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Project Hero: SSG Raymond Bittinger, Silver Star
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, March 29, 2008

Meet today's hero, SSG Raymond Bittinger, an infantryman and squad leader with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. On the day of this incident he was attached to the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment.
It's that feeling in the pit of your stomach - when you know something is wrong. For Staff Sgt. Bittinger, that feeling came on April 9, 2004, as his troops approached the small town of Behriz, Iraq. Military intel and a recent attack suggested insurgents were planning actions against U.S. forces in the area. And now Bittinger and his team found themselves in what appeared to be a ghost town: not an Iraqi in sight and no security visible.

Suddenly, the men spotted movement in the palm groves; insurgents unleashed a torrent of RPG and small-arms fire. During the battle, as enemies directed their fire toward specific targets, Bittinger weaved in and out of the line of fire, protecting his comrades by drawing gunfire to his own vehicle. As they fought, Bittinger's gunner took a hit, and fell from his seat. Bittinger quickly removed his flak jacket, used it to pressure the wound, and then jumped behind the gun and kept firing.

In the heat of battle, Bittinger knew that if his men stayed where they were, they'd be sitting ducks for the better-positioned insurgents. He had his driver move their Bradley between the enemy fire and the other soldiers, allowing them to move to a better tactical location. Eventually, Bittinger and his men subdued the enemies as they left the area.

Later that night, 20 to 30 insurgents attacked Coalition forces in the heart of Baqubah. Bittinger rounded up a crew of volunteers and headed out to help. En route, Bittinger's vehicle took out insurgents who were firing RPGs and using small arms. Before arriving at the scene, Bittinger's vehicle was hit by an IED, but they continued forward. Before he reached Baqubah, Bittinger received orders to instead secure a bridge over the Diyala River. So his team took a turn and headed toward the river.

April 9th was a hard and busy day for Bittinger and his soldiers. They killed at least 10 insurgents and wounded several others at Behriz; on their route to Baqubah, they killed five and wounded an additional four. For his bravery, Bittinger received the Silver Star on July 19, 2004.
Bittinger downplayed his "hero" status:
“I consider myself a soldier, not a hero,” said Bittinger after the ceremony. “I’m an infantryman. It’s my duty; it’s my job.”
But his commander somewhat disagreed:
Lt. Col. Steven Bullimore, Task Force 1-6 commander presided over the ceremony. “As Americans, we love our heroes,” he said. “We wonder in our heart of hearts what it is that makes them. In the example of Staff Sgt. Ray Bittinger, two things stand out. First, he has always been good at what he does. Second is the simple selflessness of a true professional.”

 

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Previously featured in "Project Hero":

1LT Brian Chontosh: Navy Cross
PFC Daniel McClenney: Silver Star
PVT Dwayne Turner: Silver Star
MSG Robert Collins & SFC Danny Hall: Silver Star
SSG William Thomas Payne: Silver Star
CPT Christoper J. Bronzi: Silver Star
SSG Charles Good: Silver Star
SR AMN Jason D. Cunningham: Air Force Cross
PFC Jeremy Church: Silver Star
SGT Leigh Ann Hester: Silver Star
CSM Ron Riling: Silver Star
CPL Jason L. Dunham: Medal of Honor
PFC Joseph Perez: Navy Cross
COL James Coffman, Jr: Distinguished Service Cross
1LT Karl Gregory: Silver Star
1LT Brian Stann: Silver Star
MSG Anthony Pryor: Silver Star
TSGT John Chapman: Air Force Cross
MSG Sarun Sar: Silver Star
1LT Jeffery Lee: Silver Star
SGT James Witkowski: Silver Star
SGT Timothy Connors: Silver Star
PO2 Juan Rubio: Silver Star
SFC David Lowe: Silver Star
SGT Leandro Baptista: Silver Star
SPC Gerrit Kobes: Silver Star
SSG Anthony Viggiani: Navy Cross
LCPL Carlos Gomez-Perez: Silver Star
MSG Donald R. Hollenbaugh: Distinguished Service Cross
SGT Jarred L. Adams: Silver Star
1LT Thomas E Cogan: Silver Star
MAJ Mark E. Mitchell: Distinguished Service Cross
CPL Robert Mitchell Jr: Navy Cross
SGT David Neil Wimberg: Silver Star
CWO3 Christopher Palumbo: Silver Star
SGT Tommy Rieman: Silver Star
SCPO Britt Slabinski: Navy Cross
LT David Halderman: FDNY - 9/11/01
1LT Stephen Boada: Silver Star
1LT Neil Prakash: Silver Star
SFC Gerald Wolford: Silver Star
SSG Matthew Zedwick: Silver Star
LCPL Christopher Adlesperger: Navy Cross
SGT Joshua Szott: Silver Star
SPC Richard Ghent: Silver Star
CPL Mark Camp: Silver Star
The Veteran
CW3 Lori Hill: Distinguished Flying Cross
SGT Paul R. Smith: Medal of Honor
PFC Ross A. McGinnis: Silver Star
SGT Joseph E. Proctor: Silver Star
PFC Christopher Fernandez: Silver Star
MAJ James Gant: Silver Star
1SG John E. Mangels: Silver Star
Staff Sgt Michael Shropshire: Silver Star
Staff Sgt Stephen Achey: Silver Star
SFC Frederick Allen: Silver Star
PO2 (SEAL) Marc A. Lee: Silver Star
PFC Stephan C. Sanders, Distinguished Service Cross
CPT Joshua Glover: Silver Star
CPT Brennan Goltry: Silver Star
Cpl. Dale A. Burger: Silver Star
CPL Clinton Warrick: Silver Star
LT (SEAL) Michael P Murphy: Medal of Honor
CW4 Keith Yoakum: Distinguished Service Cross
1LT Walter Bryan Jackson: Distinguished Service Cross
SGT Rafael Peralta, USMC: nominee, Medal of Honor
SSG Timothy Nein: Distinguished Service Cross
SGT Willie Copeland III: Navy Cross
SPC Monica Lin Brown: Silver Star
1LT David Tiedeman: Silver Star

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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.
 
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