BLT 1/6 recognizes its own for combat service

6 Jul 2004 | Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

For the first time since beginning combat operations in south-central Afghanistan nearly 75 days ago, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines recently held a battalion formation to recognize the achievements of some of its Marines and Sailors."If I could recognize all the Marines and Sailors who deserve an award, we'd be here all night," said Lt. Col. Asad A. Khan as he addressed the nearly 1,100 Marines and Sailors arrayed before him in formation.The ten individuals recognized represented a cross-section of the battalion which provides the main combat punch for the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). Most of those who received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal did so and for their work in and around Forward Operating Base Ripley and during Operation ASBURY PARK, a combat mission in early June that resulted in the deaths of more than 80 Taliban and anti-coalition militia fighters.Those achievements specifically recognized were:- As executive officer of Charlie Co., 1st Lt. Kristopher Cozad was primarily responsible for ensuring his company remained supplied and mission-capable during the 17 days of ASBURY PARK. Most notable was his personal supervision of the unit's 15 Humvees that were severely tested during the 300-kilometer road march the unit undertook over harsh terrain.- Staff Sgt. Michael Lamar was plucked from his primary duties in Golf Battery to serve as the battalion's operations chief, which is normally a master gunnery sergeant billet. Lamar ensured a smooth daily operations of the BLT command post which is truly the heart of any combat unit.- Ensuring the security of a large forward operating task is a daunting task, and Staff Sgt. Rogelio Salas flawlessly performed his duties as FOB Ripley's security chief for more than a month. In addition to helping design the defensive layout of the FOB, he worked closely with the Army's 528th Engineer Bn. to ensure the proper construction of defensive fortifications and the base's combat operations center. Additionally, he oversaw perimeter security operations and local combat patrols.- Staff Sgt. John Wilkerson earned the second NMCAM of his career while serving as Charlie Co.'s machine gun section leader. During ASBURY PARK he continuously led and employed his section in pursuit of the enemy and during one nighttime engagement, called for and adjusted mortar illumination rounds and then directed his section's machine gun fire against an enemy position.- In a rugged environment such as Afghanistan, where paved roads are nearly non-existent, trucks and Humvees take a beating. Keeping the vehicles of the battalion's three Combined Anti-Armor Teams (CAAT) running fell onto the shoulders of Sgt. Terrance Eddy. Responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of 18 vehicles, Eddy's efforts were nothing less than Herculean.- Cpl. James Eugene has spent much of his time in Afghanistan standing post at the main gate to FOB Ripley. Working alongside Afghan security forces, he has screened and searched hundreds of vehicles that have entered the FOB. Even though at times as many as 60 jingle trucks have sat waiting outside the gate, he never compromised security for expediency as he tireless supervised and conducted searches for weapons, explosives and contraband.- Several times during ASBURY PARK, Charlie Co.'s mortar squads entered the fray with illumination and high explosive rounds. Leading one of these squads was Cpl. Christopher Gadzinski. When enemy forces ambushed his convoy, Gadzinski quickly dismounted his squad and supervised them as they employed the direct alignment method of fire to destroy a Taliban observation post. During another engagement, his squad provided the illumination for Staff Sgt. Wilkerson's successful engagement of enemy forces.- Lance Cpl. Yoseph Chang is normally a squad advanced rifleman with Alpha Co., but underwent 27 days of continuous combat operations with BLT 1/6's Combined Anti-Armor Team 3. During this time, he participated in cordon and search operations, vehicle patrols, movements to contact, and vehicle check points. On two separate occasions he discovered substantial caches of arms and ammunition that might one day have been used against U.S. or coalition forces.- Riding with the battalion commander can sometimes be a stressful burden, especially for a young Marine, but Lance Cpl. Brian Janick performed his duties as radio operator and driver for BLT 1/6's mobile command post during ASBURY PARK superbly. As one of three radio operators, he was instrumental in keeping the command post connected with higher headquarters and subordinate maneuver units. On at least three occasions, he braved heavy enemy small arms fire to keep the battalion command post together.- Cpl. Christopher Fowler, alongside his fellow Marines in Alpha Co., spent 57 continuous days in the field conducting operations. As a machine gun team leader, he took part in four movements to contact, 11 cordon and search operations, four civil affairs missions, and was a key part of the security plan for FOB Payne and as his citation reads, did so with "leadership and motivation," and set an example for his junior Marines to follow.- 'Corpsman up' is one of the most dreaded sounds a corpsman can hear, and that's exactly what happened to Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Christopher Martinez on April 24. While riding in a multi-vehicle convoy, Martinez' seven-ton truck struck two anti-tank mines and became the target of heavy enemy fire. Braving the barrage, Martinez leapt from the wrecked truck and immediately began treating the seriously-wounded driver and two other Marines who had been injured. Calmly and deliberately, he treated the wounded Marines and escorted them to a helicopter landing zone from which they were flown to safety. Without Martinez' quick and professional response, medical officials say the wounded driver quite possibly could have lost his life.- While Bravo Co. was heading toward an blocking position during ASBURY PARK, an unimproved road gave way and sent a seven-ton truck rolling down a steep embankment. A number of Marines were injured in the accident, and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Juan Munoz quickly sprinted down the hill to begin tending the wounded. Evaluating the most seriously wounded, he began implementing life and limb-saving measures for the injured Marines that undoubtedly saved their lives and stabilized their injuries until they could be evacuated.According to Khan, if he could, he would hold similar ceremonies each week to ensure every Marine in his battalion, all of whom he regards as heroes in their own right, are properly recognized for their role in America's war against terrorism.For more information on the 22d MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit