Kentucky Guard Soldier Receives Distinguished Service Cross

By Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy, USA
American Forces Press Service

LEXINGTON, Ky., Feb. 21, 2007 - A Kentucky Army National Guardsman has become the first Guard soldier -- and only the fifth servicemember overall -- to receive the Distinguished Service Cross.

The Distinguished Service Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor among awards for valor in battle. Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein received the medal from Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, at the National Guard Association of Kentucky's annual conference here Feb. 17.

Nein originally received the Silver Star Medal for his actions as a squad leader with the 617th Military Police Company during an ambush in Iraq on March 20, 2005, but the award was upgraded, a process culminating with the presentation.

Nein's squad was escorting a convoy of supply trucks near the town of Salman Pak, south of Baghdad, when the convoy came under heavy fire. Without hesitation, Nein and his squad put themselves and their vehicles between the insurgents and the convoy. Nein and Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, the first woman awarded the Silver Star for direct combat action against an enemy, dismounted from their armored Humvees and led the counterattack against the ambush, killing 27 insurgents and capturing seven more. Two soldiers in the squad were wounded during the engagement, which lasted roughly 30 minutes.

Nein was humble about receiving the award.

"I've read the stories of so many other (recipients of the medal) during my life, from World War II and Vietnam and of all the things they've done. To be put in the same light as them is quite an honor. It's actually pretty humbling to know that people feel the way they do about me for doing things that I feel were just part of our job," Nein said after the ceremony.

Nein said that day in Iraq was all about doing his job.

"Once we had gotten into the position to assault the fighting positions of the bad guys, it never occurred to me we were doing anything other than our jobs," said Nein. "We had taken a couple of wounded, and at that point I knew we needed to start going into the trenches and canal systems to try and eliminate some of those guys."

Nein and his 10-member squad had no idea of the numbers they were facing during the assault.

"I never knew there were about 50," said Nein. "Initially, when we made the turn to flank the anti-Iraqi forces, I counted seven cars, all with four doors open, and I did the math real quick in my head, and I was like, 'That's 28 against 10.' That's 2.8 to 1 odds. That's not very good. Little did I know it was 5 to 1 odds, which is even worse."

Those odds worked against Nein and his soldiers for a brief period of time.

"One time after assaulting one position, a guy was shooting down from a berm that was about 10 feet above us," Nein said, noting that he was concerned his squad would be overrun. He said he thought about destroying the squad's equipment to prevent it from falling into enemy hands, but that he instead decided the best course was to take the fight to the enemy.

In the end, the squad eliminated more than half of the force it faced and captured seven attackers. Even though nearly two years has passed since that battle, Nein said he still thinks about that day and what happened.

"Even the guys from my squad will tell you, there is not a day that goes by that it doesn't affect us in one way or another, good or bad," said Nein. "I've probably run a hundred different scenarios in my head of how we could have run it better, but I never can come up with anything."

That is to be expected, he said.

"With the right equipment, the right training and the right leadership, there's nothing we can't get done," Nein said.

(Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)

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