
a son, A.J., 2, of North Carolina, Donald Yost said. His wife, Joann,
also lives in North Carolina.
Kris K. Currie, 39, a secretary at Millington Elementary School, graduated
with Yost from Millington High School.
“I remember how much he loved basketball and played on the basketball
and baseball teams for the school,” Currie told The Saginaw News.
Donald Yost said his son had been in Iraq since spring, but they spoke
about once a week.
Sgt. Mathew Zedwick, U.S. Army
Sgt. Mathew Zedwick, of Corvallis,
Ore., salutes from the 1st Cavalry Division Commanding General, Maj.
Gen. Peter Chiarelli, after being awarded the Silver Star Medal Feb.
8 at an awards ceremony at Camp Taji, Iraq.
Despite being wounded and under
heavy small arms fire from the enemy, Zedwick saved the life of his
squad leader when he pulled him from a burning vehicle after they
were hit with a roadside bomb. Zedwick then sheltered the wounded
Soldier with his own body when a second bomb exploded.
After carrying the Soldier to safety,
Zedwick returned to the flaming vehicle through the enemy’s
assault and attempted to retrieve the body of the gunner who was
mortally wounded before rounds began cooking off in the vehicle.
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