War on Terrorism

Monday, January 31, 2011

Training, equipment helped Oregon National Guard Purple Heart recipients in Iraq

Editor’s Note: Two reports from 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) in Iraq explain how training became instinctive and safety equipment made a difference when Oregon National Guardmembers encountered an ambush.

By Army Spc. Matthew G. Keeler
103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (1/31/11) – Brig. Gen. Mark Corson, commanding general of the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), awarded two Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd ESC, the Purple Heart and a Combat Action Badge after their Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle was attacked during a convoy mission.

“Today is not a happy day to give you the Purple Heart,” said Corson. “I am privileged to do so, but it’s not a happy thing to do. The two medals that you do not want are the Purple Heart and the POW [Prisoner of War] medal.”

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Gibson, assistant convoy escort team leader and Army Spc. Adam Clinton, gunner, both were injured due to direct enemy engagement.

“I was about to push send on a report when my buddy [Clinton] over here said, ‘oh crap’” said Gibson. “I looked over at him and then looked back just in time to see something fly over the top of the vehicle and then an explosion.”

After the explosion, Gibson said that his training took over.

“A couple of seconds go by, I look over at Clinton, checked to make sure he was ok, and then told him to go and get out [of the MRAP],” said Gibson. “When it happened there was no thought process, and the training kicked in.”

These Soldiers are part of a convoy escort team that protects convoys on a daily basis.

“I don’t think people understand that everything from medical supplies, to fuel in your vehicles, it flows through the body of USF-I[United States Forces- Iraq] on those sustainment convoys, and what protects those sustainment convoys and what gets them through day after day, are the convoy escort teams,” said Corson.

Both Soldiers suffered minor injuries as a result of the attack, but Clinton was the most exposed to the explosion.

Thanks to my eye protection, I only suffered some cuts to the face, said Clinton. “It’s true that eye protection does work to save your eyes.

“They [Commanders, and leaders] tell you to wear that stuff [eye protection] for good reason, and not just because it might be mandatory, but because it will save your life.”

Even with the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and the change to an advise and assistant role, Soldiers still drive through dangerous areas.

“You guys are really the epitome of what makes us great, because despite the challenges that we face, and despite the fact that there are people who want to hurt us, you are out there doing your duty all the time,” said Corson.

What could be the most remarkable part of these two Soldiers’ story is the aftermath of the attack?

“You got off the helicopter and walked in all bloody and broken, but unbowed and that’s a testament,” said Corson. “The whole thing, as sad as it was, it’s truly a testament to the valor, fortitude, good judgment, wisdom and maturity that you guys bring to the fight.”

At first chance, Gibson called his wife to let her know the news of what happened to him, he said.

“I have a really sick sense of humor,” said Gibson. “I was in pain, and I know the best way for my wife to handle stuff is to make her laugh, so I made a joke out of it. I said, ‘So I know this is going to ruin your day, but I got blown up.’”

In a really high pitched squeal, Melissa Gibson asked if he was joking, he said.

Gibson was able to explain to her that he was all right, and that everything was ok, he said.

When Clinton was able to call his family, he called his dad, he said.

“The first person I called was my dad, and I told him that I had gotten into an accident and that I was ok,” said Clinton. “He asked if everything was ok, and I know that he was concerned but he was very supportive of me.”

Now that he has been awarded the Purple Heart, Gibson doesn’t believe he will do anything different, he said.

“It’s an honor to get it, I don’t know that I did anything special to get it as far as getting wounded in combat compared to others who got it,” Gibson said. “[The way] I was raised, you do not do stuff for the notoriety, you do stuff because it is the right thing to do.”

Clinton explained that doing his duty was important. “Getting an award or not, it means a lot to be able to serve your country, ... just being out there for your country means a lot,” said Clinton.

The two Soldiers are stationed at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, but will be staying at JBB for a couple weeks until they are cleared to return to duty and their team. For Gibson, he hopes it means sooner than later, he said.

“I’m a busy body, and I would like to get back to work ,” said Gibson.

Before the small ceremony was over, Corson remarked on the dedication of the Soldiers and their desire to return back to their trucks and their job.

“What that says is that the bad guys can come and blow us up, but we will still come back and do what we do, and what the [enemy does] does not matter,” Corson said.

Training, quick reaction help protect MRAP crew

By Army Staff Sgt. Pat Caldwell
103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (1/31/11) – Sometimes the difference between life and death can be a few inches.

Three Soldiers from eastern Oregon’s Company C, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) discovered how true that old adage is when they survived a close call during a combat related incident that impacted their vehicle in central Iraq.

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Gibson along with Army Spc. Adam Clinton sustained minor injuries while a third man, Army Pfc. Nathan Schad, emerged unhurt from the ambush.

Gibson and Clinton received the Purple Heart Jan. 20 at Joint Base Balad, while Schad was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and an Army Commendation Medal at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

Gibson admitted he and his crew were fortunate.

“A couple of inches one way or the other and I wonder if I’d still be here,” he said.

He and his crew were conducting a convoy escort mission when an unidentified person tossed a grenade at their Mine-Resistant-Ambush-Protected vehicle.

“We were extremely lucky, or blessed,” he said.

The discipline of the crew was critical, said Army Lt. Col. Phil Appleton, commander of 3rd Battalion, 116th Cav. Regt.

“They reacted the way we trained them,” Appleton said.

Army Capt. Seth Musgrove, commander with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cav. Regt. agreed that the actions of his crew were appropriate.

Appleton said as the American military operation in Iraq winds down, self-discipline by Soldiers in the field is more important now than ever before.

“We have to understand, and this crew did understand, that we have to show some restraint to avoid unnecessary casualties,” Appleton said.

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