December 17, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- When word came down that an outpost was under mortar attack, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Newlin and his Soldiers didn't hesitate.
They rushed to the scene in their Bradley Fighting Vehicles, taking heavy fire and returning fire of their own in an effort to save wounded Soldiers during an Iraqi combat operation in September 2006.
Newlin would earn the Silver Star for his actions during the ensuing eight-hour battle. But Newlin dismisses any suggestion that he is a hero.
Now the first sergeant for Company F, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, he says his actions were the result of his training, as well as his apprehension of seeing comrades in harm's way.
"I didn't want to see one of my fellow Soldiers die," Newlin said. "That was my biggest fear, seeing one of our guys get killed."
The day that Newlin earned the Silver Star began routinely enough.
He was sitting in a room with other Soldiers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment. They had been in Hit, a city in Iraq's Al Anbar Province, for approximately nine months.
The Soldiers were in a briefing, when they were interrupted by a report that an outpost was under attack by insurgents armed with mortars and small arms.
Soon, Newlin was speeding toward the site of the attack with a platoon of Soldiers and two Bradleys.
Soldiers had pursued a group of insurgents into a house near where the attack had occurred.
Newlin provided security with the Bradleys as other Soldiers from his unit dismounted to help clear houses and buildings in the area.
Three insurgents were captured and as Newlin and his fellow Soldiers maneuvered their way through the streets, a Humvee became stuck in the mud.
His commander, Capt. Eric Stainbrook, asked Newlin to come to the location of the stuck vehicle to offer assistance.
Just as the Soldiers retrieved the Humvee from the mud, insurgents hiding in a nearby building opened fire with machine guns.
Stainbrook and two other Soldiers, including the company's first sergeant, were seriously wounded.
"We began returning fire and ran back into the Bradley," Newlin said.
Newlin directed his gunner to return fire and then he ran back outside to help Stainbrook.
"I saw him lying there by himself, seemingly lifeless," Newlin said.
Braving a hail of machine gun fire, Newlin ran the 55 yards to where Stainbrook lay wounded.
"I could see the bullets hitting the ground between my legs," he said.
Newlin performed first aid on Stainbrook's wounds and, with the help of another Soldier, moved him inside a Bradley. Stainbrook was then taken to a battalion aid station.
Newlin then returned to the site of the ambush in his Bradley and directed both mounted and dismounted Soldiers in a battle that would rage for hours. During the fight, Newlin's Bradley came under heavy fire, including mortars and a rocket-propelled grenade hit.
The enemy took heavy casualties, and 59 of the insurgents were detained.
Newlin's Silver Star citation noted his courage during the fight and praised his actions in helping to save Stainbrook's life.
"It wasn't just me," Newlin said. "It was everybody on the ground that day."
Newlin credits his Army training for his actions.
"All of the training I had ever done in the Army kicked in that day," he said. "It was just instinct."
Newlin said he appreciates the recognition he has been given, but he also feels there is a greater reward for his actions that day.
"The most important thing to me is that those men are still alive," he said. "We still talk all the time."