via Task & Purpose.
On Jan. 28, 2007, a 12-man Military Transition Team, or MiTT, composed of paratroopers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division was called upon to assist an Iraqi army unit that was engaged in a fierce battle with insurgents near the city of Najaf.Master Sgt. Ballard's Silver Star Citation...
The mission was to orchestrate close air support by communicating with the helicopters circling over the firefight. The battle had already claimed the lives of 10 Iraqi soldiers. But before the team made it to its objective, something happened: An AH-64 Apache helicopter plunged from the sky.
“When I saw the Apache go down, it immediately changed everything,” Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the team, later told an Army reporter. “Everything was focused on that crash site; nothing else mattered. That’s where we had to go and that’s what we did.”
Ballard’s team had been told that the enemy force numbered somewhere between 15 to 20 insurgents, but upon reaching the crash site, they quickly realized that wasn’t the case. Suddenly, Ballard and his men found themselves engulfed in heavy machine-gun fire. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby. Then the battle started.
“We began engaging, and continued engaging,” Ballard recalled. “Everything we shot was targets and collectively, we burned up about 11,000 rounds of machine gun ammo, M4 ammo, M203 grenade launcher ammo and 10 airstrikes.”
The insurgents, who apparently belonged to a religious cult called the Soldiers of Heaven, had “ungodly amounts of weapons,” and were maneuvering through a series of bunkers, trenches, and tunnels that encircled the area. The firefight raged for nearly three hours before backup arrived.
The enormity of the force Ballard’s team was up against didn’t come to light until the dust finally settled. An estimated 1,000 enemy fighters had been on the objective. Of them, 265 were killed; 400 more were captured.
Awarded for actions during the Global War on TerrorWho needs movies when you can read stuff like this?
(Citation and/or Narrative Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Master Sergeant Thomas S. Ballard, United States Army, was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Military Transition Team 0810, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on 28 and 29 January 2007. On that date, Iraqi soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division, were killed in action against enemy insurgents and their brigade commander reported that he was taking fire and needed help. Believing that the enemy force was no larger than 15 or 20 militants, 12 paratroops of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) went to their aid. As the reinforcements reached the site of the ongoing battle, they witnessed an AH-64 Apache helicopter fall from the sky. Immediately their mission changed and they moved to the downed chopper to protect the wreckage and look for the pilots. As the paratroopers reached the crash site they drove on a road parallel to the downed helicopter with Maser Sergeant Ballard's vehicle in the lead. Master Sergeant Ballard was ordered to pull onto the far side while the rest of the convoy remained on the side opposite him. As the team commanders vehicle pulled into an open area, it began receiving heavy machine gun fire and an RPG was launched against it. It quickly became obvious that the enemy force was much larger than originally estimated, and a heavy fire fight ensued. After a three- hour battle more than 265 enemy bodies were found and more than 400 militants surrendered. Master Sergeant Ballard's actions on the day of the fight and the following day were phenomenal. His dedication to the mission, his disregard for the enemy threat, and his lead from the front attitude was an inspiration to all of his men. Master Sergeant Ballard's gallant actions and dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 25th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.Action Date: January 28 & 29, 2007
Rank: Master Sergeant
Company: Military Transition Team 0810
Regiment: 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne)
Division: 25th Infantry Division
These boys did work. They did the hard thing and did it well.