News: Super Breed Marines receive Bronze Stars
Story by Lance Cpl. Tyler Reiriz
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Three Marines from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, “the Super Breed,” received the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device during a ceremony, Aug. 8.
First Lt. Jeffrey Park, Gunnery Sgt. Jesse Saltzman and Staff Sgt. Juan Estrada were awarded the medals in recognition of their heroic actions during combat operations while deployed to Afghanistan.
All three Marines attributed their success to the courage and hard work of their fellow Marines.
“We were never by ourselves. The success we had was as a team,” said Park, platoon commander, Route Clearance Company, 1st CEB. “Individual action was imperative, but as a platoon in every situation that was kinetic or went wrong, the Marines did everything right.”
Park was leading his Marines through Ladaar Bazaar in Helmand province when they came under attack by enemy mortars and rocket propelled grenades. A fire team came under heavy enemy fire and when they sought cover an improvised explosive device partially detonated beneath their feet.
“Park unhesitatingly ran up the exposed hillside under heavy enemy fire to the team’s location and suppressed the enemy’s firing position,” according to his award citation.
Through his leadership and direction, his Marines marked the enemy positions with smoke and coordinated with artillery and close-air support to neutralize the enemy force.
Saltzman was recognized for his hard work in adjusting tactics and procedures to create a new route clearing standard operating procedure used throughout Helmand province and for his actions while leading a dismounted squad through Ladaar Bazaar.
An IED detonated and wounded several Marines in the squad, including Saltzman. Despite being injured and sustaining a concussion, Saltzman took control of the situation.
“Gunnery Sgt. Saltzman quickly organized a casualty collection point and a landing zone, refusing medical care until all casualties were evacuated,” according to the citation.
Estrada was awarded for several extraordinary actions during his time as a squad leader with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
On one occasion, Estrada witnessed a vehicle roll into a canal. He moved into action without hesitation.
“Estrada entered the water to find the turret gunner submerged and struggling for air,” his citation read. “He freed the trapped Marine and pulled him to the surface, saving his life.”
When he was sure the Marines were safe, he stayed in the icy water to retrieve weapons, radios and vital supplies from the vehicle.
“I am just the face of what my squad and my platoon did in Marjah,” Estrada said. “I am just lucky enough to represent that for them.”
Lt. Col. Andrew Niebel, battalion commander, 1st CEB, was proud to present his Marines with the medals.
“These men are my heroes,” Niebel said. “In a combat environment, they are out front leading and that is inspirational to both junior and senior Marines.”
The goal of 1st CEB is to provide mobility to the 1st Marine Division and transport Marines where they need to be safely, Niebel said. Park, Saltzman and Estrada are prime examples of the Marines of 1st CEB doing just that.
“These three Marines highlight the essence of what this battalion does,” Niebel said. “That is to get out there in front and lead the way.”