News: 1st Sgt. receives Bronze Star for actions in Sangin District, Afghanistan
Story by Cpl. Timothy Childers
USS RUSHMORE, At Sea – Servicemembers stationed around the world make sacrifices every day for their country. Some expense time away from their families and a number risk their lives to protect their brothers in arms. It is always a special occasion when one is recognized for their actions.
First Sgt. Bradley G. Simmons took his place in front of his Marines on the flight deck of the USS Rushmore Jan. 25, and was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device for the heroic service while serving in Sangin District, Afghanistan.
During that period, Simmons was the first sergeant of Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), II Marine Expeditionary Force, in support in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Most notably, on Aug. 7, 2011, Simmons led a quick reaction force to relieve a squad of Marines pinned down after two Marines were killed in action during an ambush. The enemy dispensed effective fire from multiple positions to the north, and Simmons directed the vehicles under his command to flank the enemy.
Identifying the enemy’s position, he dismounted his vehicle and, under fire, crossed an open road to direct the vehicle’s fire upon the enemy.
While taking small arms fire, he quickly organized and led a fire team to a nearby hill to cut off the insurgent egress route and allow close air support to destroy the enemy ambush.
“I must say that my personal contributions were just a whisper in the hell storm of fighting two summers past in Sangin,” said Simmons, a Liberal, Kan., native. “Our successes should be attributed to the NCOs and Marines who put their lives in danger every day. I do not deserve any special recognition but will forever be privileged to have been a witness to such heroism. This ceremony is not for me, but for the award, the Bronze Star, and what it represents, and a tribute to those legions of warriors who have fought with valor.”
From April 11, 2011, to Oct. 13, 2011, Simmons provided expert daily assistance and support to more than 390 Marines, sailors, civilians and Afghan forces spread across six positions in the Northern Green Zone of Sangin District, Afghanistan.
He participated in more than 65 patrols, four company-level operations and engaged in direct hostile action against insurgent forces on four separate occasions.
“First Sgt. Simmons took little time in establishing his presence and it became obvious to the men that he had all of the characteristics required to be an effective leader in combat,” said Lt. Col. John J. Wiener, commanding officer, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “In addition to the learned skills, First Sergeant Simmons possessed a moral foundation that was based on commitment to his wife and family, his country and his fellow Marines. Simply put, he led by example.”
During the deployment, Company B lost eight Marines and left 52 wounded. The unit was involved in 76 direct-fire engagements, 85 improvised explosive device finds, 26 IED strikes and held 106 detainees.
“Littered with IEDs and an endless supply of enemy fighting positions carved out of thick mud walls, the fighting season commenced in May, and by June became the most kinetic battle space in Afghanistan,” said Simmons. “Nearly every day (they were) finding or initiating a hidden IED or repelling an enemy ambush with ferocity and guile. My words cannot describe the fidelity and devotion these men bore for each other as their fellow Marines and sailors were killed or received grotesque, life-changing injuries.”
Simmons is now the sergeant major of CLB-15, 15th MEU, which is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. He continues to lead his Marines with experience and dedication to duty, but never forgets those he served with while deployed with his 1/5 brothers.
“I am proud to have been part of this piece of history and will not forget the sacrifices made to deny the enemy sanctuary in Sangin,” added Simmons. “It was an honor to serve these men and an honor to walk the ground with them. This award is a testament to them.”