Army Sgt. David Gerardi, a former reconnaissance Marine, will receive the Silver Star on Dec. 10 for heroic actions during a 2011 deployment with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion out of Okinawa. Then a corporal, he is credited with breaking an ambush that proved to be the most harrowing engagement of the unit's deployment. (COURTESY OF DAVID GERARDI)
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A former Marine reconnaissance man is set to receive the Silver Star on Dec. 10 for fending off an ambush and saving his platoon despite sustained machine gun, automatic grenade and rocket-propelled grenade fire during a five-hour fight.
On June 6, 2011, then-Cpl. David M. Gerardi, now a sergeant with the Army National Guard's 19 Special Forces Group, was on patrol with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, in the Upper Sangin Valley of Helmand province, Afghanistan. While collecting biometric data on area residents, enemy fighters fired on his position. It would quickly become the "largest, most contested tactical action of the deployment," according to a summary of action.
Gerardi maneuvered to identify enemy positions and saw movement in nearby compounds, indicating a pending attack. His Team 2 provided overwatch for Team 1 to move on the compound. Suddenly, the firefight exploded with a crescendo of medium machine gun and small-arms fire, pinning Team 1 in a canal — outmanned, outgunned and in serious trouble. With the enemy less than 100 meters away, the team could not return fire or recover an injured Afghan soldier.
"All those guys I knew almost my entire Marine Corps career. Some I knew since Infantry Training Battalion and basic recon course. Those guys are brothers to me. You just don't want to give up on anyone," Gerardi told Marine Corps Times.
He "ran forward directly towards Team 1 … to relieve pressure on the point element," his summary of action reads.
He took cover behind a mud wall, coming under "extremely accurate fire" from a compound less than 40 meters east that included RPG, medium and heavy machine gun, and 30mm grenade fire from a belt-fed, Russian-made AGS-17.
Gerardi left his position for a 2˝-foot wall, making him more vulnerable but better able to engage the enemy.
"Despite rounds cracking literally within inches of his head, he quickly and calmly acquired the enemy fighter firing through a hole in a compound wall. He calmly and skillfully placed three rounds of precision fire into the hole with his M110 [Semi-automatic Sniper System] killing the enemy machine gunner," the summary reads.
Team 1 used the lull to recover the injured Afghan soldier.
Gerardi continued suppressing enemy fire so a joint terminal attack controller could call for fire. Meanwhile, high explosive rounds peppered Team 1 with debris.
In a final push to free them, Gerardi left cover again and fired an M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon, destroying two enemy "murder holes" in a compound wall, which allowed Team 1 to maneuver in the canal, return fire and better treat the wounded Afghan soldier.
When another of 3rd Recon's elements came under fire, he identified an enemy in a tree line and killed him with one round from his M110 SASS. Soon after, friendly pilots delivered a 500-pound guided bomb just 40 meters from his position, and two more artillery rockets landed within 90 meters.
The unit finally retreated under cover of darkness.
"In short, Corporal Gerardi was singularly responsible for the actions … which allowed Bravo Company to break the decisive engagement of 1st Platoon."
Gerardi will receive the award at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh.