A Marine Raider has been awarded the nation's third-highest valor award for heroic actions during a 2013 deployment to Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Robert Van Hook, a critical skills operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, was presented with the Silver Star on Jan. 15. The award was presented by Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commander of the Marine Corps’ Special Operation Command, at a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Van Hook was credited with “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy” while serving as the element leader of Marine Special Operations Team 8224 while deployed to Afghanistan's Herat province in 2013, according to his award citation.
During an operation on Aug. 14, 2013, Van Hook executed a hasty ambush against 10 insurgents before attacking an enemy-held building with hand grenades and small arms fire. The initial ambush killed four insurgents and wounded two more. During the attack on the enemy-held building, he killed additional insurgents and helped secure two detainees, his citation states.
He then coordinated sustained direct and indirect fire on enemy positions as the battle progressed.
After a support team was forced to withdraw under overwhelming enemy fire, Van Hook manned an MK-19 automatic grenade launcher, which drew the enemy's attention to him, the citation states.
The insurgents responded with rocket propelled grenade and machine gun fire, wounding Van Hook and briefly knocking him unconscious.
“Despite his wounds affecting his ability to walk, he continued to direct fires on the enemy while under enemy fire, aggressively led his element, and ultimately played a pivotal role in coordinating 120mm mortar danger close suppressive fires for aerial medical evacuation during approach into a hot landing zone,” his citation reads.
Reflecting on his actions at the ceremony, Van Hook humbly praised the MARSOC community and accepted the Silver Star on behalf of his team, according to Lejeune's base paper.
“Any Raider could have been switched out with me and done the same exact thing,” he said. “A Raider isn’t going to let anybody down: not the brothers that went before him, not the Marine beside him. He might have done it differently, but he would have got the job done.”
Osterman praised Van Hook during the award presentation ceremony.
“As a commander, I’m just incredibly appreciative that we have men of [his] caliber that are amongst our ranks,” he said. “You take a look at all his phenomenal accomplishments, it’s everything we talk about at MARSOC and our culture of quiet professionals.”
Van Hook was not immediately available for comment.
Matthew L. Schehl covers training and education, recruiting, West Coast Marines, MARSOC, and operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for Marine Corps Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.