'Speed and Power' Soldiers thwart attack, save lives
April 22, 2010
<b>BAGHDAD</b> - Three Soldiers assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, were awarded the Army Commendation Medal, April 8, for maintaining vigilance, while keeping watch over their operational environment.
Using an elevated camera system, Sgt. Julio Montoya, an Ontario, Calif., native, noticed something out of the ordinary, March 22. As he scanned the roads of a route that a dismounted patrol from his unit was planning on using, Sgt. Montoya noticed an individual standing down a side street that branched off of the planned route.
As soon as the patrol passed by, the individual made a call on a cell phone and then drove away on a scooter.
Sergeant Montoya found the behavior suspicious and alerted a Soldier manning a different camera.
Manning the other camera was Pfc. Mitchell Robertson, an Albuquerque, N.M., native, and Bradley Fighting Vehicle driver, who was preparing for the end of his shift as the event unfolded. Private First Class Christopher Thrasher of Stockbridge, Ga., had arrived to replace Pfc. Robertson.
Instead of leaving, Pfc. Robertson stayed with Pfc. Thrasher, and together they maintained watch over the area of the dismounted patrol.
Intensely watching their screens, the three Soldiers observed the individual on the scooter leave his location, drive almost a mile away and meet up with two other individuals waiting for him in a car. The two parties then swapped vehicles - with two people now on the scooter - concealing a large bag inside a compartment in the seat of the scooter, and drove off.
When the scooter came to a halt, the individuals dismounted and placed the bag on the side of the road - the same road the dismounted patrol was planning on using to get back to their base.
"I called the tactical operations center and warned them not to let the patrol return," said Sgt. Montoya. "I then called the Iraqi Army unit operating in the area and also the explosive ordinance disposal team."
The patrol was stopped and an inspection of the device revealed that the item placed on the side of the road was indeed an improvised explosive device.
"They were only 200 to 300 meters away from the device when they were stopped," said Sgt. Montoya.
As the patrol returned to base safely, many breathed a sigh of relief.
"The whole [tactical operations center] was packed with people; leadership, EOD, etc ...," said Pfc. Thrasher. "Once they got back, we all felt relieved."
Two of the insurgents were arrested shortly after the incident, but the spotter got away.
The Soldiers manning the cameras quite possibly saved the lives of their fellow Soldiers that day.
Private First Class Thrasher admits that initially he did not enjoy working as a camera operator; however; the series of events leading to the safe return of his fellow Soldiers changed his outlook.
"I have a lot more self-pride after the award," he said. "I know I make a difference."