Monday, September 17, 2007

"Dedication to the Mission and Disregard for the Enemy Threat" -- Just One Story of Heroism from the Iraqi Front

Please read through the following press release from the Public Affairs Office at Camp Victory. And after being impressed with the bravery and skill of these American soldiers, and after being filled with pride and gratitude for their service in the cause of freedom, and after you say a prayer for the safety and success of all of those engaged in this crucial mission...then ask yourself why on earth the American media is not sharing more of these stories with us.

Indeed, the MSM's "war coverage" has become almost entirely focused on anti-war politics, thus undervaluing the sacrifices (and the significant achievements) of U.S. and coalition forces while actually distorting the issues and hard news involved.

Anyhow, I print for you below the entire press release dealing with twelve remarkable paratroopers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division’s Military Transition Team 0810, serving in Iraq. And after I do, I'm sending it along to several news agencies asking them to please give us more stories of what's happening on the ground in Iraq instead of quoting the same Democrat politicians, highlighting the same "anti-war" journalists, and playing the same defeatist themes night after night.

Here's the press release.

KALSU, Iraq – The details were sketchy. The only information coming in was that 10 Iraqi army soldiers had been killed and their brigade commander was taking fire and needed help.

With that little bit of information and the belief that they were facing a force of no more than 15 or 20 militants, 12 Paratroopers from 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division’s Military Transition Team 0810 went to the aid of the soldiers of 1st Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division, Jan. 28. The paratroopers’ initial mission was to provide close air support and communication with the helicopters circling above the firefight taking place on the ground just north of Najaf.

However, the mission quickly changed as the team approached the site of the ongoing battle. Nearing the battle, paratroopers saw an AH-64 Apache helicopter fall from the sky. The MiTT’s mission changed in an instant. They
moved to the site of the downed chopper to protect the wreckage and look for the pilots.

“When I saw the Apache go down, it immediately changed everything,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of MiTT 0810. “Everything was focused on that crash site. That’s where we had to go and that’s what we did. ”

Once the small team of paratroopers reached the crash site, security became top priority. “As we reached the crash site, we were driving on a road parallel to the crash site, so I decided to have Master Sgt. Ballard’s vehicle, the lead vehicle, pull onto the far side and the rest of our convoy would remain on the other side,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Hughes, deputy commander, 4th BCT (Abn.), 25th Inf. Div., and the MiTT team chief. As my vehicle pulled into position in an open area, we started receiving contact with heavy machine gun fire, an RPG was launched at us.”

It didn’t take long for the paratroopers to realize they were up against more than a small 15- to 20-man force.

“We began engaging and continued engaging. There were 265 bodies reported at the end, but I can tell you, there was more than that,” Ballard said. “Everything we shot was targets and collectively we burned up about 11,000 rounds of machine-gun ammo, M-4 ammo, M-203 grenade launcher ammo and 10 air strikes.”

Once the fighting began, it didn’t end for the 12-man team until nearly three hours later, when backup finally arrived. “There were a lot of bullets flying: we were only a small group of people and didn’t know whether we could hold our position if the enemy made a concerted effort to get to the helicopter,” said Maj. John Reed, the MiTT operations officer.

“The guys we were up against were the Soldiers of Heaven cult, led by a man who believed he was the 12th Imam,” said Ballard, a native of Aberdeen, Miss. “It was said that upon his return, the demise of all the other leaders, religious and otherwise, would mark his coming, and he was planning to put that into effect the very next day coincidentally. “They had ungodly amounts of weapons, there were tunnels, bunkers, there were even trenches, and they were around the entire perimeter of the compound,” Ballard said. “It wasn’t until the next day that we found out there was almost 1,000 people on that objective and what we were really up against.” After the fighting was over, more than 400 militants were captured, not to mention all the cult members who had died during the fighting.

For their actions during the battle against such a large foe, and for their willingness to sacrifice themselves and never leave their fallen comrades, the entire 12-man team was awarded Army Commendation Medals with valor. Ballard, Hughes and Reed were further recognized Sept. 9 for their actions. Ballard received the Silver Star, while Hughes received a Bronze Star with Valor and Reed the Bronze Star. “Master Sgt. Ballard’s actions on the day of the fight and the following day were phenomenal,” Reed said. “His dedication to the mission, his disregard for the enemy threat, and his lead from the front attitude has been an inspiration for us all.”