A Marine Raider and sniper with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion has been awarded the nation’s third highest award for combat bravery for his heroic actions during the outset of the campaign to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS fighters, according to military officials.
The elite Marine commando with Marine Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC, is the only Marine thus far to be awarded the Silver Star for actions against ISIS militants in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, according to Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
Marine Corps Times agreed to withhold the name of the Marine out of operational security concerns as he is still operating with MARSOC.
On Oct. 20, 2016, the Marine Raider was a staff sergeant serving as an assistant element leader with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion as his unit assisted other forces in an operation to isolate Mosul for its future liberation.
During the day, his team was hit with sustained enemy fire and the unit decided to occupy a point between two enemy controlled villages, according to details in his award citation obtained by Marine Corps Times.
Enemy forces, consisting of roughly 25 fighters and an armored vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, launched a counter-attack against the Raider team’s position.
The Raider engaged and suppressed the dismounted enemy force with a sniper rifle, but the armored, bomb-laden vehicle continued to barrel toward his unit’s position.
The Raider exposed himself to enemy fire by climbing atop a vehicle to acquire an FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile, according to the award citation.
The first shot failed to launch, so the Raider once again exposed himself to enemy fire to take a second shot with another Javelin missile, this time effectively destroying the explosive packed vehicle.
His actions helped saved the lives of his teammates that day.
Armored suicide explosive vehicles are a popular form of attack by ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. These attacks often require powerful anti-tank weapons or coalition airstrikes to effectively mitigate.
It’s a tactic that has also been adopted by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, who recently have been packing explosives in stolen up-armored Humvees. The tactic has proven deadly, and at times difficult to suppress.
The Raider’s Silver Star is the first for Marines supporting anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria.
Navy SEAL Chief Special Warfare Operator Charlie Keating was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions May 3, 2016, in taking on an onslaught of nearly 100 ISIS fighters swarming his unit and accompanied Peshmerga forces.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Lewis, an Air Force combat controller was also awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions on Oct. 20, 2016, in support of the Mosul offensive, for fighting off enemy forces while also calling in air strikes.
The valor award for the Marine Raider sheds a little more light on the actions of American service members in support of the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which is slowly coming to a close as coalition warplanes pound the last remaining ISIS controlled village in Baghouz, Syria.
American forces in the region have generally been charged with combat support and training and advising partner nations forces.
However, the Silver Star awarded to a Marine commando highlights that these operations are not removed from the dangers of front line combat operations.
Marine Corps Forces Central Command, or MARCENT, told Marine Corps Times that it has approved a total of three Bronze Stars to Marines for combat valor in support of OIR.
At least one of those Bronze Stars was awarded on Oct. 30, 2017, to Staff Sgt. Patrick H. Maloney, a canine handler with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. Maloney exposed himself to enemy fire to suppress an ambush.
The Raider canine handler engaged the enemy ambush with a machine gun mounted in an open and exposed truck bed.
And since 2016, MARCENT has approved a total of 47 Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in support of OIR, according to data provided by MARCENT in Dec. 2018.
ISIS’ last territorial possession in Baghouz, Syria, is currently under siege by coalition and partner forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. SDF forces launched an operation over the weekend to liberate the final small stretch of land.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon plans to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria by the end of April.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.