CAMP PENDLETON, California — Maj. David Palka had seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but roughly 90% of the Marines under his command, tasked with setting up a remote fire base in northern Iraq in 2016, had only heard the stories.

Their trial by fire in March 2016 came just hours after they landed on Army CH-47 helicopters under cover of darkness in Makhmur, Iraq. Getting off the helicopters at around 2 a.m., the Marines were in what was essentially open farmland with a large protective berm of dirt around their small perimeter.

“By 0900, we received the first rocket attack,” Palka told Business Insider.

As a captain, Palka had led the Marines of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment when it was attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from October 2015 to June 2016.

On Monday, Palka was awarded the Bronze Star medal (with combat V), the fourth-highest combat award, for what his battalion commander called “sustained valorous leadership.” He’ll also later this week receive the Leftwich Trophy, presented annually to a Marine company or battery commander who displays outstanding leadership.

Palka and his unit’s foray into Iraq to set up an artillery support base had was shrouded in secrecy.

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marines fire base bell iraq
Courtesy of David Palka

 

Read the whole story from Business Insider.