USMC Gunnery Sgt.
Brian M. Blonder was awarded the Navy Cross, the
second highest award given for valor in the face
of danger, during a ceremony at the Marine Corps
War Memorial in Arlington, Va., May 10, 2011.
ARLINGTON, VA (MCN - 5/13/2011)
— Gunnery Sgt. Brian M. Blonder shot and killed
an insurgent who was aiming a rocket-propelled
grenade at his Marines. After that, Blonder and
his Marines averaged killing one insurgent about
every 10 minutes.
At the end of an
all-day fight, more than 50 Taliban were dead,
scores were retreating, and the Marines took
control of a key supply route through the
village of Shewan, Afghanistan.
said it was what he came to do, and it’s what
Marines do best – kill the enemy. And his unit
did that exceptionally well that even though the
Taliban outnumbered the Marines roughly eight to
For thriving in the face of danger,
Blonder, a native of Deer Beach, Fla., was
awarded the Navy Cross during a ceremony at the
Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., May
10. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presented
the award and said
Blonder is “one of the most selfless and
disciplined Marines” he’s ever met.
“He’ll be remembered for this for generations,”
Mabus said. “His attack was relentless. The
insurgents grew afraid.”
to Afghanistan in the summer of 2008 with 2nd
Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. As a
reconnaissance Marine by trade, he was serving
as platoon sergeant for Force Reconnaissance
Platoon, a group of 30 Marines, who were
attached to the battalion’s Company G.
The firefight began when Marines and Afghan
National Police were patrolling in Shewan,
Afghanistan, a desert village in southern
Afghanistan closer to the Iranian border, late
morning Aug. 8, 2008. Blonder and Force Recon
Platoon, along with an equal-sized element from
Company G, were patrolling the village streets,
anticipating enemy activity. Blonder and his
Marines entered the village from its eastern
border, while the Company G Marines entered from
Taliban insurgents had control
of the village and were known to man fighting
positions along Route 517, a major roadway in
Blonder said Afghan
National Police had previously reported heavy
resistance from insurgents in the village, to
include many roadside bombs on Route 517. The
Marines’ mission was to gain control of the
roadway, rid the village of Taliban, and help
the Afghan police establish a presence in the
The Marines planned weeks in
advance for a sure fight when they stepped foot
into Shewan. Blonder wasn’t surprised when he
saw the inhabitants had either left or stayed
inside their homes.
“It’s standard when
Marines or coalition forces enter towns with
insurgents that the local populace don’t come
out,” Blonder said.
Force Recon Platoon
patrolled for three hours before the first shot
was fired. Taliban fighters, who were hidden in
a drainage trench, fired an RPG at Blonder and
his crew. Chief Petty Officer Joe Martin, the
platoon’s Navy corpsman, spotted the enemy
through the smoke trail of the RPG.
Blonder and Martin dropped into the trench,
which the three-man enemy RPG team used as a
getaway path, and pursued the attackers.
“At one point, one of them kind of popped up and
silhouetted himself. So, I shot that guy and
killed him. The other two continued on down the
trench line,” Blonder said.
Marines with 1st
Reconnaissance Battalion joined USMC Gunnery
Sgt. Brian M. Blonder at the Marine Corps War
Memorial in Arlington, Va., May 10, 2011, when
he was awarded the Navy Cross.
A four-man team of Marines,
lead by Gunnery Sgt. Garrett Dean, supported the
pursuit by flanking the enemy’s escape.
The pursuit ended in minutes when the two
insurgents where killed by Dean’s team.
When intense small arms fire and explosions
erupted nearby, Blonder and his men moved to the
sound of the fight. Taliban had ambushed the
Company G Marines and were in multiple fortified
fighting positions firing a barrage of RPGs.
Blonder’s team rescued a destroyed humvee’s
occupants and withdrew to a safe area away from
Blonder repositioned his outnumbered Marines, and in
direct, close combat, maneuvered against the enemy.
Through Blonder’s order, the aggressiveness of the Marines,
and their leaders’ selfless actions and initiative, a unit
of approximately 30 Marines ousted a force of an estimated
250 Taliban combatants – some intelligence reports claimed
there were as many as 500 insurgents. Blonder’s planned
flanking attacks slowly but surely gained more and more
territory that was once occupied by Taliban insurgents
earlier in the day.
The Marines’ assault was also
bolstered by mortar and air support. Several 500 to
1,000-pound bombs were dropped on enemy positions.
“Our goal was to push the enemy out of their trenches,” said
Blonder. “We kept pressing the attack until we did just
More than 50 insurgents were confirmed dead
and numerous more were wounded, while the Marines suffered
no losses. Blonder was personally responsible for killing at
least three that day.
Fighting ceased by sunset when
the enemy had either fled or were killed.
said he was happy to be victorious.
“When it was all
over with, and I was standing on the battlefield and the
enemy was gone, I had a great sense of pride and
accomplishment,” Blonder said. “When you’re not standing on
the ground of the enemy at the end of the day, the enemy
won. Instead, we took the stand, we drove the enemy out of
their homes, and then we left on our own terms when we were
Many Marines who participated in the
battle were awarded with medals for valor.
inflict that number of casualties on the enemy and none of
us were killed, that’s a pretty successful fight,” said
Martin. “The more chaotic things got, the more calm and on
point [Blonder] was. I don’t think I’ll ever have another
platoon sergeant like Gunny Blonder.”
of seizing control of Shewan’s portion of Route 517 and
ridding insurgents from the village was accomplished. In
fact, Blonder said he hadn’t heard of Marines or coalition
forces receiving any more casualties in that area from
insurgents during the rest of the deployment. The victory
disrupted several Taliban unit networks, which Blonder said
crippled Taliban spirits in southern Afghanistan.
“Our number one job is to locate, close with and kill the
enemy,” said Dean. “What we did that day is what we trained
for, and that’s what we’ll always do.”
remembers the triumphant and tiring day vividly. From the
rifle fire Sgt. Frank Simmons bestowed upon the enemy,
killing “countless” insurgents with single shots to the head
or chest, to the accurate sniper fire of Staff Sgt. Richard
Powell, Blonder said he’ll wear the Navy Cross as a
representation of the Marines he fought alongside that day.
“It was a busy day,” Blonder said. “Every Marine out
there was a huge part of that fight. From the NCO
(noncommissioned officer) leadership all the way up to the
officer leadership – everyone contributed all they had to
USMC Gunnery Sgt.
Brian M. Blonder being awarded the Navy Cross with
comments by him. U.S. Marine Corps video by Cpl.
USMC Sgt. Michael S. Cifuentes
Headquarters Marine Corps