By Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Feb. 22, 2004 - In the early morning
hours of April 9, 2004, a Marine sniper and his spotter crawled on top of an
abandoned oil storage tank in Lutafiyah, Iraq. Their mission was routine, as
they covered their squad's patrol movement through the small town during the
Arbaeen pilgrimage. But it became a mission that will go down in the annals
of Marine Corps history.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert, a 25-year-old scout sniper with Headquarters
Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was recently awarded the Bronze
Star with a combat 'V' for valorous action in Iraq in April.
Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert, a 25-year-old scout sniper with Headquarters
Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was recently awarded one of the
Corps' top medals, the Bronze Star with a combat 'V' for valorous action,
for his actions that day.
During this particular mission atop the oil tank, Reichert settled himself
in a very exposed position -- though he was able to prop up a few steel
plates on some sand bags. He and his spotter occupied that position knowing
they were extremely vulnerable to enemy fire.
"I didn't really think about it at the time," said Reichert. "But when we
heard the (.50-caliber) rounds impacting the oil tank, we took what little
cover there was."
As the patrol moved toward the town, Reichert observed a dead animal located
in the patrol's path. It was then when he recalled his training in enemy
tactics, techniques and procedures for improvised explosive devices and made
radio contact to redirect the patrol. The patrol leader radioed back to
Reichert and confirmed his suspicion that two wires were leading out of the
"We encountered IEDs daily," said Reichert. "The IED that the squad came up
on was in a dead animal, and with my spotting scope I could see the slight
reflection of the wires coming out of the animal."
But despite the squad's preventive measures, a routine situation turned
treacherous. Arocket-propelled grenade was fired at the Marine patrol, and
seconds later enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire pinned them down,
according to Reichert. The Marines couldn't effectively engage the enemy
machine gunner on the rooftop of a nearby building, so they radioed to
Reichert on the oil storage tank. He took one shot and missed, then made the
proper wind and elevation calculations to make his mark. A moment and a
trigger pull later, Reichert took out the gunner.
In the after-action report, the platoon leader made a remarkable account:
that Reichert made the shot from 1,614 meters - about a mile away. His
accuracy was the deciding factor in the outcome of the firefight.
Soon after, a few insurgents began to climb a set of stairs on the backside
of the building where the firefight was taking place. Reichert aimed into
the brick wall where he thought the men were and fired. All three of the men
dropped. Reichert's armor-piercing round penetrated the wall and killed one
man -- possibly wounding the other two with bullet and brick fragmentation.
"I could see that two Marines got separated (from the platoon) and saw that
a small group of insurgents were maneuvering into position to ambush the
Marines. Once they stopped moving I shot one; the other two ran."
Reichert looks back at his mission as a learning experience - not only for
him, but also for others who follow in his footsteps. "I've learned a few
lessons in life that I think helped me along the way," said Reichert. "Never
quit, no matter how tough life can get."
(Marine Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio is a 2nd Marine Division combat