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Troops Honored for Efforts at Fallujah

Troops Honored for Efforts at Fallujah

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May 18, 2005

[Have an opinion about the issues discussed in this article? Sound off in our Discussion Boards.]

By Steve Liewer
Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition

KITZINGEN, Germany — On the eve of last November's battle for Fallujah, Lt. Col. Peter Newell and Capt. Kirk Mayfield stood together on a rooftop at the edge of the city thinking about the fight to come.

The Germany-based Task Force 2-2 — led by Newell's 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment and including Mayfield's Troop F, 4th Cavalry Regiment as well as the 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment — would join a Marine division in an assault on the city that had turned into Iraq's nastiest nest of insurgents.

That night, Mayfield's company rained artillery and mortar fire on an entrenched enemy platoon, the first skirmish in what was to be the biggest Iraq operation since the fall of Baghdad. For much of the next two weeks, he and his men were under fierce enemy fire.

Newell said he never doubted his troops would win the battle.

“It was [over] before the fight started,” he said. “It was just a matter of how long it was going to take.”

On Monday, six months after the battle, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey pinned some of the Army's highest awards on Newell's men for their victory at Fallujah. Newell accepted the Army's highest unit honor, the Presidential Unit Citation, on behalf of the 2-2 Infantry.

Nine men earned Silver Stars for valor. Five of them — including Newell's and his three company commanders' — were for bravery at Fallujah. The medal presentation anchored a two-hour ceremony honoring the 1st Infantry Division for its yearlong tour in Iraq that ended in February.

About 10,000 soldiers, family members and their guests watched as the division band played and 2,500 troops marched in review before a long grandstand on the runway at Harvey Barracks.

In a separate ceremony, Harvey also gave awards to 60 homefront volunteers.

About 12,000 1st ID soldiers left Germany for Iraq in February 2004 to patrol the heart of the troubled “Sunni Triangle,” beefed up with 10,000 troops from 25th Infantry Division and National Guard forces.

The division fought major battles in Baqouba, Buhriz and Samarra as well as Fallujah. It also trained some 23,000 Iraqi police and soldiers and started more than 1,000 construction projects worth $1 billion dollars, according to 1st ID statistics. The division's tour ended just days after the historic Iraqi elections Jan. 30 and added another chapter in the storied history of the Army's oldest division, which played critical roles in both world wars, Vietnam, the first Gulf War and Kosovo.

“Our full spectrum of operations made our veterans proud of the Big Red One,” said Maj. Gen. John Batiste, the division's commander.

But the successes didn't come without losses. More than 120 task force soldiers died in Iraq, including 72 from the 1st ID's Germany-based brigades. Another 845 suffered injuries.

Twenty seriously wounded 1st ID vets sat in the front row of the grandstand.

And war widow Heidi Sims accepted one of the Silver Stars for her husband, Capt. Sean Sims, who was killed at Fallujah. His father, retired Army Col. Thomas “Reb” Sims, sat by her side.

Newell said he personally wrote the recommendation for Sims' Silver Star, thinking of the officer's 19-month-old son, Colin.

“Sean Sims and I had been through more fights than I can count on two hands,” Newell said. “It was important to me that his son can look at that some day and say, ‘My dad was a hero.'”

The 550 soldiers of Task Force 2-2 fought for 12 days in Fallujah, killing 330 insurgents and foreign fighters (including the No. 2 man in the Jordanian-born militant Abu Musabal-Zarqawi terrorist organization) besides destroying 38 weapons caches, two roadside bomb factories, and one car-bomb factory.

When the battle was over, Mayfield said, the Marine Corps general got them a rare and treasured prize for their efforts.

“We all sat back and had a Budweiser,” he said.

Near the conclusion of Monday's ceremony, Batiste sent off his troops to enjoy the rest of the giant Big Red One party, which featured a carnival midway, live music headlined by the rap group G-Unit, free food and, yes, plenty of beer.

“Today's celebration is for you,” he said. “Enjoy it.”

1st ID Silver Stars

Lt. Col. Peter Newell

2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment

Newell deployed a 550-soldier mechanized task force on 72 hours' notice to Fallujah in November 2004, leading a continuous 12-day attack in the heavily fortified Askari district. His forces overwhelmed resistance in the first 14 hours, ultimately killing 330 enemy fighters, capturing 48 others, destroying 38 weapons caches, two roadside- bomb factories and one car-bomb factory while becoming the first battalion in the division to achieve its objective.

On Nov. 12, Newell was caught in an ambush following an 11-hour night attack. Narrowly escaping enemy fire, he left his tracked vehicle and personally assisted in the evacuation of a mortally wounded officer.

Capt. Thomas H. Johnson Jr.

Troop F, 4th Cavalry Regiment

On April 10, 2004, Johnson led two platoons on a dismounted assault of four reinforced enemy positions across 600 yards of open fields and three irrigation ditches, at the same time directing fire from artillery and attack helicopters. The assault resulted in the deaths of several enemy fighters and an entire mortar team.

On June 17, 2004, Johnson occupied a rooftop exposed to enemy fire during a 12-hour firefight in Buhriz so he could give better command and control to his troops. He was nearly killed several times, but his unit killed 13 enemy fighters without any friendly casualties.

Capt. Paul A. Fowler

2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment

During the November 2004 battle for Fallujah, Fowler executed a successful armored assault against several hundred enemy fighters in the northeastern part of the city, securing the flanks of battalions on either side. During a 14-hour firefight, he remained in position at the head of his company during house-to-house fighting in which nearly all of his tanks were attacked with grenades and small arms.

On the third night of the operation, Fowler led a house-to-house assault in southeast Fallujah that ended after 12 hours when his company destroyed a strong point occupied by 30 enemy fighters.

Capt. Kirk Mayfield

Troop F, 4th Cavalry

At the beginning of the attack on Fallujah, Mayfield occupied an attack-by-fire position on the northeast edge of the city. From there he spent eight hours directing artillery, mortar and direct fire against an entrenched enemy platoon while himself under constant small-arms, grenade, sniper and mortar attack. His unit ultimately destroyed the enemy position, killing 30 insurgents just before the main attack. Once the assault began, he maintained his position ahead of the force and continued to direct fire against the enemy. His unit killed 75 insurgents during the first 30 hours of battle.

Early in the battle, his unit opened a key highway and cut off the line of retreat for the insurgents. On the fourth day, he volunteered his troops in an 18-hour effort to clear 60 houses, battle enemy fighters literally room-to-room, killing 25 insurgents.

Capt. Sean P. Sims

2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment (posthumous)

Sims planned and executed the task force's main attack against entrenched enemy forces, then held position under constant fire to establish a foothold in northeast Fallujah. He led a 14-hour house-to-house fight, frequently leaving the safety of his Bradley fighting vehicle, then led a fight to seize, then hold Highway 10 against constant enemy counterattack. His company killed more than 40 enemy fighters, destroyed 35 homemade bombs and a dozen weapons caches.

He was shot and killed while clearing a building in Fallujah Nov. 13.

Spc. Larry Underwood

1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment

Underwood was aboard one of two Bradley fighting vehicles returning soldiers from dismounted operations July 21, 2004, when a roadside bomb struck the other Bradley, setting it afire and instantly killing the driver.

Underwood and his team dismounted their Bradley and, after a brief unsuccessful attempt to free the driver's body, heard the screams of five soldiers trapped in the rear because the handle had jammed in the explosion.

Hampered by heat, smoke and the sound of exploding ammunition, the men couldn't unjam the door — until Underwood thought to use his rifle as a pry bar. He opened the stuck door and freed the trapped soldiers just seconds before the Bradley's fuel cells exploded.

1st Lt. Karl Gregory

Troop F, 4th Cavalry Regiment

Gregory led a quick-reaction force mission from Forward Operation Base Warhorse in Baqouba June 24, 2004, to a traffic circle in the city center. After two rocket-propelled grenades hit his Bradley fighting vehicle, temporarily blinding his gunner, Gregory took over the gun and killed at least three foreign fighters while his platoon got into position.

Maneuvering toward the stadium under intense fire, Gregory's Bradley absorbed three more grenade hits. He stayed in the exposed turret and continued firing even after taking shrapnel wounds in his face. During his unit's withdrawal, another grenade and a roadside bomb hit his vehicle, knocking him briefly unconscious before he recovered and reorganized his force.

1st Sgt. Peter L. Smith

2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment

Under heavy fire during the battle for Fallujah Nov. 12, 2004, Smith organized the evacuation of his company executive officer, who was fatally wounded. The next day he led the company during 18 hours of intense house-to-house fighting after the company commander also was killed in action.

Sgt. Christopher Rich

1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment

Rich was instrumental in ensuring that a multiple car-bomb attack against his unit in Samarra on Oct. 19, 2004, was defeated.


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©2005 Stars & Stripes. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.



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