A Marine Raider has been awarded the Silver Star after braving intense enemy fire and destroying an incoming vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Iraq. The Raider, whose name has been withheld for operational security (OPSEC) reasons (he is still on active duty), was assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion (MRB), Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC).
According to the Marine Corps Times, the action took place on October 20, 2016, during the campaign to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS) as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, the Raider was a staff sergeant (E-6) serving as the assistant element leader in his Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT). The MARSOC team had occupied a building situated between two ISIS-controlled villages at the outskirts of Mosul. Recognizing the danger of having a team of American commandos so close to their positions—the threat of airstrikes, which MARSOC units can call in, is ever present on the minds of terrorists in the region—the jihadis launched an attack to drive the Marine Raiders out.
Around 25 ISIS fighters assaulted the American position. The VBIED was supposed to create a gap in the American defenses, allowing the dismounted fighters to close the distance and attack the Marines. This is a standard operating procedure (SOP) that terrorists around the world use in the opening stages of an attack.
Surrounded by enemy fighters and ignoring their heavy fire, the staff sergeant engaged the dismounted enemy with a sniper rifle. Identifying the danger the VBIED posed to his team, he left cover, climbed atop a nearby vehicle, and, using a GM-148 Javelin anti-tank weapon, destroyed the VBIED that was screaming toward their position. The first missile failed to launch, and the staff sergeant had to repeat the process with a fresh Javelin (the weapon operates using a fire-and-forget mechanism, meaning that it only has one shot). Throughout this action, he was under constant enemy fire. His actions were pivotal in saving the lives of his teammates.
On a side note, the Marine Corps is notoriously stingy in giving awards for valor.
Established in 2006, MARSOC is the latest addition to the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). It is comprised of three MRBs, which contain four Marine Special Operations Companies (MSOCs), with each MSOC having four MSOTs.