FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan -- To many of his fellow Marines in Charlie Co., Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, Sgt. Anthony Viggiani is the ideal Marine.
In the eyes of subordinates and seniors alike, the Strongsville, Ohio native embodies those qualities that make Marines special; dedicated, professional, strong, committed, moral, and brave. Now they have additional quality to add to that list -- tough-as-nails.
During a recent firefight with anti-coalition militia (ACM) in south-central Afghanistan, Viggiani's actions further elevated himself in the eyes of the rest of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).
When a pair of Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters spotted approximately 20 heavily-armed ACM fighters fleeing into the hills during a cordon and knock operation of a nearby village, Charlie Company immediately pursued on foot. Leading his squad over a steep, rock-strewn mountain, Viggiani was in the lead of the advance when they came under heavy enemy rifle fire.
"The rounds just started pouring in," he said later that day, "and we weren't really sure where they were coming from."
On the slope opposite the valley below him, approximately a hundred meters away, Viggiani and his Marines watched as two Marines, Cpl. Randy Wood and Lance Cpl. James Gould were wounded by enemy rifle fire.
Aware that the fire was coming from the slope in front of him, Viggiani pressed forward cautiously when he and First Sgt. Ernest Hoopii came under concentrated fire themselves.
The 24-year-old Viggiani then found he was mere feet from the cave housing the enemy sniper still firing at Wood and Gould, who had since taken cover behind a too-small rock.
"I was able to look down a break in the rocks and saw bit of cloth move so I got off three or four shots, and then dropped the frag [fragmentation grenade]," said Viggiani.
Combined with rifle and machine gun fire from Wood and Gould's squad, the grenade explosion silenced the enemy position which was later found to have housed three ACM fighters.
Sometime during the fight, Viggiani was struck in the lower left leg by an enemy bullet fired by ACM fighters further up the valley that painfully sliced through his leg. Seemingly unmindful of the wound, Viggiani continued to engage the enemy with rifle fire until the area was cleared and a total of four dead and one wounded enemy fighters were found.
Mere minutes after the fighter, with typical Marine élan, Viggiani dismissed the wound that stained the front of his trouser leg a deep crimson.
"It stings a bit, but it's nothing," he said as he paused for a photograph in front of the cave he helped clear mere minutes after the fight.
Despite recommendations from his fellow Marines, Viggiani refused to leave his platoon and seek aid at BLT 1/6's mobile command post. With a small dressing and a few aspirin, Viggiani shouldered his rifle and trudged further into the rugged mountains in pursuit of Taliban and ACM fighters.
In addition to BLT 1/6, the 22d MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, and MEU Service Support Group 22. The MEU is in Afghanistan conducting combat and civil military operations as Task Force Linebacker.
For more information on the 22d MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.