U.S. Army colonel receives Distinguished Service Cross
"BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Distinguished Service Cross – second only to the Medal of Honor in military decorations – has been awarded to U.S. Army Col. James H. Coffman Jr. for his role in leading Iraqi Special Police Commandos through a five-and-a-half hour battle against terrorists trying to overrun an Iraqi police station.
Flanked by the Commando unit Coffman fought with, U.S. Army Gen. George Casey, commander of Multi-National Forces – Iraq, pinned the cross and eagle medal on Coffman’s body armor during an Aug. 24 ceremony at Adnon Palace in Baghdad’s International Zone. Iraq’s Minister of Interior, Bayan Jabr, and a number of other high-ranking Iraqi and Coalition leaders also attended the ceremony.
“It’s humbling to me, to be in the company of heroes,” Casey said, noting Coffman’s extraordinary heroism in the battle that killed 12 Iraqi Commandos and wounded 24. “Such exemplary conduct is a great example to Iraqi Commandos and to all American Soldiers and warriors.”
Coffman, 51, is a senior adviser to Iraqi Special Police Commandos with the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq’s Civilian Police Assistance Training Team. He accompanied a Commando Quick Reaction Force with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Iraqi Special Police Commando Brigade on Nov. 14, 2004 to help a Commando platoon under attack in a Mosul, Iraq police station.
As the QRF approached the station, it was besieged with rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortar rounds. Coffman and the Commandos fought the terrorists for four hours before help arrived. When the initial firefight killed or seriously wounded all but one of the Commando officers, Coffman rallied the remaining Commandos while trying to radio for assistance, according to his award citation.
“Under heavy fire, he moved from Commando to Commando, looking each in the eye and using hand and arm signals to demonstrate what he wanted done,” the citation said.
When an enemy round shattered his left shooting hand, damaging his M4 rifle in the process, Coffman bandaged it and continued fighting with AK-47 rifles he collected from Commando casualties until each ran out of ammunition. He also passed out ammunition to the uninjured Commandos with the help of the remaining Commando officer; when all that remained were loose rounds, Coffman held magazines between his legs and loaded the rounds with his good hand.
When a second Commando unit arrived four hours after the fight began, Coffman led them to his position and continued to fight, refusing to be evacuated for treatment until the battle was over. Not long after the Commando reinforcements arrived, air support and a Stryker Brigade Quick Reaction Force were on hand to assist in the battle.
Coffman supervised the evacuation of injured Commandos and led another group of Commandos to the police station to make contact with the Iraqi Police inside. Once the additional air and ground support elements began attacking buildings the enemy forces were hiding in, Coffman went back to his initial position to check on the injured Commandos and then agreed to be evacuated for treatment. Twenty-five terrorists were killed and dozens injured.
“Col. Coffman, the blood you shed will never be forgotten,” said Jabr, the Interior Minister. “We, the forces of the [Ministry of Interior] and the [Ministry of Defense] will continue to fight until we defeat terrorism. Right will always defeat wrong.”
(Read the rest of the story @ Centcom)
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