By by Sgt. Marcus Butler 4th BCT, 25th ID PAOSeptember 19, 2007
ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq - It can be easy to be brave when surrounded by fellow Soldiers, but it takes real courage and fortitude when it is just you facing the danger head on - especially when that threat is two massive truck bombs.
A sniper's round came dangerously close to Sgt. Jason Stegall's head. Stegall, a team leader in B Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, received his second Purple Heart Medal during this firefight.
Sgt. Jason Stegall has been recommended for the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for valor for his actions March 26, as he and another paratrooper destroyed two truck bombs before they could harm the base.
Facing this danger is a story Sgt. Jason Stegall, a Birmingham, Ala., native and team leader for B Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, knows all too well.
"That day started like any other day," Stegall said. "Sgt. (Ronald) Crighton and I were in a tower looking for anything out of the ordinary and a fuel truck caught my eye."
Stegall and Crighton, of Sidney, Mont., were a few hours into an eight-hour guard shift. Stegall was manning an M-240B medium machine gun and Crighton was manning an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
"After (observing a) truck for a while, it stopped about 50 meters from our base. Suddenly it began to roll the wrong way," Stegall said.
Once the truck began to ignore the right of way for the flow of traffic, Stegall went into action.
"I was outside of the tower for a second when I saw a flare go off and heard Stegall (call) me back inside," Crighton said. "That's when I heard Stegall fire off rounds from his 240B."
As the truck continued down the wrong path, Stegall fired a warning shot the driver ignored, followed by a series of shots from the ground up to the engine to the cab of the vehicle.
"Once I fired into the cab of the vehicle, the driver tried to make a turn into our base but lost control and veered off the road. Seconds later, the truck exploded," Stegall said.
As a result of the explosion, Stegall and Crighton were both knocked unconscious.
That explosion triggered a complex attack including a second truck bomb and small arms fire.
Stegall regained his composure and immediately grabbed the SAW and began to fire out of one of the windows of the tower toward the direction of enemy personnel on foot and in buildings. Crighton soon followed suit and grabbed his M-4 rifle and began trying to eliminate the enemy threat.
While trying to engage the enemy on foot a second truck bomb then detonated knocking both paratroopers down again.
"I remember Stegall being a little disoriented but still firing at the truck bomb, killing the driver and causing it to detonate," Crighton said. "After we got back up from the second explosion, we just kept firing non-stop until the firefight was over."
Earlier that month, Stegall was on patrol with members of his squad when they came under fire. During this firefight, Stegall was wounded in the side. He was outnumbered and directed his squad to move back to find cover.
"I realized the numbers were not in our favor," he said. "So I had the squad move back in pairs until we reached a deep trench that provided us enough protection from enemy fire."
Even though he was shot, Stegall still led his squad out of harm's way and safely back to their base.
"Once we reached the trench, we called for help, popped a can of smoke for cover and were picked up and brought back into the base," he said. "All I could think about was to make sure that my guys were OK."
Now, fast forwarding to after the truck bombs, Stegall would again be tested. This time, it would be almost too close for comfort.
While a squad of paratroopers including Crighton was setting up a security perimeter around a target house, a bullet from an enemy sniper struck Stegall in the in the back of his helmet and exited the front, grazing his head and earning him his second Purple Heart Medal.
"I could tell that Stegall was a little rattled," Crighton said. "But soon after, you could not tell that anything had happened to him."
"It is a very rare to find a Soldier like Stegall. To have someone (who) never complains and just always gets the job (done) not matter that task is the mark of a quiet professional," said 1st Sgt. Vern Daley Jr., B Co. "The day of the attack on our base, I ran up to see if those guys were OK and seeing them get up and continue to bring the fight to the enemy was an awesome sight.
"They could have been doing something else during their guard shift but instead they did the right thing and saved countless lives."
Stegall has been in the Army for three years and this deployment with B Co. is his first. He has been with the unit since the brigade was formed two years ago, but has had a few growing pains along the way.
"After I was shot the first time, my wife just wanted me to come home," he said. "But she understood how I felt about the guys I deployed with. I wanted to stay with my unit until we all came home together."
With two Purple Hearts and a pending Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for valor, Stegall has a very simple reason as to why he will never falter in the mission at hand.
"This is my job and I will continue to do it to the best of my ability until my time is up in the Army," he said. "Just to be plain and simple, I love my country and my fellow paratroopers. As long as they are here, I will be here by their side."