Two Fort Lewis Soldiers Receive Silver Stars
January 31, 2008
We don’t often hear about the things that our Soldiers encounter, in their daily fight against evil in Iraq and Afghanistan. We don’t often hear about their bravery and their disregard for their personal safety to ensure that their fellow Soldiers are safe. So, each time that I hear about the courage and bravery of our Troops, I remember once again, about the selflessness, courage, bravery and sacrifice that these men and women make on a daily basis. They don’t do this for accolades, but instead because they believe in their mission and want to ensure that the Soldier standing beside them comes home. Once again, we’re reminded of the fact that these men and women are the best examples of the type of people our country produces.
The Silver Star is this country’s third highest military award for Valor. Yesterday, in a ceremony at Fort Lewis, Washington, two Soldiers were awarded the prestigious honor. SFC Ismael Iban and SSG Jon Hillard, who returned from Iraq in September, are both members of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. At the ceremony, held at 1:30pm Pacific Time at the Sheridan Gym at Fort Lewis, both Soldiers were honored for their valorious actions in combat.
SFC Iban, a platoon sergeant with 3rd Platoon, C Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment was recognized for actions that he took on February 19, 2007. That day, a suicide car bomber destroyed the Tarmiya Joint Security Station, located near Taji, Iraq. Iban and his platoon were conducting a patrol about 6 miles from the station, when they were called to provide assistance.
Iban ordered his platoon to respond. As they entered the outskirts of Tarmiya, they were attacked by small-arms fire and rocket propelled grenades, coming from alleys nearby, as well as rooftops. The Soldiers returned fire and continued on to the badly damaged Joint Security Station. As they approached, they saw that it was engulfed in flames and smoke, with a huge pile of debris from the explosion blocking the road. It was then that Iban and 4 of his Soldiers got out of their Stryker vehicle and moved on foot the 250 feet it took to get to the JSS, under constant enemy fire.
When they arrived, Iban established a command and control point, and he and his men began to prepare for medical evacuation of 21 wounded US Soldiers. The rest of the platoon, meanwhile worked diligently, while under enemy fire, to clear a path on the roadway, so that a defensive perimeter could be created.
Iban loaded the more seriously wounded Soldiers into his Stryker vehicle and began moving them to the nearest helicopter landing zone. As they arrived, they were hit by an attack, with the enemy firing 7 RPGs and multiple machine guns from the nearby woods and buildings. Iban ordered his Soldiers to set up a perimeter and engage the enemy. He meanwhile dismounted and provided additional suppressive fire, to enable 4 medivac helicopters to land. The team moved while receiving intense fire, to load 9 critically wounded Soldiers into the helicopters. These actions were repeated by Iban and his men until all 21 wounded Soldiers were safely aboard the helicopters.
â€œSFC Ibanâ€™s steadfast leadership and dauntless presence was instrumental in leading his 12-man platoon to overcome incredible odds presented by the enemy,â€ according to the narrative. â€œWith absolute decisiveness, calmness under pressure and personal courage, SFC Ibanâ€™s performance on 19 February 2007 directly contributed to saving his fellow soldiersâ€™ lives in Tarmiya, Iraq.â€
SSG Hilliard’s actions were also valorious. On March 24, 2007, while conducting clearance operations in a Baqubah neighborhood, Hilliard and his Soldiers from 3rd Platoon, B Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, were hit by a buried IED. The explosion was massive enough to catch the rear of their Stryker vehicle on fire and disable it. 7 Soldiers on board were injured.
When the explosion occurred, Hilliard, who was riding in the rear right air guard hatch, was ejected onto the top of the Stryker vehicle. He suffered multiple injuries to his left leg. Despire his injuries, Hilliard, who is a squad leader, immediately focused his attention on his Soldiers. He saw that the ramp door has been blown off in the explosion and smoke had filled the Troop compartment. The explosion that ejected him from the vehicle, also caused him to lose his weapon. As other Soldiers arrived to provide support, they came under a sustained volley of accurate and deadly machine gun fire. Hilliard saw a M204B Machine Gun that was tangled in a sniper camouflage netting nearby. He used his knife to cut the weapon free and grabbed a box of ammunition.
â€œSingle handedly, he exposed himself on top of the burning Stryker while under accurate machine gun fire for approximately three minutes while the platoon maneuvered to establish a defensive position for the [casualty evacuation],â€ according to the narrative.
As the other wounded Soldiers were evacuated, Hilliard suppressed multiple enemy machine gun positions. After a defensive perimeter was established, Hilliard got off of the Stryker vheicle and gained control of the remaining men in his squad, as well as grabbing his weapon which had been blown off the vehicle during the explosion. He then realized that the M204B he had been using was now with 1st Platoon.
He then raced across 165 feet of open terrain to retrieve the weapon, under small arms fire and and RPG. He retrieved his weapon and then turned to rejoin his platoon, when he collapsed from his injuries and was no longer able to walk. He was then medically evacuated to FOB Warhorse to receive treatment for his injuries.
â€œSSG Hilliardâ€™s bravery in the face of fire, tireless efforts and selfless service were instrumental in the successful recovery and evacuation of men, weapons and equipment, as well as the destruction of numerous [anti-Iraqi forces],â€ according to the narrative. â€œHis actions and his demeanor were truly inspirational to those present throughout these actions.â€