FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Army News Service, Jan. 29, 2007) - A 101st Airborne Division intelligence officer was awarded a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Valor for exceptional actions in east Baghdad last year.
Capt. Joshua Brandon served as the Military Transition Team intelligence officer for the 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, during the 4th Brigade Combat Team's recent deployment to Iraq.
On Aug. 20 in Adhamiyah, a mostly Sunni zone, nestled against the east side of the Tigris River in Baghdad, extremists began to fire on the Iraqi army and police who were protecting Shia marchers on a pilgrimage.
That morning, the radio operator received a call from one of the Iraqi army company commanders who said, "I have 15 soldiers on the ground and I need you here or I'm dead."
The MiTT team mounted up with 18 U.S. Soldiers and additional Iraqi army troops and moved to the location.
When they arrived, the small group of Iraqi army soldiers with armored vehicles, together with a few Iraqi policemen and several uniformed members of Jaish Al-Mahdi, the military wing of Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, were hunkered down on a bridge near the Army canal under intense small-arms and machine-gun fire.
With small-arms fire crackling around them and explosions from rocket-propelled grenades at about 100 meters away, Brandon crossed the danger zone twice to rally Iraqi army soldiers who had little ammunition left. The MiTT turned the marchers back to a safer route; Brandon led a flanking maneuver with Maj. Rick Ullian, 4-320th FAR executive officer, by crossing to suppress the machine-gun fire, while Capt. Ben Shaha, commander of the MiTT, led a group who stepped in front of the marchers to shield them on the bridge.
"An absolutely fearless leader, (Brandon) has a unique ability to calmly work through a problem then execute its solution," Ullian said.
The next day, Aug. 21, Brandon and the MiTT platoon linked up with Iraqi army forces at Antar Square, which surrounds the Abu Hanifa Mosque, a revered Sunni place of worship. Iraqi army checkpoints had come under attack by numerous Sunni fighters. An Iraqi army platoon was pinned down under heavy fire and lost contact with six of their soldiers near the courthouse on the square.
Brandon and the MiTT chief planned to lead an Iraqi army assault element up the street to relieve the platoon and find the separated Iraqi soldiers. As the combined assault element moved north, he exited the safety of his vehicle and, under sustained small-arms fire from several roof tops, attempted without success to halt a retreating group of friendly fighters.
Brandon then split the Iraqi army and MiTT element on either side of the road, and pushed the element forward. Under heavy enemy fire, he led his first section north of the initial intersection by the courthouse and into the square where they could place effective fires upon the enemy. He maneuvered a vehicle from the second section into the intersection in order to suppress the enemy from the west. While he and Shaha attempted to rally an Iraqi assault element, his MiTT section was caught in a crossfire.
Brandon positioned a third Iraqi truck in a supporting fire position and assembled his second section for the assault. He and the assault element proceeded south where they encountered a five-man enemy reinforcement element. The assault element opened fire, killing two and wounding one Sunni fighter. The enemy fighters in the battle position, flanked by the assault force, withdrew.
Brandon led his Soldiers through the door into three suspected enemy houses. They cleared the houses, and then the assault element followed a blood trail but lost the wounded fighter when he crossed a sewer. Iraqi army elements entered Abu Hanifa Square and recovered their six soldiers.
"I am proud of both the poise and courage of our Soldiers and noncommissioned officers," Brandon said. "They were faced with one of the most complex and frustrating fights we had seen all year, yet they managed to defeat two numerically superior enemy forces and prevent the needless deaths of countless Iraqi civilians."
"There's no better thing than to see NCOs and Soldiers working with you, fighting for each other," Shaha said. "We were helping the Iraqis but my guys did these things; cooks, drivers and artillerymen stepped up and fought the enemy under extreme duress."
Bronze Star with Valor
Brandon also was presented with his second Bronze Star with Valor for actions in the aftermath of the February bombing of the Samarra Askariyah shrine, known as the "Golden Mosque," when he rallied coalition troops to counter attack enemy forces at Antar Square in Adhamiyah. He led two assaults.
The actions of his Soldiers and Iraqi army forces resulted in 27 enemy killed in action, 11 enemy captured, approximately 28 enemy wounded with the Iraqi army suffering only two wounded, over two days of fighting.
"The Iraqi army and my team were outnumbered and fighting for our lives," Brandon said. "We realized that if we waited for help, the Iraqis would break and we would be overrun. So we attacked. Our Soldiers and NCOs rallied the Iraqis and killed a lot of bad guys."