Project Hero: SSG Timothy Nein, Distinguished Service Cross Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, February 23, 2008
As a Kentucky National Guard Soldier, he has become the first Guard Soldier — and only the fifth servicemember overall — to receive the coveted Distinguished Service Cross.
The Distinguished Service Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor among awards for valor in combat.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein received the medal from Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, at the National Guard Association of Kentucky's annual conference on Feb. 17, last year.
Nein originally received the Silver Star Medal for his actions as a squad leader with the 617th Military Police Company during an ambush in Iraq on March 20, 2005, but the award was upgraded, a process culminating with the presentation. You may remember the fight in which his unit, Raven 42, was engaged and in which Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester fought and became the first woman ever to receive the Silver Star for valor.
But the DSC is quite a step above the Silver Star and rewards an incredible level of heroism. It ranks up there with the Navy and Air Force Cross. So, why the upgrade of the award? For those of you who don’t remember the event, let me give you a short review. I think it will become clear afterward.
SSG Nein’s squad, Raven 42, was on a route security mission. They traveled various routes ensuring they were clear enough for convoys to move through their area. It was tough duty and during their time doing it, they’d seen 30 IED explosions and had 19 close calls. But nothing they had experienced until then would match the day they committed themselves to help a 30 truck convoy undergoing an ambush.
Nein and his squad of 3 Humvees came upon this coalition convoy (mostly Turkish trucks) being ambushed by insurgents and immediately Nein made the decision to put his squad and their 3 Humvees between the insurgents and the convoy in an attempt to draw fire away from the undefended trucks.
As you might imagine, he was quite successful. Not only did he get between the convoy and trucks, but he cut off the insurgent escape route to their vehicles. They immediately turned their attention to Nein’s squad.
"I never knew there were about 50," said Nein. "Initially, when we made the turn to flank the anti-Iraqi forces, I counted seven cars, all with four doors open, and I did the math real quick in my head, and I was like, 'That's 28 against 10.' That's 2.8 to 1 odds. That's not very good. Little did I know it was 5 to 1 odds, which is even worse."
But that didn’t stop him or his squad. His vehicle was immediately hit by an RPG and its gunner was wounded. Nein gave him first aid and got him in shape to continue fighting. He then exited his vehicle to engage the insurgents. Sgt Hester joined him while the other members of the squad supported their effort by fire.
Now remember, they don’t know they’re facing about 50 insurgents armed with RPGs and machine guns. They’ve just seen a convoy in trouble and taken it upon themselves to help out.
The ensuing firefight lasted 45 minutes.
"One time after assaulting one position, a guy was shooting down from a berm that was about 10 feet above us," Nein said, noting that he was concerned his squad would be overrun. He said he thought about destroying the squad's equipment to prevent it from falling into enemy hands, but that he instead decided the best course was to take the fight to the enemy.
Figuring the only way to break the ambush was to attack it, SSG Nein and SGT Hester entered the trenches in which the insurgents were situated and began to methodically clear them. Nein would take them under small arms attack and Hester would then throw a grenade into the area in which Nein had them pinned down.
"Once we had gotten into the position to assault the fighting positions of the bad guys, it never occurred to me we were doing anything other than our jobs," said Nein. "We had taken a couple of wounded, and at that point I knew we needed to start going into the trenches and canal systems to try and eliminate some of those guys."
They continued this method of attack, with Hester having to leave the trench under fire to resupply them both with rifle ammunition and grenades, until they had broken the back of the ambush.
In the end, the squad eliminated more than half of the force it faced, killing 27 and capturing 7 attackers. They also captured 22 AK 47s, 6 RPGs, 16 rockets, 6 machine guns, 40 grenades and a video camera. Oh, yeah, this action was on the list to be shown on jihadi recruiting sites. Instead, it’s probably used in the US Army’s training to show our soldiers how to properly deploy and attack an ambush, even against overwhelming odds. 3 Silver Stars, 3 Bronze Stars with “V” device and 2 Army Commendation Medals with “V” device were awarded to that 10 person squad for their heroics that day.
Even though nearly three years have passed since that battle, Nein said he still thinks about that day and what happened.
"Even the guys from my squad will tell you, there is not a day that goes by that it doesn't affect us in one way or another, good or bad," said Nein. "I've probably run a hundred different scenarios in my head of how we could have run it better, but I never can come up with anything."
Frankly, I don’t know how he could have done it much better, especially since every member of his squad survived that day’s action.
"With the right equipment, the right training and the right leadership, there's nothing we can't get done," Nein said. And he proved those very words on that fateful day.
As for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, Nein is quite humble about that:
"I've read the stories of so many other (recipients of the medal) during my life, from World War II and Vietnam and of all the things they've done. To be put in the same light as them is quite an honor. It's actually pretty humbling to know that people feel the way they do about me for doing things that I feel were just part of our job," Nein said after the ceremony.
An amazing leader, who, in civilian life, works for International Paper. But, as is obvious, he took his job as a National Guardsman with the utmost seriousness and he and his NCOs spent the time to train their squad to a very high level of proficiency. What is also obvious is he demanded just as much from himself as he did his squad members, and when the going got rough, he led from the front. It is leaders such as him who make our military the finest the world has ever seen. Because of his leadership, not only did his squad survive the ordeal by fire, but a couple of dozen Turkish truckdrivers and the critical supplies they were carrying did as well.
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’ve read the stories of so many other (recipients of the medal) during my life, from World War II and Vietnam and of all the things they’ve done. To be put in the same light as them is quite an honor. It’s actually pretty humbling to know that people feel the way they do about me for doing things that I feel were just part of our job," Nein said after the ceremony.
SSG.Nein’s leadership shows how we win and his comments after the award ceremony demonstrate WHY we win.