Project Hero: CPL Robert Mitchell Jr, Navy Cross Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, August 05, 2006
The Marine we honor today is a hero by any measure or standard and when you read his incredible story you'll understand why I say that. In the mold of other Marine Corps legends, CPL Robert Mitchell Jr lived up to the letter of the Marine Corps motto, by refusing to leave wounded fellow Marines in a life threatening situation. For that he was awarded the nation's second highest award for valor in combat: the Navy Cross. Take a moment and read about his day in "Hell House":
His desert utilities shredded by shrapnel and streaked with his own blood and that of his fellow Marines, Cpl. Robert J. Mitchell Jr. limped out of the cement block house in downtown Fallujah, Iraq, and into the annals of Marine Corps history.
The day was Nov. 13, 2004, and according to the Marine Corps’ official account of the fierce, close quarters battle, Mitchell ignored his own wounds and repeatedly braved enemy fire to administer first aid to and evacuate other Marines wounded in the fight.
Dubbed Operation Al Fajr (aka Phantom Fury), the assault on Fallujah kicked off on Nov. 8, 2004, and quickly turned into a bloody, street-by-street contest with then-Corporal Mitchell and his fellow Marines in Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, in the thick of the fighting.
Day by day, Mitchell and his squad pushed through the city, methodically clearing pockets of enemy resistance as they progressed. During an assault against an insurgent strong point on Nov. 12, Mitchell was shot through the right tricep, but ignored the wound to help destroy the fortified position, and later refused medical evacuation to remain with his squad.
The next day, an assault against a squat, cement house had gone horribly wrong and several wounded Marines lay trapped inside with several well-fortified insurgents waiting in ambush positions. Mitchell’s squad got the call to come and assist.
“When the call came, we knew we had to get them out,” said Mitchell. “That became the mission – the only mission.”
Once on the scene, the Iowa native quickly established a casualty collection point and organized his men to assault the building. Then-1st Sgt. Bradley A. Kasal, the senior enlisted Marine from another company, joined Mitchell’s squad, and together, they charged the building and took up firing positions.
The first floor of the house was littered with dead or dying insurgents, and the wounded Marines lay further inside. Other enemy fighters were in fortified positions on the roof looking down through a skylight, creating a kill zone between Mitchell and the wounded Marines.
Covered by suppressive fire, Mitchell raced through the kill zone toward the wounded Marines as the rooftop insurgents showered the room below with rifle fire and grenades. Shrapnel from one of the grenades peppered the back of Mitchell’s legs, but he made it to the stranded, wounded Marines.
“It was great to see him come in,” said Cpl. Jose Sanchez, an infantryman from Houston, Texas. “Until he got there I was switching between treating Carlisle [Lance Cpl. Cory] and providing security. When Corporal Mitchell came in, he took over the medical treatment and I could focus on firing at the insurgents.”
A trained combat lifesaver, Mitchell went to work on Carlisle’s bullet-mangled leg. With his medical supplies running out, he once again orchestrated suppression of the insurgents on the roof to allow a corpsman and another Marine to sprint through the kill zone.
By this time, both Kasal and another Marine, Pfc. Class Alex Nicoll, had been seriously wounded by rifle fire and grenades, and were holed up inside a small room across the kill zone Mitchell had crossed only moments before.
Leaving the wounded Marines in the care of the corpsman, Mitchell once again braved the kill zone, and like before, the insurgents sprayed the short, treacherous path with bullets and grenades. One bullet smashed into Mitchell’s M-16A4 assault rifle, shattering the weapon before ricocheting down and into his right leg. More shrapnel slashed Mitchell’s legs and face, yet he remained on his feet and made it to Kasal and Nicoll, who was Mitchell’s former roommate and longtime friend.
Bleeding profusely, but apparently unmindful of his wounds, Mitchell began treating the others, applying bandages and direct pressure in an attempt to staunch the wounded Marines’ blood loss. In the midst of his life-saving efforts, Mitchell scanned the room and saw a wounded insurgent, shot earlier by Kasal, make a move for a weapon laying nearby.
Mitchell quickly drew his combat knife and lunged forward, driving the weapon into the insurgent, eliminating the threat for good before turning his attention back to Kasal and Nicoll. With Marines scattered throughout the small house and the insurgents still firmly entrenched on the roof and a nearby stairwell denying access to any additional forces, the situation was quickly deteriorating.
Through a small, barred window in the room, Mitchell explained to Marines outside the layout of the house and where Marines were located throughout the structure. With this information, the Marines were able to suppress the insurgents on the roof via firing positions on adjacent structures, and one-by-one, extract the wounded Marines from the building which has since been dubbed the “House of Hell.”
The photograph of a bloody Kasal, now a sergeant major and himself a Navy Cross recipient, being helped from the house by two Marines is one of the more resonant images of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Despite his own severe wounds, Mitchell was among the last to leave the house, and did so assisting another wounded Marine. Demolition charges were quickly flung into the house, and the resulting explosion caused the building to collapse, killing the diehard insurgents.
While other casualties from the short, yet intense, fight were loaded onto vehicles and driven to a nearby aid station, Mitchell gathered the remnants of his squad and led them back to the Kilo Company headquarters where he finally received treatment for his wounds.
The is presented to Robert J. Mitchell, Jr., Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as Squad Leader, Company K, 3d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 13 November 2004. During a ferocious firefight with six insurgents fighting inside a heavily fortified house, Corporal Mitchell courageously attacked the enemy strongpoint to rescue five wounded Marines trapped inside the house. Locating the enemy positions and completely disregarding his own safety, he gallantly charged through enemy AK-47 fire and hand grenades, in order to assist a critically wounded Marine in an isolated room. Ignoring his own wounds, he began the immediate first aid treatment of the Marine's severely wounded leg. Assessing that the Marine needed immediate intravenous fluids to survive, he suppressed the enemy, enabling a Corpsman to cross the impact zone. Once the Corpsman arrived, he moved to the next room to assist other casualties. While running across the impact zone a second time, he was hit in the left leg with a ricochet off of his weapon and with grenade shrapnel to the legs and face. While applying first aid, he noticed a wounded insurgent reach for his weapon. With his rifle inoperable, he drew his combat knife, stabbed the insurgent, and eliminated him instantly. Demonstrating great presence of mind, he then coordinated the casualties' evacuation. Limping from his own wounds, Corporal Mitchell assisted in the evacuation of the last casualty through the impact zone under enemy fire, ultimately saving the lives of multiple Marines. By his bold leadership, wise judgment, and complete dedication to duty, Corporal Mitchell reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
An amazing story about an amazing young man. We need to remember young men like CPL Mitchell each time we look at the future generation and wonder if they have the stuff to step up and take over when their time comes. They do. And they're proving it every day 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.
I used to know a Robert J. Mitchell Jr. and wondered if they could be the same. The gentleman I knew was from North Carolina and was also involved with Law. If there is any connection-please link me to him so we may see if we know one another. Thank you.