Tag Archives: Bronze Star Medal with “V” device

By Example: Bank security escort turns dangerous, training helps survival

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

This story is part of a periodic NCO Journal feature that takes a closer look at an Army award in an NCO’s career. This month, we focus on the career of an NCO who was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device. The Bronze Star may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. The “V” device denotes individuals who were awarded a decoration in recognition of valorous acts performed during direct combat with an enemy force.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Prout, the NCO in charge of the 88th Military Police Detachment at Camp Zama, Japan, was a private first class serving in Baqubah, Iraq, in June 2007 when his valorous actions under fire earned him the Bronze Star with “V” device.

Prout had spent most of the day working with Iraqi police, teaching them the skills they would need to be Iraqi police liaison officers. On the way back to base, they were asked to do a money escort to allow paychecks to be picked up for the Iraqi police. Prout’s unit had already had two people injured within a three-block radius of the bank, so they knew it was a dangerous area.

“Once we got there, we sat around for 15 or 20 minutes waiting for the Iraqi police to go inside and get their money and get out, so we could leave,” Prout said. “My vehicle was the rear vehicle of the convoy, pulling security.”

The attack on the convoy began with a rocket-propelled grenade shot at Prout’s vehicle.

“On initial impact, our team leader hopped out of the vehicle because it blew through his Kevlar, but it didn’t kill him,” Prout said. “It put shrapnel all through his back and along the top side of his head. We had an Iraqi police liaison officer in the back right seat. She was also injured from shrapnel. For me, I took shrapnel in both legs, up to the thigh, and both knees, with burns along my wrist.

“After initial impact, I started returning fire,” Prout said. “I was on the (.50-caliber machine gun), and I returned fire. Another vehicle pulled up on our right-hand side and started engaging the enemy from there. Our team leader who had hopped out yanked off his Kevlar, and the other team leaders from the vehicle on our right side hopped out and started to attend to him. Our driver was uninjured. From there, for the next 30 seconds, we returned fire while other vehicles pulled back and started doing a block embracing so they could get medics to the vehicle and get everyone loaded.”

The Soldiers in Prout’s vehicle moved up to the next vehicle, but there wasn’t enough room for everybody. Prout continued to engage enemies to the front until a third vehicle pulled up, allowing him and an interpreter to get in. The door to that vehicle was broken and could only be closed from the outside, leaving them stuck until another team came up to get the door closed.

From there, they made their way to the nearest forward operating base, doing first aid where they could.

“While in the back of the vehicle, I did first aid on myself because between the driver, gunner and vehicle commander, there wasn’t enough space for anyone to get back and help me,” Prout said.

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Tell me how your actions that day represent the best of the U.S. Army.

The actions show the willingness to engage the enemy no matter what, to never give up. We try to fulfill the Soldier’s Creed. At the same time, “never leave a fallen comrade.” Because even though people were injured along the way, everyone came back to their initial training of doing the steps necessary to get everyone home safe. The bottom line is that it was the training we did prior to deployment and during the deployment that allowed us to get everyone home safe.

Now that you are an NCO, what do you hope your Soldiers can learn from the actions you took that day?

Staff Sgt. Matthew Prout, the NCO in charge of the 88th Military Police Detachment, demonstrates modern Army combatives to Japanese police officers on Jan. 22, 2013, at Camp Zama, Japan. (Photo by Tetsuo Nakahara, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs)
Staff Sgt. Matthew Prout, the NCO in charge of the 88th Military Police Detachment, demonstrates modern Army combatives to Japanese police officers on Jan. 22, 2013, at Camp Zama, Japan. (Photo by Tetsuo Nakahara, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs)

The biggest lesson is that the fight is never over. No matter how bad you’re hurt, no matter how bleak things may seem at the time, no matter how much chaos there is, by relying on your training and what you’ve learned, and ensuring that you train properly with realistic trainings that show different situations, you can be prepared. By falling back on your training, it allows you to ensure that everyone comes home; everyone will remain safe. It also shows them that by facing your fears, you are able to overcome.

Why did you decide to join the Army?

I initially joined the Army because I had been in college for about two years, and it just wasn’t for me. I wanted to do more in life. I wanted to do something because, I felt like at school, I wasn’t motivated. I had no desire to go to class, do homework and things like that. So, I thought by joining the Army it would allow me to see the world, do more, have a more productive life and be a citizen that gives something instead of just takes and takes.

Why have you continued to serve?

I continue to serve mainly for the life experience. I know few other people will see what I’ve seen or do what I’ve done. From the people I meet, to the lessons I learn, my development has taken me from a young adult to realizing the seriousness of life. The way it has developed me as a person, I look forward to seeing how it will develop me in the future. I know too many of my friends who are back in the States, stuck in the same type of lifestyle, doing the same type of thing day in and day out, and they’ve never left the States. Whereas, I’ve gone through countless countries and seen countless things, things that I know I would have never done and never seen if I hadn’t joined the Army.

What role have NCOs played in your development?

They have been the main motivating force because the leadership I had as a private coming into the military showed me what correct leadership should look like. It allows me to have an example to strive to be like. I know that all the NCOs I had in the beginning knew everything from A to Z. They were squared-away, and they made sure, by any means necessary, we would learn what we needed to learn, no matter how long it took. They had the patience and the different types of teaching styles that helped everyone in the squad to grow, develop and learn. That pushed us to want to do more, instead of being satisfied with being mediocre.

What advice do you have for junior NCOs?

Never stop learning. Whatever rank you may come up to, you can always learn something new, so don’t be closed-minded. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for advice or for what their opinion is, no matter what their rank. Those people who you least expect will sometimes surprise you the most and inspire you to change your leadership style.

What is your MOS and why did you choose it?

31B military police. Initially I wanted to work for the U.S. Capitol Police in Washington, D.C. I felt doing military police would be a good start for me to get some experience. But, as of now, I’ve stayed a lot longer and keep staying in because of the sights and things I’ve seen. The Army allows you to learn so much more about the world. The military is a much more satisfying job than most civilian jobs. The impact you have on people is far greater and far longer lasting than at some small company, working 9-to-5.

 

By Example: NCO’s improvisation on the battlefield helped team come home safe

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

This story is part of a periodic NCO Journal feature that takes a closer look at an Army award in an NCO’s career. This month, we focus on the career of an NCO who was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device. The Bronze Star may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. The “V” device denotes individuals who were awarded a decoration in recognition of valorous acts performed during direct combat with an enemy force.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Skellie, the battalion operations NCO in charge for 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, was a staff sergeant serving in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2005 when his valorous actions under fire earned him the Bronze Star with “V” device.

Skellie’s platoon had just returned to its outpost when another platoon’s tank on patrol in Ramadi was hit by a large explosive and immobilized. Parts of Skellie’s platoon, along with some of the command group, went out in a mix of humvees and tanks to rescue the immobilized tank and its Soldiers.

“When I got out there, the turret of the tank couldn’t move,” Skellie said. “They couldn’t really defend themselves. Once I got on the ground, we were taking fire. The first thing we had to do was set up a hasty defense just so we could operate. We couldn’t even get out of our trucks. They had fire all around us. You could see guys running up and down the alleys shooting at us.”

After setting up a defensive perimeter and pushing the enemy back, Skellie and his platoon got the tow bars hooked up to the tank. But before they could move out, the company commander’s truck was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. So, while continuing the defense, Skellie hooked up the company commander’s truck to his truck. Everybody made it back to their vehicles and moved out to return to their post.

For his actions that day, Skellie received a Bronze Star with “V” device, and he has also earned two Army Commendation Medals with “V” device during his time in service.

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What do you hope your Soldiers and junior NCOs can learn from the actions you took that day?

They can learn, just as I had learned and had been taught by my fellow NCOs, how to not only react to contact, but be able to improvise. And they can learn that, as we have gone through all the things we have gone through during the past 10 or 12 years of war, the NCO Corps truly is the “backbone of the Army.” They have taught and been at the forefront of all of these years, as well as the entire time the Army has existed. The NCOs really have led from the front and taught all the Soldiers what they need to know.

Why have you continued to serve?

It’s the only thing I’ve known in my adult life, as a job, as a career. There’s a lot of good in it; I enjoy it. I enjoy all the interaction with Soldiers and teaching Soldiers the things I have learned, helping Soldiers grow in their career. It’s a lot of fun.

What is your MOS and why did you choose it?

My MOS is a 19K (M1 Abrams armor crewman). I actually changed my MOS early on in my career. I did that because I had always supported the tanks and enjoyed looking at tanks, so I decided I wanted to be on tanks. I think of the tanks as the tip of the spear, so that’s why I chose the MOS that I did.

What role have NCOs played in your development?

I wouldn’t be at the rank and where I am today if it wasn’t for many NCOs taking time to lead me, show me the right way, show me the things I needed to do, show me what real leadership is. There’s been a handful who have really taken their time with me. It definitely affected me and made me into the NCO I am today.

What makes a good NCO?

Not only do they know their job, but they care enough about their Soldiers to care for them not just on the job, but also when they’re off work. They really take care of you, really put in the time, invest in your life and steer you in a career path that they know is best for you. It may not be what you want to hear at the time, but they know that is what is going to help you succeed and make you a better Soldier.

What advice do you have for junior NCOs?

Take something from every NCO whom you run into, whether good or bad. Try to take a nugget and absorb as much as you can from every NCO whom you are around and put it in your toolbag. That way, as you progress through the ranks, you can use the wealth of knowledge and information you have gathered from many NCOs to help make you into the NCO that you should be.

How has the NCO Education System impacted your career?

When you go to combined arms, when you have infantry and armor and all those guys coming together, you get to learn a lot from your peers who are in other MOSs. You get to see a side of the Army that is not necessarily your side of the Army. You get to see other MOSs and how they operate. You get to see all the different aspects of the Army, because the Army is a fairly large organization, and people may do things differently in different places and different MOSs. You get to learn from all of them, and that definitely helps you as you move along in your career.

By Example: Trust in leadership helps when battle begins

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

This story is part of a periodic NCO Journal feature that takes a closer look at an Army award in an NCO’s career. This month, we focus on the career of an NCO who was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device. The Bronze Star may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. The “V” device denotes individuals who were awarded a decoration in recognition of valorous acts performed during direct combat with an enemy force.

Today, Staff Sgt. Frank Thayer is a platoon sergeant in the 472nd Military Police Company at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. But in May 2008, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, he was still a month away from being promoted from specialist to sergeant when he earned the Bronze Star with “V” device for his valorous actions under fire.

“I was responding to a QRF (Quick Reaction Force), basically a distress call,” Thayer said. “We were going toward the unit that was needing help. As we got to a little village, all the lights were off, which is kind of a telltale sign. I keyed the mic up and said, ‘Hey guys, be aware.’ As soon as I unkeyed the mic, I looked over and one of the Taliban had an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) pinged at my door.”

Despite being injured in his right leg, Thayer was able to get out of the vehicle and return fire.

“I looked at my buddy, and I said, ‘I’m not dying on this road! I’m not dying in Afghanistan,’” Thayer told WSPA-TV.

The ambush included about 25 people, Thayer said. He was able to kill two insurgents and hold off others as the crew returned to base without suffering any fatalities.

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How do the actions you took that day represent the best of the U.S. Army?

It all goes back to one of our main goals over there … I got promoted to E-5 over there, and six months later, I was promoted to E-6. When I left there, I swore to myself that my main goal was to make sure my Soldiers — my squad, my platoon, everybody — came back. I think it all came down to the battle drills that we do in the Army over, and over and over. A lot of the guys in our squad were new and had never seen any type of combat. This was my fourth deployment. They reacted well. I was proud of them. This attack was in the first three weeks. It was a telltale sign of how this yearlong deployment was going to go. As far as the Army, what they instill in us to lead, to take care of each other — all of that tied into our actions that day.

What do you hope your Soldiers and junior NCOs learn from your actions that day?

All plans go out the window when first contact happens, but trust in your training and trust in your leadership. Some people get caught up in not making the decision, but luckily the Soldiers made all the right decisions [that day]. Trust in your leadership; trust in your equipment. We all train on not getting complacent. All that training helps your reaction when the time comes.

Why did you decide to join the Army, and why have you continued to serve?

Staff Sgt. Frank Thayer earned the Bronze Star with "V" device in May 2008 while serving in Logar Province, Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Frank Thayer)
Staff Sgt. Frank Thayer earned the Bronze Star with “V” device in May 2008 while serving in Logar Province, Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Frank Thayer)

I’m an Army brat and hadn’t decided to join. I grew up in it. I was born at Fort Jackson, S.C. I was going to college. My parents, especially my mom, told me I was a career college student. I didn’t join until I was 24. My mom passed away in 2000, and that’s when I joined. I don’t know if I was running from something, or deep down in my soul I knew I was going to go into the Army. I just couldn’t face the facts. But I think it was the right decision. I’ve enjoyed it. The camaraderie is great. Every deployment I’ve been on, I’ve volunteered for, except for one that just fell into place. I always think of the guys to the left and the right of me, because that’s what it’s about. It’s about each other. The main reason I stay in is the Soldiers I enjoy being around. I like to show them how to do things, and having them teach me. You can learn something new from a private, just as you can from the Sergeant Major of the Army.

What makes a good NCO?

Pressing yourself first. You can tell somebody to do something all day long. My family goes back to West Point. My great-grandfather was at West Point. My dad served 29 years. My brother is still in. And I’ve always been raised that you have to make people want to work for you. If you can encourage your troops, lead by example, then give them a reason to work for you, it makes your life easier. And you help those Soldiers succeed and pass that down. That private you have may one day be the Sergeant Major of the Army, or he may be a sergeant major in charge of his unit. If you show them the right way, and leave them to have to make some decisions, I think that’s the way to help them.

What role did NCOs play in your development as you came up in the Army?

By doing a lot of what I just mentioned. [Retired] Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Guyette was my sergeant major. I think he’s at USASMA now. (Editor’s note: Guyette is currently director of the Directorate of Training at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.) I had him as one of my biggest mentors. We went to Iraq and back together and went through a lot of firefights together. He and Gen. Phillips, our brigade commander, said, “The only thing that makes us different from you all is that we came in years before.” They showed me right and wrong.

What advice would you give to junior NCOs?

Take care of your Soldiers, that’s the main thing. Take what you can learn from your senior NCOs, the other ones around you. But taking care of Soldiers is what it’s about, because that’s where it’s going to fall down to. The Soldiers and NCOs are the backbone of the Army, but the Soldiers are the ones who make things happen. They can either make you look outstanding, or they can make you look like the worst person in the world.

 

Sergeant, corporal honored for valorous actions during combat operations

By SGT. MARK A. MOORE II
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — What actions or characteristics describe a hero? Would you recognize a hero if he or she were standing next to you or speaking with you?

Many have witnessed accounts of heroism reported through a variety of media sources, but what drives a person to perform heroic acts? Is it in their bloodline? One fact will remain true: heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

U.S. Army Sgt. Zachary R. Berline stands just over six-feet-tall, squared shoulders and jaw. A college-educated man who speaks moderately slow, his words are direct and their meaning rarely misunderstood. Older than most of his fellow infantry team leaders assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2/10 Security Forces Assistance Brigade, Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, Berline enlisted after completing his bachelor’s degree.

“My recruiter was kind of surprised that I wanted to join the infantry,” said Berline. “He said they saw it all the time though, guys who scored high on their entry exams, could pick any job in the Army, but insist on joining combat arms.”

Berline continued to say not joining the infantry might be a decision he would live to regret.

Standing beside Berline in front of the 9/11 memorial located in the main courtyard of the Regional Command East Joint Operations Center on Bagram Air Field was Cpl. Jered R. Dominey.

Dominey is a soft spoken soldier who is of average size and works as an intelligence collector assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2/10 SFAB, FOB Sharana and describes himself as just another intelligence nerd.

Physically, these men are very different, but they share common traits. The values the Army has instilled in these two Soldiers allowed them to execute their mission flawlessly. Their actions saved the lives of those around them, distinguishing them from their peers.

On May 27, 2013, Berline’s infantry team came under heavy rocket fire, resulting in multiple Afghan National Army Soldiers being wounded and structures dangerously close to an ammo supply point being set ablaze.

“It wasn’t until the fifth day of our mission that things really hit home,” said Berline. “We saw the incoming rockets hit the ANA side of the base, and that’s when we saw the fire.”

With disregard for his own safety, Berline rushed to the aid of the ANA Soldiers already attempting to put out the fire while his team followed closely behind.

“We gathered up our Soldiers and rushed to help,” said Berline. “We divided into teams; some set security, some tended to the injured, and others went to where the structures were burning.”

On that day, the bonds between U.S. Soldiers and Afghan National Security Forces grew stronger.

“It really didn’t matter if Americans or Afghans were in the bunkers, they needed help and we were going to provide that help,” said Berline. “The success of the day was in the training; everyone helped that day, everyone wanted to be a part of this.”

Berline received the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for his valorous actions that day as an infantry team leader, directing his team through combat operations while simultaneously performing life-saving measures.

Keeping with military tradition and following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Dominey also received the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for saving the lives of multiple Coalition Force Soldiers during a direct and decisive engagement with an insider threat on Super FOB.

On June 8, 2013, Dominey stepped outside the wire for the first time, attending a meeting on the ANA side of Super FOB, and noticed something was not quite right.

“I noticed an Afghan soldier who was acting odd, but this was my first time out, and I didn’t really know what to do,” said Dominey.” It wasn’t until he fired at us that I truly understood the gravity of the situation.”

Dominey was the first to engage the enemy. He shot at the assailant multiple times, but the fight was not over.

“I linked up with Staff Sgt. Hart, and we went to see if the threat was neutralized,” said Dominey.

The threat was not neutralized, and he continuously attempted to engage U.S. Soldiers.

“We ended up re-engaging the enemy two more times before he stopped fighting back,” said Dominey.

“I really think this will make my grandmother very proud,” said Dominey. “My grandfather served in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam and had received the Bronze Star Medal for his actions.”

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force – 101 and Regional Command East, presented the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device to both Soldiers during an awards ceremony Sept. 18, 2013.

U.S. Army Col. Dennis S. Sullivan (far left), commander, 2/10 Security Forces Assistance Brigade, Forward Operating Base Rushmore, Afghanistan, speaks with Sgt. Zachary R. Berline (center), an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2/10 SFAB, and Cpl. Jered R. Dominey (right), an intelligence collector with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2/10 SFAB, about their valorous actions during combat operations prior to an awards ceremony, Sept. 18, 2013, at the main courtyard of the RC-East Joint Operations Center at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Mark A. Moore II – 2/10 Security Forces Assistance Brigade)
U.S. Army Col. Dennis S. Sullivan (far left), commander, 2/10 Security Forces Assistance Brigade, Forward Operating Base Rushmore, Afghanistan, speaks with Sgt. Zachary R. Berline (center), an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2/10 SFAB, and Cpl. Jered R. Dominey (right), an intelligence collector with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2/10 SFAB, about their valorous actions during combat operations prior to an awards ceremony Sept. 18, 2013, at the main courtyard of the RC-East Joint Operations Center at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Mark A. Moore II – 2/10 Security Forces Assistance Brigade)