Chronologically, the next Medal of Honor went to Jason L. Dunham, Cpl. USMC. Action: 14 April 04. Cpl. Dunham took the uttermost action that he could have.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Rifle Squad Leader, 4th Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines (Reinforced), Regimental Combat Team 7, First Marine Division (Reinforced), on 14 April 2004.
Why was an E-4 operating as a rifle squad leader, which is an E-6 billet? This lack of mid-level NCO's suggests a seriously degraded unit, never a positive indicator of a unit's leadership environment.
E-4's are not trained to effectively lead a squad, especially not in brutal close-combat environments.
Corporal Dunham led his Combined Anti-Armor Team towards the engagement to provide fire support to their Battalion Commander's convoy, which had been ambushed as it was traveling to Camp Husaybah. As Corporal Dunham and his Marines advanced, they quickly began to receive enemy fire. Corporal Dunham ordered his squad to dismount their vehicles and led one of his fire teams on foot several blocks south of the ambushed convoy.
This scenario indicates that these friendly units were operating independently and out of mutually supporting distances. It is unusual for an element led by an E-4 to be required or expected to move to an ambush site to support a Battalion Commander. Usually it is the other way around. Why the reversal?
As they approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Corporal Dunham.
Approaching a potentially hostile vehicle is foolhardy, unless the vehicles are covered by automatic weapons ready to apply suppressive fires. Obviously this didn't happen, which indicates the squad was overtaxed and over-committed, or under-trained.
Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Corporal Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the explosion and shielding his Marines from the blast.
Why was indirect fire not used to seal off the area of engagement, or to support elements in distress? This incredible act of selfless bravery is undeniable. But why are we putting our personnel in such situations?
Corporal Dunham was investigating an attack on a Marine convoy. His patrol intercepted a number of cars spotted near the scene of the attack when an individual in one of the vehicles attacked Dunham. Haven't COIN commanders learned yet about secondary ambushes?
Placing our personnel in such close quarter danger is beneficial only to our adversaries, and negates all of our sophisticated weapons technology. Cpl. Dunham was placed in a hopeless situation that required a superhuman response in order for the team to survive.
Placing fighting men in such a position is not leadership -- it is foolhardy bravado.
Next: Michael P. Murphy