LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky National Guardsman Staff Sgt.
Timothy Nein says his squad's cohesiveness helped them repel an
ambush by dozens of Iraqi militants on a supply convoy, a feat for
which he received the U.S. Army's second-highest medal on Saturday.
Nein shares the credit for his squad's efforts at surviving the March 20, 2005, attack that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross. He received the medal at the annual National Guard Association of Kentucky Conference in Lexington.
"I know that I would not have been able to do what I did without the dedicated squad we had," Nein said. "I'm getting the award because of them. I'm very honored and humbled."
Nein is the fifth U.S. Army soldier to receive the Distinguished Service Cross in the War on Terror. He also is the first Kentucky National Guard soldier to receive the medal since World War II. To receive the medal, the recipient's act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.
Nein originally received the Silver Star Medal - along with Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester and Sgt. Jason Mike - for his actions during the Battle of Salman Pak. All three were assigned to the Kentucky Guard's 617th Military Police Company.
The attack, started shortly before noon in rural, open scrubland east of Salman Pak, a town on the Tigris River southeast of Baghdad. A group of 30 to 50 insurgents emerged from a grove of trees and a roadside canal and began firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at a convoy of trucks.
Three civilian drivers would eventually die and at least seven soldiers were wounded.
Nein's squad of 10 soldiers traveling in three Humvees sped down an access road off of the main highway that the convoy was traveling. They put themselves between the insurgents and the convoy, drawing fire away from the disabled vehicles.
"I realized that we were in a fight with a force a lot bigger than we were expecting," Nein said. His squad was prepared for a force of seven to 10 fighters. Nein said he saw seven cars with their doors and trunks open. A quick mental calculation told him they were facing at least 28 gunmen.
"Nothing we did as a group we invented," the 37-year-old Nein said. "Everything the Army teaches, we implemented."
His unit, based in Richmond, was composed of men and women from
all over Kentucky. There was a racial diversity in his squad that Nein says he didn't even think about until someone pointed it out to him.
"It never dawned on me," he said. "From moment one we all hit it off.
"They wanted to be there," Nein said. "They wanted to strive hard and succeed for each other. They had a lot of confidence in me and I had a lot of confidence in them."
He said the squad was ready for the snipers.
"Basic Army doctrine says that when you're in a close ambush, you charge," Nein said. "Using that doctrine gave us the ability to outmaneuver and outflank and outproduce an element that had us
outmanned and outweaponed."
After two of his men, Sgt. Joe Rivera and Spc. Brian Mack were wounded, Nein said he knew they were close to being overrun.
Rivera survived a bullet that went through his belly and exited his back, barely missing his spine.
"In theory he should not be walking today," Nein said. Mack still has a bullet lodged between his heart and lungs. "A couple of inches to the left or right and he would have died out there," Nein said.
Hester joined Nein as they tracked through a canal, step by
step, nearly shoulder to shoulder trading shots and launching
grenades. "We just kept pushing until those four guys were down,"
Nein said. It took about 10 minutes. Hester was given the Silver
Star - the first woman to receive that award since World War II -
for her bravery.
Nein also credits his squad's preparation with their success.
Nein and his trailermate had a dry erase board hanging on a
wall. Each day they would go over scenarios much like a football
coach does with his players.
They would mark out vulnerable areas on the sector they were
protecting and draw out their formations and how they would attack,
running out various plans.
The preparations went beyond playing out potential scenarios.
They supplied their three vehicles exactly the same way so the
ammunition and weapons would be in the same place. If someone was
separated from one vehicle, that soldier would know where to find
ammunition in another vehicle.
"Bandoliers were hanging on the back of the seats so if a
gunner was in the Humvee he could reach down and throw it to
someone who needed to reload," Nein said.
Nein, from Henryville, Ind., joined the National Guard in 1996
after working for a printing company in Louisville for 18 years. He
served in Bosnia in 2001, spent a little under a year in Iraq from
2003-04. He returned to Iraq in November 2005. He now serves as a
trainer for the 223rd Military Police Company, based in Louisville.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)