A joint India Company-Iraqi Army patrol was attacked in Haditha, resulting in one Marine killed. — Source: Regimental Combat Team 7 Press Release
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Enemy Attack Kills One Soldier, Two Others’ Status Unknown
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 16, 2006 – In other news, the Department of Defense recently released the name of a Marine killed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom:
Cpl. Michael A. Estrella, 20, of Hemet, Calif., died June 14 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
(Based on a Multinational Corps Iraq and Defense Department news releases.)
Source: Department of Defense
Lieutenant Risks Life to Save Another in Iraq
By Sgt. Roe F. Seigle
Regimental Combat Team 7
HADITHA, Iraq, June 27, 2006 — Marines here say a lieutenant who was leading Marines and Iraqi soldiers through the volatile streets of Haditha, Iraq, June 14, showed uncommon valor when he ran into a barrage of enemy gunfire to pull a wounded Marine to safety.
1st Lt. Rick Posselt, a 25-year-old from Crystal River, Fla., said he is not the Marine who deserves the recognition.
Cpl. Michael Estrella, who was killed by sniper fire during that same patrol, is the real hero and deserves the recognition, said Posselt.
The mission Posselt, a platoon commander assigned to the Hawaii-based India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, led the Marines and their Iraqi Army counterparts on that day was like any other – a patrol through the winding streets of Haditha. On this particular patrol they were searching for a suspected insurgent.
Haditha is a city of 30,000 nestled along the Euphrates River northwest of Baghdad in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.
When Posselt came to an intersection in a marketplace, the Marines began receiving gunfire and saw Estrella, 20, fall to the ground.
Shortly after the initial “cracks” of enemy gunfire pelted the ground below and spit up shards of concrete around him, Posselt said his platoon was shot at from another direction.
Posselt’s first instinct was to get Estrella to safety – and he did so risking his own life in the process.
As the enemy gunfire continued, Posselt ran to the wounded Estrella and pulled him approximately 15 feet to safety, further exposing himself to more gunfire.
“I just did what my instinct told me to do,” said Posselt. “I was just trying to take care of my Marines.”
Looking back, Posselt feels any other Marine in his position would have done the same thing that day.
“I just happened to be the Marine closest to Estrella when he fell,” said Posselt. “I had to get him off that street and that was really the only thought going through my mind.”
With Estrella out of harm’s way, several Iraqi soldiers returned well aimed and disciplined fire to the enemy’s position, without injuring any civilians on the street that day.
Still, Posselt does not believe he is worthy of recognition, but Capt. Andy Lynch, 31, India Company’s commanding officer, says Posselt will be recognized for his brave actions on the battlefield that day.
Sgt. Jason Sakowski, 26, said he also believes Posselt is worthy of recognition.
Sakowski, one of Posselt’s squad leaders, was present during the firefight and called in reinforcements and a medical evacuation while returning and directing fire at the enemy combatants. The enemy combatants then fled the area.
“He (Posselt) put his life on the line without even thinking about it,” said Sakowski, a 26-year-old native of Wilkesboro, N.C. “This is my third combat deployment but it is the first time I have seen bravery to that degree.”
“Muhammad,” a soldier assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, was also present during the firefight and was one of the Iraqi soldiers who returned fire to the enemy combatants. He agrees with Sakowski – Posselt’s actions were commendable.
“He (Posselt) showed uncommon courage that day,” said Muhammad, through a translator. “He set an example for other soldiers to follow. I think he is a hero.”
Posselt gives more credit to Sakowski for his role in the firefight than he gives himself for risking his life to pull Estrella to safety.
“Sakowski accomplished many things at once in the middle of the firefight,” said Posselt.
Sakowski called for a medical evacuation, directed fire and called in the reinforcements that arrived within a minute of being called out, said Posselt.
“Sakowski made some very important decisions under fire,” said Posselt. “He stayed calm and remembered his training in the heat of a battle.”
Posselt said although the Marines are mourning the loss of their friend and fellow warrior, Estrella, they are still focused on training the Iraqi Army to eventually provide security in this region along the Euphrates River on their own, allowing U.S. forces to eventually leave for good.
“I want to bring the rest of the Marines home safely, first and foremost,” said Posselt, right after a memorial service was held for Estrella at the Marines’ fortified base here. “But we also have to help get a government established so we do not have to come back here 10 years down the road with the same situation we had in 2003. We owe it to Estrella to accomplish the mission he came here to complete.”
Source: First Marine Division
Marine’s quiet strength resonated on this July Fourth
Times Editorial | July 5, 2006
With bullets smashing into the dirt and concrete all around him, 1st Lt. Rick Posselt had but one thought in mind: Get my Marine out of there.
He was not thinking of his wife and children waiting for him stateside or of his family back home in Citrus County. Posselt’s focus was solely to get Cpl. Michael Estrella, lying wounded in the street of a dusty Iraqi village, out of the line of sniper cross-fire.
Posselt ran to the bleeding 20-year-old and pulled him to safety, an act of instant heroism that astounded his battle-hardened fellow Marines and the Iraqi soldiers who were with them during the ambush.
Posselt’s selfless actions on June 14 were the stuff of Hollywood, but this was no movie stunt. The bullets, and the danger, were very real.
Evidence of that came all too quickly. The bullets that struck Cpl. Estrella proved fatal.
His death was a dubious milestone. Cpl. Estrella became the 2,500th U.S. service member to lose his life in the ongoing war on terror.
For that reason, and because of the extraordinary bravery that Posselt exhibited, this incident has become national news. Posselt was featured Sunday evening on CNN’s Fallen Heroes segment. He was interviewed about the attack and his actions, but more important to him, he got to speak to the family of Cpl. Estrella via a satellite link.
Cpl. Estrella’s mother in Hemet, Calif., said that when she heard that her son had been hit, her heart broke at the realization that she had not been there for him in his final moments.
But her anguish was eased somewhat by the knowledge that he did not die alone. Through her tears, she thanked Posselt for trying to save her son and for not leaving him behind.
As befits a hero, Posselt remained modest and composed, telling the grieving mother that her son was a great Marine. He was the unit’s communications chief, aptly nicknamed Scratchy.
Posselt shared that he had served with Scratchy in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. He was always able to fix whatever communications crisis the unit had, Posselt said, even getting their iPods to work.
His words were a great comfort to the Estrella family, giving them an image of a happy Michael helping his fellow Marines listen to their music instead of a fallen son dying thousands of miles from their arms.
Posselt’s heroism must be noted for another reason: the location of the ambush. It occurred in the town of Haditha, northwest of Baghdad.
You may recognize the name. Quite possibly, it will take a place in history alongside the village of My Lai in Vietnam.
Four Marines, including a captain, are under investigation in the deaths of two dozen unarmed Iraqis on Nov. 19, 2005. The Marines could face murder charges in the slayings, which included a number of women and children.
While the investigation of that alleged atrocity plays out in the coming months, it is vital that we not ignore the extraordinary act of courage that occurred in that town as well.
For his part, Posselt would rather not be a part of any of it. He has downplayed his own actions time and again, but his fellow soldiers won’t let it slide.
“He showed uncommon courage,” said an Iraqi soldier in a Department of Defense release.
“He put his life on the line without even thinking about it,” added Sgt. Jason Sakowski of Wilkesboro, N.C. “This is my third combat deployment, but it is the first time I have seen bravery to that degree.”
To those who know Posselt and to those on the Nature Coast who only know him from his days as a Crystal River High School athlete, it is easy to see him performing legendary feats of strength and valor.
This is a young man who set the standard that still stands at CRHS when he starred as a running back from 1995 to 1998. Seemingly chiseled out of granite, Posselt would just as likely run through a defender as around him, earning second-team All-State honors, an astounding recognition for a small-town kid.
People speak with awe about his prowess in the weight room here and at Delta State University in Mississippi. In Crystal River, he was a state champion. In college, he was an icon.
They still talk about the competition: Other athletes managed to lift 315 pounds anywhere from eight to 10 times. When Posselt hit 40, his coach made him stop.
Today, Posselt, who was born 25 years ago on Veterans Day, is a walking recruiting poster for the Marines. With a shaved head, shoulder muscles stretching the fabric of his camos to their limits, and an intensity that bores into your very soul, Posselt embodies all that it means to be a member of the corps.
As we celebrated Independence Day, many of us loudly proclaimed our patriotism. On Tuesday, we did so in humble recognition of those who quietly show us what it means to truly risk everything for their fellow Americans.
Greg Hamilton is editor of editorials for the Times in Citrus County.
Copyright © Tampa Bay Times 2006
As we [India Company, 3rd Platoon 3rd Squad] were occupying an adjacent OP to a patrol unit, the patrol unit started receiving small arms fire initiated by a sniper shot that hit Cpl Estrella in the neck. He was already dead as they dragged him off the street and returned fire. We responded by rushing to the scene and cordoning off several streets but as always, the enemy’s … flees. On another note, I noticed some civilians smirking from a distance … 1 Marine KIA
Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device
For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations involving conflict with an opposing force while serving as 1st Platoon Commander, Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Regimental Combat Team-7, I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward, on 14 June 2006, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. On this date, First Lieutenant Posselt was leading a combined Marine and Iraqi Army patrol when they were ambushed by enemy small arms fire from three locations. Maintaining impeccable bearing and uncommon composure, he immediately returned fire at the enemy, positioned the patrol members into locations where they could repel the attack, and relayed the situation to higher headquarters. Witnessing a fallen Marine caught in the kill zone and the enemy increasing their fires at the Marine’s position, First Lieutenant Posselt displayed complete disregard for his own personal safety by exposing himself to sustained enemy fire in order to move the casualty to a covered position. Although enemy fire was impacting all around his position, First Lieutenant Posselt calmly and courageously pulled the mortally wounded Marine and all of his gear out of the kill zone and into the safety of a nearby shop. First Lieutenant Posselt then directed another Marine to render first aid to the casualty while he coordinated link-up with adjacent units. He then moved back into the kill zone in order to direct the counter-attack. His courageous and decisive actions inspired the Marines and Iraqi Army soldiers, enabling them to successfully repel the enemy ambush. By his zealous initiative, courageous actions, and exceptional dedication to duty, First Lieutenant Posselt reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Michael Estrella (Posthumous)
Professional achievement in the superior performance of his duties while serving as Company Communications Chief, Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, Regimental Combat Team-7, I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward, from March 2006 to June 2006, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. During this period, Corporal Estrella’s performance significantly contributed to combat operations in Haditha, Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Corporal Estrella’s performance during 24 combat patrols was well above the expectations for someone of his rank, experience and billet. He successfully and expertly repaired, maintained and advanced every facet of the company’s communications abilities. He effectively and tirelessly served as the company communications chief, responsible for 312 pieces of serialized equipment. During the relief-in-place and transfer of authority in March 2006, Corporal Estrella developed a user-friendly and versatile tracking system enabling the company to accurately track and account for all serialized gear within the company. Corporal Estrella’s initiative, perseverance, and total dedication to duty reflected credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.