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 News Article

Marine Receives Bronze Star Medal for Valor

By Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Feb. 22, 2005 – In the early morning hours of April 9, 2004, a Marine and his spotter crawled on top of an abandoned oil storage tank in Lutafiyah, Iraq. Their mission was routine, as they covered their squad's patrol movement through the small town during the Arbaeen pilgrimage. But it became a mission that will go down in the annals of Marine Corps history.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert, a 25-year-old platoon sergeant with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was recently awarded the Bronze Star with a combat 'V' for valorous action in Iraq in April. Marine Corps photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert, a 25-year-old platoon sergeant with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was recently awarded one of the Corps' top medals, the Bronze Star with a combat 'V' for valorous action, for his actions that day.

During this particular mission atop the oil tank, Reichert settled himself in a very exposed position -- though he was able to prop up a few steel plates on some sand bags. He and his spotter occupied that position knowing they were extremely vulnerable to enemy fire.

"I didn't really think about it at the time," said Reichert. "But when we heard the [.50-caliber] rounds impacting the oil tank, we took what little cover there was."

As the patrol moved toward the town, Reichert observed a dead animal located in the patrol's path. It was then when he recalled his training in enemy tactics, techniques and procedures for improvised explosive devices and made radio contact to redirect the patrol. The patrol leader radioed back to Reichert and confirmed his suspicion that two wires were leading out of the dog carcass.

"We encountered IEDs daily," said Reichert. "The IED that the squad came up on was in a dead animal, and with my spotting scope I could see the slight reflection of the wires coming out of the animal."

But despite the squad's preventive measures, a routine situation turned treacherous. A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the Marine patrol, and seconds later enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire pinned them down, according to Reichert. The Marines couldn't effectively engage the enemy machine gunner on the rooftop of a nearby building, so they radioed to Reichert on the oil storage tank. He took one shot and missed, then made the proper wind and elevation calculations to make his mark. A moment and a trigger pull later, Reichert took out the gunner.

In the after-action report, the platoon leader made a remarkable account: that Reichert made the shot from 1,614 meters -- about a mile -- away. His accuracy was the deciding factor in the outcome of the firefight.

Soon after, a few insurgents began to climb a set of stairs on the backside of the building where the firefight was taking place. Reichert aimed into the brick wall where he thought the men were and fired. All three of the men dropped. Reichert's armor-piercing round penetrated the wall and killed one man -- possibly wounding the other two with bullet and brick fragmentation.

"I could see that two Marines got separated (from the platoon) and saw that a small group of insurgents were maneuvering into position to ambush the Marines. Once they stopped moving I shot one; the other two ran."

Reichert looks back at his mission as a learning experience not only for him, but also for others who follow in his footsteps. "I've learned a few lessons in life that I think helped me along the way," said Reichert. "Never quit, no matter how tough life can get."

(Marine Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio is a 2nd Marine Division combat correspondent.)

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