June 27, 2006


HADITHA, Iraq (27 June, 2006) -- Marines here say a lieutenant who was leading Marinesand Iraqi soldiers through the volatile streets ofHaditha, Iraq, June 14, showed "uncommon valor" whenhe ran into a barrage of enemy gunfire to pull awounded Marine to safety.

1st Lt. Rick Posselt, a 25-year-old from CrystalRiver, Fla., said he is not the Marine who deservesthe recognition.

Cpl. Michael Estrella, who was killed by sniper fireduring that same patrol, is the real hero and deservesthe recognition, said Posselt.

The mission Posselt, a platoon commander assigned tothe Hawaii-based India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rdMarine Regiment, led the Marines and their Iraqi Armycounterparts on that day was like any other – a patrolthrough the winding streets of Haditha. On thisparticular patrol they were searching for a suspectedinsurgent.

Haditha is a city of 30,000 nestled along theEuphrates River northwest of Baghdad in Iraq’s AlAnbar 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 gunfirepelted the ground below and spit up shards of concretearound him, Posselt said his platoon was shot at fromanother 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 thewounded Estrella and pulled him approximately 15 feetto safety, further exposing himself to more gunfire.

“I just did what my instinct told me to do,” saidPosselt. “I was just trying to take care of myMarines.”

Looking back, Posselt feels any other Marine in hisposition would have done the same thing that day.

“I just happened to be the Marine closest to Estrellawhen he fell,” said Posselt. “I had to get him offthat street and that was really the only thought goingthrough my mind.”

With Estrella out of harm’s way, several Iraqisoldiers returned well aimed and disciplined fire tothe enemy’s position, without injuring any civilianson the street that day.

Still, Posselt does not believe he is worthy ofrecognition, but Capt. Andy Lynch, 31, India Company’scommanding officer, says Posselt will be recognizedfor his brave actions on the battlefield that day.

Sgt. Jason Sakowski, 26, said he also believes Posseltis worthy of recognition.

Sakowski, one of Posselt’s squad leaders, was presentduring the fire fight and called in reinforcements anda medical evacuation while returning and directingfire at the enemy combatants. The enemy combatantsthen fled the area.

“He (Posselt) put his life on the line without eventhinking about it,” said Sakowski, a 26-year-oldnative of Wilkesboro, N.C. “This is my third combatdeployment but it is the first time I have seenbravery to that degree.”

“Muhammad,” a soldier assigned to the 2nd Battalion,2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, was also presentduring the firefight and was one of the Iraqi soldierswho returned fire to the enemy combatants. He agreeswith Sakowski – Posselt’s actions were commendable.

“He (Posselt) showed uncommon courage that day,” saidMuhammad, through a translator. “He set an example forother soldiers to follow. I think he is a hero.”

Posselt gives more credit to Sakowski for his role inthe fire fight than he gives himself for risking hislife to pull Estrella to safety.

“Sakowski accomplished many things at once in themiddle of the firefight,” said Posselt.

Sakowski called for a medical evacuation, directedfire and called in the reinforcements that arrivedwithin a minute of being called out, said Posselt.

“Sakowski made some very important decisions underfire,” said Posselt. “He stayed calm and rememberedhis training in the heat of a battle.”

Posselt also said the Marines are mourning the loss oftheir friend and fellow warrior, Estrella, but arestill focused on training the Iraqi Army to eventuallyprovide security in this region along the EuphratesRiver on their own, allowing U.S. forces to eventuallyleave for good.

“I want to bring the rest of the Marines home safely,first and foremost,” said Posselt, right after amemorial service was held for Estrella at the Marines’fortified base here. “But we also have to help get agovernment established so we do not have to come backhere 10 years down the road with the same situation wehad in 2003. We owe it to Estrella to accomplish themission he came here to complete.”

The Hawaii-based Marine battalion, also known as“America’s Battalion,” arrived in March and arescheduled to depart Iraq this fall and be replaced byanother Hawaii-based unit.

Contact Sgt. Seigle at: seiglemf@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil

PHOTO:1st Lt. Rick Posselt, a 25-year-old from CrystalRiver, Fla., was leading Marines and Iraqi soldiersthrough Haditha, Iraq, June 14, 2006, when his platoonreceived a barrage of enemy gunfire. Exposing himselfto the enemy fire, Posselt pulled a wounded Marine –Cpl. Michael Estrella – to safety during the exchangeof gunfire. On this particular patrol Marines andIraqi soldiers were searching for a suspectedinsurgent when Posselt’s platoon, part of theHawaii-based India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd MarineRegiment, came under sniper fire. Estrella, a20-year-old Marine in Posselt’s platoon, was killed inthe same incident. Capt. Andy Lynch, India Company’scommanding officer, says Posselt will be recognizedfor his brave actions on the battlefield that day. Photo by: Cpl. Antonio Rosas


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