<!--:es-->Marine pulls wounded Iraqi soldier to safety in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province<!--:-->

Marine pulls wounded Iraqi soldier to safety in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province

Ryan C. Sommer insists that he was simply doing his job.

HADITHA, Iraq (Oct. 15, 2006) -Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Sommer insists that he was simply doing his job when he pulled a wounded Iraqi soldier to safety during combat operations in Haditha, Iraq, late last month.

But fellow Marines from the Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment – Sommer’s unit – and local Iraqi soldiers disagree. They say he’s a hero.According to Iraqi soldiers and Marines from 2nd Battalion’s Echo Company, Sommer’s initiative and complete disregard for his own safety when he ran though a hail of enemy gunfire saved the soldier’s life. Sommer’s actions occurred while Marines from his unit were on patrol with Iraqi soldiers in Haditha, a city of about 30,000 in western Al Anbar Province.

«It really wasn’t a big deal. I think any Marine would have done the same in my situation,» said Sommer, an infantryman and 23-year-old native of Pasco, Wash.

Sommer was conducting a patrol with Marines from 2nd Battalion’s Echo Co. and providing security for another patrol in the area when the Marines and Iraqi soldiers were attacked by insurgent gunfire, according to Sgt. Jordan P. Kramp, an advisor to the local military transition team in Haditha.

Military transition teams – «MTT» is the Marines’ acronym – are groups of Coalition service members who train and mentor Iraqi soldiers to eventually relieve Coalition forces of all security operations in Iraq. The MTT trains the Iraqi soldiers in everything from marksmanship, to staff planning, logistics and tactics – all the ins and outs of functioning as a military unit.

During the patrol, the Marines and Iraqi soldiers received four «well-aimed shots on the patrol» from an enemy sniper, according to Sommer. That’s when Ahmed, one of the Iraqi soldiers, was shot.

«After that I heard someone yelling that Ahmed was down and had been shot,» said Sommer.

While the Iraqi soldiers and Marines scrambled to take cover and engage the insurgent sniper, Sommer ran through enemy fire to aid his wounded Iraqi counterpart, said Kramp.

When Sommer got to Ahmed’s position he pulled him out of the street, and out of enemy sights, to assess and treat his wounds.

After removing Ahmed’s flack jacket, Sommer discovered that the sniper bullet was stopped by the protective plate in his body armor.

After realizing that his position was no longer safe from enemy fire, Sommer slung the wounded Iraqi over his shoulder and sprinted through enemy fire a second time to another protected area, while the rest of the Marines and Iraqi soldiers suppressed the enemy’s fire, according to Kramp.

«Sommer took it upon himself to reenter the kill zone of the sniper and bring Ahmed to safety where he could be treated for his wounds,» said Kramp, a 27-year-old from Elgin, Ill. «This was a pretty heroic thing Sommer did, and Ahmed probably wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for his actions.»

Not only did Sommer’s selfless actions affect Ahmed, but it also made an impression on the Marines of Echo Co. and the «Jundis» – Arabic for «Iraqi soldiers» – according to Capt. Matthew Tracy, Echo Co.’s commander.

«Our relationship (Marines and Iraqi soldiers) was still very new when this happened, we had only taken over operations in Haditha a week prior,» said Tracy, a 32-year-old native of Hartford, Conn.

The Marines and Iraqi soldiers have worked with each other for about a week when Sommer saved Ahmed, and both parties didn’t know each other very well, professionally and personally – «They’d practically just met,» said Tracy.

Despite cultural and language differences, the rescue was evidence that the Marines and Iraqi soldiers are on the same team fighting the same enemy, said Kramp.

«There’s no greater way to build rapport and trust than to fight side-by-side with each other,» said Tracy. «There’s a real warrior kinship between them now.»

And it didn’t take long for word of Sommer’s actions to reach the rest of the Iraqi soldiers who work side-by-side with Echo Co., according to Ahmed’s squad leader, Ali.

«When Ahmed was shot, it was a Marine who came to his side,» said Ali. «We see this as Iraqi soldiers and it means a lot. We now look at the Marines as brothers on patrol.»

Furthermore, Jundis who were questioning their service due to the inherent dangers of fighting the local insurgency and who were debating leaving the Iraqi Army for a safer way of life were almost stopped in their tracks when they heard of Sommer’s actions, according to Kramp.

«When the IA guys see this kind of action being taken, they realize that we really are brothers in arms,» said Kramp. «We are starting to see a higher level of morale and dedication with the Jundis. This was a really big deal for them.»

With the recent spike in morale among the Jundis, Kramp predicts that Iraqi soldiers working with Echo Co. will soon be conducting security patrols without the aide of Marine advisors in Haditha.

While Marines here say Iraqi soldiers are getting closer to operating independently, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq says Iraqi soldiers throughout the country are quickly progressing. Out of 112 Iraqi Army battalions, 90 have taken the lead in military operations in their areas.

In a recent a Department of Defense news briefing, Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., commander for Multi-National Forces-Iraq, told reporters that Iraqi Security Forces are in the third and final phase in development.

«The third step is you make them (Iraqi soldiers) independent, and that’s what you’ll see going on here over the better part of the next 12 months,» said Casey. «We’ve said all along that we wanted to give the Iraqis the capability to conduct independent counterinsurgency operations, and that is the program that we are currently on.»