MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Two 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines received high honors at the Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, headquarters building aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C, Feb. 4, 2011.
Chief Warrant Officer Marine Gunner Paul Sandy, a Swansea, S.C., native, and the battalion gunner and 1st Lt. Tyler Kurtz, a Greensboro, N.C., native, and a platoon commander, both with the BLT, received Bronze Star Medals with Combat Distinguishing Devices from Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan Jr., 2nd Marine Division commanding general, during an awards ceremony.
Friends, family and Marines gathered inside of the BLT’s Warlord Room and watched as the Marines humbly received their awards for heroic actions while deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.
“Today is an honor,” said Kurtz. “I’m humbled that I got this award.”
Kurtz received his award for a number of events, but more specifically, in a successful attempt to overtake an enemy, he stripped off his protective gear, took nothing but his weapon, magazines and a hand grenade to swim across a canal filled with fast flowing, chest deep water to engage the enemy.
“I was angry, my brothers were getting shot,” said Kurtz. “I said, we’re going to take the fight to these guys and they’re not going to hurt our brothers.”
Kurtz says he wasn’t the only one crossing the canal that day as his Marines followed right behind their leader.
“I believe all my Marines are heroes,” said Kurtz. “If I’ve received this for anything, it’s for what they’ve done and accomplished and what we did as a team.”
Toolan presented Sandy with a Bronze Star for his influential tactical and technical competence while serving as the battalion gunner.
“I was on the spot so I was nervous today,” said Sandy. “I’m very proud. I have my family here. It was an honor.”
One of Sandy’s most noted actions was when he helped to save an injured Afghan National Army solider during a firefight.
While patrolling, Sandy’s squad came under attack and an Afghan soldier with them was shot in the chest. Along with two other Marines, Sandy carried the injured ANA solider to safety and helped to coordinate a medical evacuation.
“The Afghan’s we had were amazing,” said Sandy. “They fought alongside us. They don’t have all the money or the assets, but they have heart.”
Much like Kurtz, Sandy expressed his admiration for the junior Marines and junior leadership within the battalion.
“I just happen to be on that patrol that day,” said Sandy. “The real heroes are the sergeants who do that every day. [Within the] leadership, you can choose when you go out [on patrol], but that sergeant goes when he’s told to.”
These Marines’ heroic actions are merely two small examples of the many actions that earned Marines the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Devices.
“It never gets old,” said Toolan. “Every time I give one of these awards it just reminds me of the caliber of people we have serving our country.”
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are in the early stages of their pre-deployment training program, which is a series of progressively complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and the Command Element.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest, permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response in a hostile or crisis environment. While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available to support the unit's operations abroad.