Highly decorated US Unit in Iraq War

Discussion in 'Multinational HQ' started by Red Shrek, Nov 13, 2006.

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  1. The Stryker brigade infantry battalion (the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, known as “Deuce Four”) had five Silver Star and 26 Bronze Star for valor recipients during its year in Iraq.
    Silver Star recipients:Maj. Mark Bieger, Staff Sgt. Wesley Holt, Staff Sgt. Shannon Kay, Sgt. Joseph Martin, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Prosser / Bronze Star recipients
    Source: Michael Gilbert / The News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington) / www. thenewstribune.com /
    November 6, 2005
    Silver Star goes to Stryker soldiers tested in Iraq
    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 grenades.
    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 day.
    “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. 29, 2004.
    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 valor.”
    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 brigade.
    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 accounts.
    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 injured.
    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 two soldiers.
    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 Stars.
    ‘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 Sosa.
    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 blood.
    “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 unconscious.”
    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.

    The Stryker brigade infantry battalion known as “Deuce Four” had five Silver Star and 26 Bronze Star for valor recipients during its year in Iraq.
    Silver Star
    Maj. Mark Bieger
    Staff Sgt. Wesley Holt
    Staff Sgt. Shannon Kay
    Sgt. Joseph Martin
    Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Prosser
    Bronze Star for valor
    Staff Sgt. Richard Bernsten
    Lt. John Bourque
    Pfc. Joseph Bourne
    Sgt. 1st Class Robert Bowman
    Spc. Dennis Burke
    Sgt. David Carlton
    Sgt. Sebastian Chrzanowski
    Spc. Henry Flanagan
    Sgt. Roy Freeman
    Spc. Mark Fuerbringer
    Sgt. Nicholas Furfari
    Sgt. 1st Class Mark Gallegos
    Sgt. 1st Class Eugene Hicks
    Sgt. Brandon Huff
    Sgt. Christopher Manikowski
    Sgt. 1st Class David McDaniel
    Sgt. Ryan Mitchell
    Sgt. Benjamin Morton*
    Lt. Raub Nash
    Spc. Jason Okon
    Sgt. Adam Plumondore*
    Staff Sgt. Joseph Robeson
    Lt. Jeremy Rockwell
    Pfc. Oscar Sanchez*
    Spc. Steven Sosa
    Staff Sgt. Ofa Tali

    * Awarded posthumously
  2. Nothing for Kurilla?

    We got sent to help out after all that, here's COP Tampa. The crater is just in front of the near Stryker.


    Another shot of the crater.


    As you can see, it was in quite an urban area. My wing-tank in the picture.


    I saw the video of the attack (captured a few days later), the truck just ploughed over the concrete barrier, jumping into the air before detonating. The truck engine (I don't know if I took a picture of it) was thrown to the far end of the COP, the driver's body was found a few days later on top of a roof about 300 meters away. It was a massive bomb.

  3. Errmm... I believe that distinction is held by the 442RCT of WWII Fame.


    21 Medal's Of Honor
    52 Distinguished Service Crosses
    1 Dintinguished Service Medal's
    560 Silver Star Medal's( & 28 Oak Leaf Clusters)
    22 Legion Of Merit's
    15 Soldiers Medal's
    4,000 Bronze Star Medal's(incl;1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters)
    7 Presidential Unit Citations
  4. I changed the title to something more appropriate.
  5. California_tanker

    What's your name? I have a few pictures myself of you guys. If only I can recover them from my dead harddrive.

    My name is David Banik. I was with Charlie Company, 1st plt. The unit that was struck by that truck bomb was Charlie Company, 2nd platoon. Many of my friends there were awarded a purple heart. My friend Nava was outside his stryker taking a piss when that truck bomb came rolling down the street. Thankfully he survived...haha.

    And my platoon was the one that found the dead guy. Right after you guys lit up that old guy with the white bag. I was with the squad who went to recover his body. Crazy times man. Good to see you guys made it home safely! I'm glad we had a few M1's out there to watch our ass. Were you guys there the day they lobbed 6 81 mm mortars on my platoon as we crossed that open field to the front of COP Tampa? Man that was CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZY!
  6. All this is nothing to write home about. Consider:

    PFC Beltbuckle of the USMC goes out on patrol. One hundred metres outside the wire, his convoy gets hit by an IED. Only one humvee gets damaged, so the rest decide to go on.

    As soon as they get within Ramadi's city limits, a sniper shoots the machine gunner in the second Humvee. He is incapacitated but not killed. They call in for medivac and send him back to base.

    A few hundred metres into Ramadi as they are rounding a corner, an RPG smashes into the lead vehicle. Luckily there is another Marine unit lurking in the neighbourhood and they come to the rescue in LAVs and drive the insurgents away.

    As the Marine unit is clearing a building, a booby trap goes off and hurts a few more in the unit. By this time it's almost time to go back to base. Numerous fire fights have occured, the Marine unit has had to fight itself out of more than one corner. Lots of insurgents are dead or captured.

    They head back 'home' for a few hours sleep before they have to do it all over again.

    A few months later, their tour is over and they go back home. Do they get an inordinate amount of medals? No. Do they complain? No. Why? Because they know it's part of the job.
  7. Before you bare your soul on Arrse, I suggest you look around first. Nobody puts their "real" name on this site. Unless you are ready to absorb all kinds of insults and abuses.

    I suppose nobody ever taught you anything about "Opsec."
  8. I'm not even in the Army anymore. And since when does posting your name violate opsec?

    And people insult me? Like that's never happened before. :thumright:
  9. Deucedfour, check out your PM box. Good to have one of the Punishers around here ;)
  10. And what's with the ball busting? No one from my unit ever asked for any recognition. Hell the media didn't even care about our fight when Mosul was the most dangerous place to be during that time. The only person who gave a damn was michael yon. He just happened to jump into the media limelight, and he took us with him.

    No doubt there are other units who go in without any recognition, who give the ultimate sacrifice. And they deserve just as much credit as we do. We were just lucky to have a good reporter alongside with us who actually gave a damn.

    So please, give the 16 men from my bn credit where credit is due. Pay them that final respect. It's not an Army Vs. Marine thing. It's about us warriors. And Mr. Yon is helping us all out by telling "our" story. Not just my battalion, but the entire military. The combat arms troops who go out everday and deal with this crazyness. He's trying to get the truth out to everyone. So why the bashing?

    We took a city of over 2 million from pure anarchy And restored it to a near peaceful state. We went from 12 mortar attacks a day, to basically zero. Zero hotline calls to thousands. Two successful elections with minor incidents. Captured the number one HVT in mosul and killed/ captured every one of his successors. We just happened to do things right during our time and we got credit in a positive light, which I think we need. Instead of bashing, maybe some could learn from my bn commander who "closed with and destroyed the enemy". We fought them on our terms, not theirs.

    I hope your unit get's as much credit as mine did.
  11. Deucedfour, I wasn't trying to start a fight although I have never been known to shy away from one.

    This is not about Army vs USMC rivalry that has been going on for ages. I had an opportunity to work alongside an Army unit in Ramadi (the first Vermont) and boy oh boy! I was totally impressed. Very fine people who carried more than their weight in responsibility.

    As for bursting your balls: it just seems to me that we did more with less and at the end of the day, it was all in a days work. As for you giving your name, I suggest you use the PM thingy next time. After all this is a public forum and although it might not affect opsec, it does leave you open to certain things that are best left untouched.....

    I salute you in the spirit of brotherhood. :salut:
  12. Well maybe you guys did more with less. But my unit was in the crosshairs way before we even stepped foot in Iraq. All that controversy about the Stryker system and what it was worth to the Army. But that's about the only advantage we had. Our vehicles were on their second straight tour. Over a million miles on the odometer. We covered down on vehicles already in theater and the unit we replaced got brand new strykers! :frustrated:

    Anyways, understood it wasn't busting balls. Thanks for clearing it up. And I apologize if I came off the wrong way. We just did alot of fighting, and alot of time spent freezing our asses off gaurding iraqi police stations. And a few decent attacks on the insurgents part. Blew the crap out of our mess hall on december 21st with a suicide bomber.

    But anyways,

    And thanks for the advice.
  13. Dec 21? Was that you guys? We kinda freaked out when we heard the news. That was a terrible time for us all. I can remember Mrs DD crying on the phone when I called her....

    We got mortared and rocketed the whole day that day. One of those days you don't forget easy.

    Anyway, it's been a long fight and a lot of good souls have put a lot on the line for a good cause. Hopefully, this does not drag out a day longer than it has to.

    BTW, the Stryker did turn out to be a good investment, didn't it?
  14. I think, Devil_Dog you are getting persec (personal security) mixed up with Opsec (operational security).

    Mr. B's name is of no or low intel value whereas troop strength and movement issues are opsec.

    One is personal (if he wants a visit from AQ at his home in hillybilly land)

    the other is operational (telling Terry Taliban what's up for lunch at the coy hq tomorrow night) ;)