Featured News

Santee, Calif., Marine awarded Bronze Star medal for heroic actions in Iraq

13 Jul 2006 | Cpl. Antonio Rosas

Staff Sgt. Jeffery V. Escalderon experienced some of the fiercest fighting along the Iraqi-Syrian border city of Husaybah – against insurgents wielding machine guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades. 

The 36-year-old platoon sergeant from 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment was recently awarded the Bronze Star medal for his heroic actions during combat operations in the border city two years ago.

Escalderon, currently deployed to Iraq for a second time, was recognized in a ceremony at the Marines’ small outpost here. He helped battle terrorists in the once insurgent-infested city of about 30,000, when the battalion was deployed to this same region in western Al Anbar Province in November 2004.

“I just told my Marines every day to keep doing what they were trained to do – take the fight to the enemy,” said Escalderon.

Escalderon’s men came under numerous attacks in Husaybah on a near-daily basis during the deployment, according to the Marines here. The Marines of Company B nicknamed a certain area of the city of Husaybah, ‘mortar thirty,’ because everyday at around 4:30 p.m., they received incoming mortar fire from insurgents.

Marines who served with Escalderon on the battlefield recall him as a strong leader who led his Marines valiantly during the heavy fighting.

“Escalderon knew his Marines well and he knew what they were capable of,” said 1st Lt. John A. McClellan, Escalderon’s platoon commander in 2004. “He has a good grasp on things and that’s what makes him a good leader.”

While manning a security position with one of his four-man squads, Escalderon was attacked by a car-full of insurgents.  He responded immediately by killing two of the enemy.

“These insurgents just came at us with everything they had that day,” said one of Escalderon’s Marines, Cpl. Steven D. Porter, a rifleman with Company B.

After about an hour of heavy fighting, Escalderon’s Marines were able to repel the enemy’s assault, leaving eight terrorists dead.

Two weeks after the deadly battle, Escalderon led a squad of Marines to capture a handful of insurgents in Husaybah. The terrorists responded to the Marines’ raid with rockets, mortars and machine guns. Escalderon exposed himself numerous times to enemy fire in order to repel the attack with hand grenades, according to Porter, a 22-year-old from Alton, Ill.

“Staff Sergeant Escalderon was very aggressive and always ready to go out on patrols with his squads,” said Porter who is on his third deployment to Iraq. “I don’t know many platoon sergeants who go out as much on patrols with their Marines.”

The fighting continued throughout the day until the enemy was overwhelmed and killed.

Escalderon directed both ground forces and helicopters against the enemy during the coordinated attack.

His performance was “outstanding, and he deserves every bit of recognition,” said McClellan.

Escalderon, a father of three, said he never told his family about any of the events which led to his award.

“I haven’t told anybody about what happened in Husaybah because it’s not something to brag about,” said Escalderon. “What I did is what Marines do every day.”

When his battalion returns to the United States later this year, Escalderon plans on doing just one thing – spending time with his kids. He may take them to Disneyland.

“I miss my three boys; they’re all I think about out here,” said Escalderon. “I try to spend as much time with them at skate parks and playing the guitar when I’m back home.”

Marines in this area launched a large-scale operation in November 2005 to rid the area of insurgents and since then have maintained control of the area from terrorists.

Furthermore, the security in this border region has improved in recent months, according to local tribal sheikhs – the city has seen its police force restored after a three-year hiatus of no police in the city.

Marines have also spent the past four months mentoring and training Iraqi soldiers to become a self-sustaining force. The Marines’ progress with Iraqi Security Forces in this region has led to three Iraqi-Syrian border cities to open new police stations in the last two months. 

Nonetheless, Marines here still encounter improvised explosive devices and continue to detain insurgents in the city, proving that there is still work to be done before the battalion returns to the U.S later this year. The Marines’ work providing security will eventually shift to a more backseat role as Iraqi Security Forces prepare to take the lead in security operations by year’s end.

“The work you Marines are doing with the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police is starting to work,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas F. Marano, the battalion’s commanding officer during Escalderon’s award ceremony. “What you are doing out here is more than I can express in words.”

Escalderon is not the only Marine still serving with the battalion who was recently awarded for heroic actions during the unit’s last deployment to this region. Sgt. Jarred L. Adams, a 22-year-old scout sniper from Wasilla, Alaska, was awarded the Silver Star – the third highest U.S. military award for valor – last month for attempting to save a Marine from a burning humvee while under fire.

“I am very proud that we have Marines like Staff Sergeant Escalderon in this battalion because Marines like him are who will carry us into the next decade,” said Sgt. Maj. George W. Young, the battalion’s senior enlisted Marine. “The legacy he left behind in Baker Company is still evident in the non-commissioned officers there now.”

The battalion will be replaced by another southern California-based battalion later this year.

Email Cpl. Rosas at rosasa@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil