MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Staff Sgt. Justin M. Rettenberger, an instructor with Field Medical Training Battalion West, and a native of Dubuque, Iowa, received the military’s fourth highest combat award during a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, May 23. Rettenberger received the combat distinguishing “V” device, for valor, with his medal. Rettenberger was selected for the Bronze star for his heroic actions while conducting combat operations against insurgent forces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from March 8, 2012 to June 30, 2012, according to the award citation. Rettenberger relentlessly pursued the enemy in the heavily contested Musa Qal’ah and Kajaki districts while serving with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. During one insurgent ambush against friendly Afghan National Army soldiers Rettenberger pushed his Marines to help secure the ANA’s flanks ensuring the enemy did not encircle them. While his Marines were repositioning, a lone insurgent charged the rear of the patrol firing his weapon, Rettenberger instantly spotted the insurgent and fired at the insurgent, killing him.
In a separate incident Rettenberger’s platoon came under fire where he ensured each of his Marines knew where to shoot from behind cover. After ensuring the well-being of his Marines he noticed a separate enemy fighting position. He left his covered position to return fire and he quickly overcame the enemy, forcing them to retreat. Navy Capt. Michael Eby, the commanding officer of FMTB-West, spoke of the opportunity for the corpsmen undergoing training to receive mentorship and guidance from Rettenberger. “These students here, they’re the next crop of corpsmen going into the Fleet Marine Force and absolutely rate 0361’s of the caliber of Staff Sgt. Rettenberger,” Eby said. “The knowledge, the experience and the calm under fire, he’s going to impart on these students sets the conditions of the success for these corpsmen as they move out to the fleet.” Rettenberger he was thankful to his past leaders who imparted knowledge on him and for the support of his wife. “One of the things that keeps me calm under fire is knowing my wife has the homestead,” Rettenberger said. “Whether it’s late nights at the school house, whether I’m on a combat deployed mission or just out in the field training I know she’s always got the homestead and that’s one of those things that always makes it easy for me to do my job.” During his speech Rettenberger had a message for the corpsmen of FMTB-West. “Gentlemen remaining calm under fire, there’s nothing to that than its brilliance in the basics,” Rettenberger said. “So remember that whenever you’re tasked with doing something whether it’s saving a Marine's life or a simple intravenous needle stick remember the basics and with that you’ll succeed.”