Sgt. Clifford Wooldridge, combat weapons instructor, Marine Corps Security Forces Regiment, Chesapeake, Va., stands at parade rest after receiving the Navy Cross Medal, May 18, at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field. He earned the medal for combat actions in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, in 2010. ORG XMIT: U.S. Marines [Via MerlinFTP Drop]
Man-to-man combat still key to military strength
Wooldridge bounded across a freshly harvested field toward the firing as a couple of his fellow Marines got down and fired at targets ahead of him. Wooldridge burst into the treeline and saw a militant emerge from a ditch and start to run.
“I shot and saw him fall,” Wooldridge says.
Wooldridge’s two teammates caught up with him. They moved quickly through the trees and stopped short when they came to the edge of a farming village with mud homes and walls. Looking down from a small hill, they saw 15 armed insurgents at the center of the village.
The startled insurgents saw the Marines and turned and raised their weapons. It was too late. The Americans opened fire. Most fell, but a handful escaped.
Marines watched as an insurgent carrying a rocket-propelled grenade emerged from a narrow alleyway in the village and stepped over the bodies of his fallen comrades. The Marines shot him.
This is what the Marines had been hoping for. They had flushed out the enemy and forced the Taliban into a close-quarters fight.
Wooldridge moved his team to another spot for a different view on the Taliban compound.
Just then he heard voices that sounded like men arguing behind a nearby wall. He peeked around the corner and was face to face with four insurgents armed with machine guns, assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Wooldridge shot two of them before they could react. He killed a third as the man was trying to escape. Out of ammunition, he tried to bluff the last insurgent by gesturing at him to drop his weapon.
The insurgent raised his gun and pointing it at Wooldridge, who was 10 feet away. Wooldridge ducked behind the mud wall to reload. Before he could put a fresh drum in his light machine gun, a barrel poked around the corner of the wall.
Wooldridge dropped his own weapon and grabbed the barrel of the machine gun. He slammed the insurgent against a wall and both men fell to the ground. Wooldridge rolled on top of the insurgent and began pummeling him.
The insurgent reached for a grenade attached to the Marine’s protective vest. If he pulled the pin, both men would die.
Wooldridge broke away and got to his feet, grabbing the insurgent’s machine gun at the same time. He aimed it at the insurgent and squeezed the trigger. It didn’t work.
With the stock of the weapon, he beat the Taliban fighter to death.
Marines arrived to find Wooldridge covered in blood, leaning over the dead insurgent.
Not done, the Marines radioed back to Madden and requested permission to pursue the enemy. Madden’s vehicles were coming under heavy and accurate fire and the Marines in the valley were stretched thin. Madden told them no, they had to return.”
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