Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Heroes in Action

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (March 31, 2006) -- The Marines of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division and the Iraqi soldiers who were manning the entry Control Point at the North bride of Ramadi by Hurricane Point had a tough morning May 3, 2005.

The vans carrying the insurgents seemed to be just like any other that came through the ECP. Seconds after the insurgents stepped out of the van to allow the Iraqi soldiers to search the van, the insurgents pulled out their concealed weapons and began attacking the base.

The insurgents weren’t alone. They had a mortar team to the north and more supporting fire to the east. All in all, it was a well-planned assault.
Not good enough to take out combat-tested 1st Lt. David T. Russel and Staff Sgt. Timothy R. Cyparski.

“It took us just a couple seconds to realize what was going on, then we stormed in and did what we needed to do,” said Russel, the 25-year-old from Georgetown, Texas, and platoon commander of Weapons Company, who was shaving at the time of the attack. “I ran outside with shaving cream still on my face, I looked like Santa Claus in a flak jacket.”

Cyparski, a 27-year-old from Erie, Pa. And section leader with the company, was no more than 10 feet behind Russel.

“You don’t have a chance to think about anything in that kind of situation,” said Cyparski, who was awarded his first bronze star for his actions in Fallujah on his first deployment. “Everything is a blur and all you’re doing is trying to take out the bad guys and keep the good guys alive.”

Soon after the intense fire fight began, Russel ran to assess the situation from the second deck. It was there he spotted an insurgent machine gun position and killed the insurgent with one shot. He also discovered that a Marine low on ammunition was isolated by the attack.
Russel then raced across approximately 75 meters of open terrain while under fire from at least six insurgents with Cyparski close by.

An enemy round struck Russel in the helmet, knocking him to the ground with a concussion.

The two Marines managed to get the ammunition to the isolated Marine with Russel bleeding profusely from wounds to his face and arms.

They then rushed back to direct the fight and establish accountability. Finding two men missing, the two Marines rushed across the open area again to retrieve a wounded Iraqi soldier despite explosions from more than twelve enemy grenades and a stream of machine gun and small-arms fire.

“The firefight lasted anywhere between 15 seconds and four days,” said Russel as he attempted to explain how time was distorted during the intense 10-minute firefight.
According to Maj. Mike J. Butler, commanding officer of the company, Russel’s actions before the firefight saved many lives.

“When Russel took charge of the ECP, he had the Marines set up a chain link fence protecting the open areas of the building where the platoon was staying,” Butler said. “During the attack, grenades from the insurgents were bouncing off the fence and back at them, which saved the lives of the Marines inside the building.”

For their heroic actions that day, Cyparski was awarded his second Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device and Russel was awarded the Silver Star.

“I just want to tell 1st Bn., 5th Marines that it was an extreme honor to present these medals this morning,” said Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division. “I couldn’t be any prouder of our awardees this morning and all of 1st Bn., 5th Marines for what they have accomplished on their numerous deployments to Iraq.”

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