CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Three Marines formerly with the 1st Iraqi Army Division Military Transition Team, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), were awarded Bronze Star medals during a ceremony held aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 21.
The awards were presented by Brig. Gen. Juan G. Ayala, the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, for their actions while deployed to Iraq from Sept. 20, 2008 to Sept. 19, 2009.
During this time, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chad E. Bacastow acted as the ordnance advisor and assistant logistics officer for the MiTT; Capt. Edward H. Miller served as the logistics advisor; and Gunnery Sgt. Eric L. Darmstadt served as the logistics chief.
The transition team supported Iraqi Army and Coalition operations in multiple regions of Iraq to include Diyala, Al Anbar and Ninewa provinces.
The three Marines received their awards for outstanding job performance in their individual billets, but they also stood out in their own way.
Bacastow’s award highlighted an event where he was one of the first quick reaction force responders to a suicide bombing in the city of Jalulah in Diyala Province. The bombing, which occurred in a market place, resulted in seven deaths and three wounded, to include some members of Iraqi Security Forces.
Bacastow worked together with other quick reaction force responders to provide security and stabilize the city.
The 28-year warrant officer said he was humbled by this award, and owes partial credit to the ones who served alongside him.
“When a Marine receives a personal award, he or she does so from the collective efforts and sacrifices of the Marines in the unit which they serve,” he said. “There is no way that the endeavors listed in my Bronze Star citation would be possible without the shared contributions of the MiTT that I was a part of.”
The other two Marines, Miller and Darmstadt, were on a convoy together when their own truck was struck by a mine. The two Marines, along with other members of their team, stood security for 26 hours, until the damaged vehicle was recovered.
Darmstadt did this despite a level three concussion (loss of consciousness) he received from the blast.
In addition to these key points, the Marines, along with the rest of their team, coached and mentored the Iraqi soldiers of 1st Iraqi Army Division so that they were able to maintain stability when U.S. Forces departed the country.
“The MiTT experience was, as Brig. Gen. Ayala alluded to during the awards ceremony, something difficult to explain unless you served on one,” Bacastow said. “Every member of our team experienced that 12 months differently in their own way, but for me, I enjoyed being a part of a unit where each Marine on the team has a very significant impact on the mission.”
After spending an entire year with the Iraqi Army, the Marines not only increased the knowledge of the Iraqi soldiers, but learned a lot about the Iraqi culture as well.
“I learned a tremendous amount from my teammates, but I learned the most from the Iraqis,” Darmstadt said. “The 13 Marines on our team got to live on a base with the 1st Iraqi Army Division, and were able to interact with them a lot more than the average Marine or soldier [would during a deployment]. The future of Al Anbar is in the hands of the Iraqis now. The Iraqis are ready to take the lead and maintain Al Anbar because of the MiTTs that [advised them].”