Project Hero: SPC Gerrit Kobes, Silver Star Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, June 10, 2006
Valor is defined as "courage and boldness, as in battle"
Today we honor SPC Gerrit Kobes, an Army National Guardsman who lived up to the definition of valor as a medic with the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq and was awarded the Silver Star.
Washington Army National Guardsmen, Spc. Gerrit Kobes, received one of the United States’ highest military awards for bravery in combat Feb. 9 during a ceremony held at Forward Operating Base Honor in Baghdad.
Kobes, of Kettle Falls, Wash. and a medical specialist assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment, was presented the Silver Star by Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, for his acts of heroism during an attack in early November last year.
“I knew we did something special that day,” Kobes said, “but I didn’t expect anything like this.”
During his deployment to Iraq, Kobes has been temporarily reassigned to a California Army National Guard unit that helps the 1st Cavalry Division’s Task Force Steel Dragon provide convoy security throughout Iraq.
On November 2, 2004, Kobes was serving as a medic with two platoons from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment, during a two-day escort mission in which troop carrying trucks were ferrying Iraqi Soldiers and equipment to Fallujah for the upcoming campaign.
On the first day of the mission their convoy was attacked with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.
“We just pushed through that,” Kobes said. “No one was injured and only one Iraqi vehicle was disabled.”
The next day however the convoy would not be so fortunate.
After rallying in the Abu Ghraib province west of Baghdad, Kobes’ convoy of nearly 60 American and Iraqi vehicles moved out.
“It was a big, long convoy,” explained Kobes. “My truck was right in the middle of it.”
As the convoy moved towards Fallujah one of the lead vehicles carrying Iraqi National Guardsmen was slammed in to by a rocket propelled grenade. The disabled truck halted the convoy making what insurgents hoped would be easy prey.
From nearby buildings and other concealed areas, insurgents opened up on the column of immobilized vehicles with two heavy machineguns, RPG’s and a hail of small arms fire.
To make the situation even more chaotic, Kobes’ vehicle couldn’t move forward to the destroyed truck with the injured soldiers.
“When we got the call that a vehicle had been hit, so we tried to drive around the ING, but they were already dismounting their trucks,” Kobes said. “They were shooting in all directions and taking cover on the side of the road in a ditch. We couldn’t move around them.”
Unable to drive to the wounded, he grabbed his aid-bag and along with his platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. John Todd, ran to their position nearly 500 meters ahead through a storm of enemy fire.
“I wasn’t really thinking about what was going on around me,” Kobes said. “I was just focusing on what I had to get done.”
When he and Todd reached the wounded they found some United States Marines were trying to secure the site. After a rapid assessment of the wounded Iraqi Soldiers, Kobes jumped into action.
“There were four wounded ING soldiers there,” Kobes said. “One was pretty bad off with arterial bleeding on his right arm from shrapnel wounds.”
As Soldiers from Bravo Company’s 4th platoon laid down suppressive fire to repel the attackers Kobes quickly applied a tourniquet to the wound and stopped the bleeding. He then began to assess the others wounds. One Iraqi Soldier had a head injury and a hole through his hand. Another’s leg was bleeding and the fourth had shrapnel wounds on his face.
“I treated the wounds,” he explained. “I put pressure dressings on the head injury and bandaged the guys arm – it was all happening pretty quick.”
The Soldier with the tourniquet appeared to be in a lot of pain so Kobes called for Spc. Haytham Ibrahim, an infantryman with Bravo Company that speaks Arabic. He had Ibrahim explain to the wounded Iraqi what he was doing and to tell him everything was going to be alright. He also had Ibrahim tell him that Kobes was going to give him morphine to ease the pain.
By this time the convoy was starting to move, Kobes once again exposed himself to fire as he loaded the wounded on to the Iraqi vehicles so they could be evacuated to the nearest aid station.
While on the ground there Kobes assessed a fifth Iraqi Soldier, the one who took the brunt of the first RPG round during the attack that disabled the truck.
“They had tried to call in a MEDEVAC for him,” Kobes aid, “but once I saw his injuries I told them to call it off – It was too late.”
Kobes and Todd then returned to their vehicle and continued on to Fallujah.
“While all the Soldiers that day fought as a team and attributed to the successful accomplishment of their mission,” said Lt. Col. Greg Schultz, the Task Force Steele Dragon commander speaking at the ceremony. “One Soldier stood out under fire in that action to save the lives of several Iraqi soldiers.”
Chiarelli added, as he looked at Kobes standing in front of Soldiers from Bravo Company after pinning the medal to his uniform, what makes his story so amazing is that it wasn’t American Soldiers Kobes went to save.
“It was coalition Soldiers – Iraqi National Guardsmen,” Chiarelli said. “Sir, you are a tremendous individual and a great hero, and I’m honored to be in your presence.”
Kobes admits that although the division commander calls him a hero he could not have done what he did that day if it was not for the support of the Soldiers of Bravo Company.
You can rest assured that SPC Kobes valor and concern for his Iraqi National Guardsmen comrades didn't go unnoticed by them. As MG Chiarelli noted, they were coalition soldiers, and Kobes responded to their need as he would to any wounded comrade's needs. Heroic, valorous and indicative of the fine Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen we have serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
PROJECT HERO is an ongoing attempt to highlight the valor of our military as they fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We constantly hear the negative and far to little of the positive and inspiring stories coming out of those countries. This is one small attempt to rectify that. If you know of a story of valor you'd like to see highlighted here (published on Saturday), please contact us. And we'd appreciate your link so we can spread the word.