Sgt. Earns Distinguished Service Cross For Saving Comrade
December 26, 2007
Once again, our Troops show us why they’re so extraordinary, why they’re the best of the best. They conduct their jobs everyday, without complaint, yet when rewarded, they modestly comment that they were just doing their job. They perform acts of bravery, in situations that many of their fellow Americans would run from. Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of those Soldiers, Sgt. Gregory Williams.
A Stryker Sgt, with HHC 1/5 Infantry, 1st SBCT, 25th Infantry Division, Sgt. Gregory Williams,
was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor from Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey Jr. in a ceremony at Fort Wainwright on December 12. His actions during an ambush in Iraq and the battle that took place after the ambush, saved the life of his lieutenant from burning to death in a smoldering Stryker. Sgt. Williams was injured himself, but had the presence of mind to provide suppressive fire with a 50 calibre weapon.
“When I want to talk about the quality of the force, I talk about Sgt. Williams,” said General Casey. “Soldiers like Sgt. Williams are the heart and soul of the Army.”
The incident, which Williams’ actions earned him this award, took place on October 30, 2006, in the Huriyah neighborhood of Baghdad. The Stryker, that Williams was an occupant in, was struck by shaped charges. Those charges sent molten fire through the hull of the vehicle. As the Stryker and it’s occupants caught fire, the enemy attacked with fury, unleashing an ambush of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and AK-47 rounds. While the vehicle was still moving, Soldiers began dismounting from the back ramp, taking cover and returning fire.
“It was like someone took a can opener and peeled it (the Stryker) open,” Sgt. Williams said.
Immediately after the blast, Sgt. Williams was unconscious for a few seconds. As he regained consciousness, he began putting the flames out that were licking at his and other Soldiers clothings as well as in the surroundings, prior to grabbing a first aid bag and beginning to treat his wounded comrades. As enemy fire continued to whiz around them, he realized that the Soldiers needed suppressive fire. He returned fire with his M4 carbine, expending 120 rounds or 4 magazines of ammunition.
As he was providing suppressive fire, he saw that his platoon leader, 1Lt Aaron Willard was still inside the smoldering Stryker. His legs were burned, as well as lacerated from the shrapnel. 1Lt Willard had expended his third magazine from his weapon, when he began to pass out, from loss of blood.
“My ears started ringing and I started to see a white light in front of my eyes,” 1Lt Willard said. “Sgt Williams grabbed me and threw me towards the back of the vehicle.”
The next thing that Willard remembers is waking up on the ramp of the Stryker as the medic was treating his wounds. Spc Matthew Driscoll, a gunner in HHC, 1/5, who was one of the Soldiers who were trapped by the enemy fire, remembers that Sgt. Williams established fire superiority.
“We didn’t have any cover because we were taking fire from our 12 o’clock,” Spc. Driscoll said. “So Sgt. Williams jumped into the .50 caliber M2 machine gun spot and started unloading.”
Sgt. Williams observed the enemy’s position when a rifle rounds went past his head, slamming into the hatch. He then unleashed around 100 rounds into the enemy’s position. As two more rounds struck nearby, he fired another 200 rounds into enemy positions before the .50 caliber jammed. It was at that point that B Company, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 172nd SBCT arrived to provide security.
“That (gt. Williams’)supressive fire was the turning point of the firefight,” Lt. Willard said.
Sgt. Williams didn’t stop providing supressive fire, until a medic pulled him down to assess his injuries. It was then that he realized he couldn’t hear anything and that he felt as if everything around him was spinning. Sgt. Williams also sustained minor burns. He had two punctured eardrums that would require surgery.
1Lt Willard is now a captain at the Warrior Transition unit, credits Sgt. Williams as the person, who in the confusion of the moment, had enough of his wits about him to realize he needed to get on the .50 Caliber and provide suppressive fire.
“I think it was a great honor to receive this award. I’m very proud to receive it,” Sgt. Williams said. “But I was just doing my job and what I was trained to do.”