Sunday, April 5, 2009

The 'V' Stands for Valor

Note to the Reader: The italicized portion of this entry comes directly from Capt. Wise, who has sent another update from Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar Province and formerly Ground Zero of the Sunni Arab insurgency (following the al-Fajr campaign in Fallujah in November 2004, that is). With his permission, the entire e-mail is reprinted here.

The portion that is both italicized and bolded comes directly from a citation for a medal that Captain Wise just earned.

There's nothing like bureaucracy. The citation and certificate for an award I earned during my first deployment (Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, AKA "Combat V") finally came in and was presented tonight. I found out about the award during my last deployment, and about the combat V on there because of my friend Ryan, but never had it read in front of my peers and my Marines. I was kind of non-chalant about the whole thing at first, but it felt good having it presented to me - mainly because the command cared enough to track it down and ensure I was recognized. Though I sent it out before, here it is again:

Heroic achievement while serving as Intelligence Advisor, 3d Battalion, 2d Brigade, 1st Division Iraqi Intervention Force, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) from January to May 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On 19 March 2006, while occupying an overwatch position in support of a combined Iraqi Army and Marine Patrol, First Lieutenant Wise observed suspicious activity by military-aged-males and immediately contacted the patrol warning them of impending attack. As a result, before the anti-coalition force attacked with a combination of small arms, medium machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and hand grenades, coalition forces were forewarned and better able to repel the assault. Remaining in position throughout the firefight and despite receiving heavy cross fire, First Lieutenant Wise advised his Iraqi counterparts on the best cover and fields of fire to suppress the anti-coalition forces and continued to provide liaison with adjacent Marine units in contact with the enemy. First Lieutenant Wise's noteworthy accomplishments, perseverance, and devotion to duty reflected credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

After the presentation, I had to trade war stories with the few Marines that were in actual combat. There was the good natured ribbing, and since I had told my war stories before, a lot of questions if this was the time I fell in raw sewage. I did have a laugh that a lack of situational awareness was mistaken for bravery, but my lack of situational awareness didn't compare to three of my teammates that took cover behind a tanker truck with 3' high letters that said "FLAMMABLE."

I'm counting down the days I have left here, and will be back at the end of April unless I get lost in the bureaucracy and slip through without the required delays - then I'll be home by mid-month. Take care everyone, and keep in touch.

I hope you guys enjoy Captain Wise's updates as much as I do. Just as a "teaser" for some coming military-related entries on my backburner, I'm going to use one to explain what exactly a Bronze Star is, and how to differentiate a BSM (Bronze Star, Meritorious) from a BSV (Bronze Star, Valorous). Even among many military people, there's a ton of confusion surrounding the criteria for these medals and who can/does earn them. I also want to include a piece about the number of sailors serving in 'boots on the ground' roles in Iraq -- they currently number somewhere around 10,000, which is probably also surprising to some military and many civilians who read the news and would be considered 'in the know' about major operations.

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