Project Hero: 1LT Neil Prakash, Silver Star Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, September 16, 2006
Today we honor 1LT Neil Prakash of the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment. Prakash, a tank platoon leader, was born in Bangalore, India and raised in Syracuse, NY in what he described as a very patriotic household. Slated to go to medical school, Prakash had an epiphany at college which changed his mind:
An ROTC cadet at Johns Hopkins University, he planned to follow in the footsteps of his mother, father and older brother - all doctors - and attend medical school. But after attending an ROTC Branch Orientation during his senior year, he knew what he was meant to do.
“There was this colonel, he was armored cav, so he had a Stetson and spurs,” said Prakash. “He was standing on his tank and he was like ‘alright listen up you (&$(@$#^, if you want 72 tons of pure power underneath you…’ and he just went off.”
Prakash accepted a commission and found himself with the 1st ID as it deployed to Iraq, where he participated in the battle of Falujah. Below is the action for which he was awarded the Silver Star.
After spending all night and morning patrolling and setting up observation posts around the city, 1st platoon pulled in to FOB Scunion at about 10:00 a.m.
“Capt. Fowler came sprinting over, all out of wind, and says ‘Alright, the whole company is going in to Ba’qubah,’” said Prakash. “I’ve just been given the order. Ba’qubah is under siege - the police station, the CMOC - all have been attacked, so we’re going in.”
The company geared up and by 10:45 a.m., was maneuvering south into Ba’qubah with 1st platoon in the lead. They were to seize and secure a set of twin bridges and set up a blocking position to prevent the enemy from
As they advanced toward their objective, they began receiving reports of enemy activity in the city. Four-man RPG teams had been spotted on rooftops, as well as dismounted enemy infantry in alleyways. They were told to expect IED and RPG ambushes by a well-trained enemy who meant to stand and fight.
“This was the first time I even got a little bit nervous. I mean, ever, since I got here,” said Prakash. “I just got this weird feeling. Everything was silent, there was no movement. And then all of the sudden something blew up behind me.”
It took the crew about one hour to fight their way through the next one kilometer stretch of road. Official battle reports count 23 IEDs and 20-25 RPG teams in that short distance, as well as multiple machine-gun nests, and enemy dismounts armed with small arms and hand grenades.
Because enemy dismounts were attempting to throw hand grenades into the tank’s open hatches, Prakash ordered the tanks to open protected mode – bringing the hatches down, leaving them open only a crack.
As the lead vehicle, Prakash’s tank took the brunt of the attack, sustaining blasts from multiple IEDs and at least seven standard and armor piercing RPGs. The enemy fired mainly at the lead tanks, aiming for the few vulnerable spots. One round blew the navigation system completely off of the vehicle, while another well-aimed blast disabled his turret.
Although unable to rotate the turret, Prakash continued in the lead, navigating with a map and maneuvering his tank in order to continue engaging the enemy with the main weapon system and his .50 caliber machine-gun. He watched as men on rooftops sprayed down at his tank with machine-guns and small arms.
“I just remember thinking, ‘I hope these bullets don’t go in this one inch of space,’” said Prakash. “Looking out the hatch, I’m spraying guys and they’re just falling. They would just drop - no blood, no nothing. We just kept rolling, getting shot at from everywhere.”
The platoon was finally ordered to turn around and head back north in order to maintain contact with the enemy and to establish a defensive perimeter, allowing a recovery team to retrieve a downed vehicle.
Prakash took the opportunity to move his tank back to FOB Scunion for repairs and provide escort for medical evacuations. After assisting with repairs, he and his crew immediately moved back into position and requested to resume the lead.
Moving south back through the city, they encountered no resistance. Once they neared their objective, however, Prakash identified and engaged an enemy re-supply truck, destroying the vehicle and its contents.
“We blasted it with a main round from about 100 meters away. The thing just blew to shreds,” he said. “You could see the tubes from the launchers go flying in the air.”
The men encountered no further resistance as they moved to the objective, where they established a blocking position until they were relieved the following morning.
By battle’s end, the platoon was responsible for 25 confirmed destroyed enemy and an estimated 50 to 60 additional destroyed enemy personnel. Prakash was personally credited with the destruction of eight enemy strong-points, one enemy re-supply vehicle, and multiple enemy dismounts.
“He led the way,” said Alpha Company Commander Capt. Paul Fowler. “He’s a pleasure to command because he doesn’t require very much direction. He uses his own judgment and he’s simply an outstanding young lieutenant.”
MG John Batiste, commander of the 1st ID had this to say about Prakash:
“An incredible officer, his accomplishments on 24 June are clearly heroic,” said Batiste. “He sets a very high standard for every one of us. I guarantee veterans of the past are standing very tall right now.”
Some of you may know Neil Prakash from his blog (since shut down) Armor Geddon. If you don't, take the time to read through it. It is an intimate look at men in combat, the comradarie they develop and the professionalism they develop. They're bonds that last a lifetime.
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.