MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
While on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 27, 2009, Marines with 1st squad, 3rd platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, were completely surrounded by Taliban machinegun positions.
Sergeant Joseph M. Perez, who served as the 1st platoon squad leader in Afghanistan, received the Silver Star Medal from Lt. Gen. John M. Paxton, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force, for his actions during a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Feb. 28, 2011.
The sergeant and his squad were on patrol in the western region of Helmand Province – an area where Marines had not previously operated - when his squad was ambushed by Taliban fighters.
While on patrol, Perez received information concerning a nearby Taliban machine gun position ready to ambush the Marines.
With the report in mind, Perez split his men into three maneuver elements anticipating an enemy attack, which occurred seconds later.
According to Perez’s Silver Star award citation, “The enemy fighters opened fire, pinning down Sgt. Perez and his base unit, and injuring and isolating the squad’s pointman.”
Perez made multiple attempts to rescue the isolated Marine, but heavy fire momentarily prevented his movement.
“He then ordered his 2nd fire team to attack from the north, a move which effectively reduced the enemy’s fires.”
When Perez found out about the enemy fighters and what they were going to do, he dispersed his fire teams in an effort to make the Marines “harder targets.”
With Marines closing in from another direction, Perez explained this tactic made the squad seem smaller to the enemy.
Next, a series of pivotal decisions were made to rescue the injured Marine and kill the enemy fighters.
While under heavy fire, Perez sprinted through 50 meters of open field to the Marine on point and rendered aid.
His comrades followed and supported the effort to provide aid to the pinned-down Marine, who suffered fragment injuries to his face, Perez said.
According to the warrant, Perez then directed the internal fire support of his squad and violently led his base unit toward the enemy positions; closing with and eliminating Taliban fighters.
That day, Perez and the men of 1st squad killed two hostile fighters; captured one wounded insurgent, and collected enemy machineguns and ammunition.
Perez said he used basic infantry techniques to make critical decisions during the engagement.
In the end, the squad closed with and destroyed the enemy using fire and maneuver, fundamental skills all Marines learn while in combat training, Perez continued.
Following the ceremony, Perez addressed his fellow “Warlords” in a school circle, stressing the importance of basic combat techniques and unit cohesion.
Marines like Perez are currently participating in 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 service members ready to provide immediate response capabilities in a hostile or crisis environment. While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft to support the unit’s operations abroad.