|In the face of danger, the mark of a great warrior is he who values his country above his own safety. Caught in a kill-zone with no clear exit or relief, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh chose to meet numerous threats head-on, willing to risk his life in order to save his Marines.|
Operation Iraqi Freedom I was underway, and U.S. troops were pushing hard toward the heart of Iraq. On March 25, 2003, Chontosh was leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah when suddenly, his unit was attacked. They had fallen into a well-laid ambush – enemy fighters had surrounded the Marines and quickly began directing mortar, RPG, and gunfire toward the trapped platoon. With enemy fire raining down on their position and Coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, there was no exit.
Chontosh realized the only way out of the trap was to meet the enemies head-on. He ordered his driver to advance directly on the location of an entrenched enemy machine gun. The Iraqis, seeing Chontosh’s bold move, began firing at him in earnest. With bullets flying past, Chontosh and his driver continued toward their target. Firing as they approached, Chontosh’s deadly accuracy with his .50 calibar machine gun silenced the enemy’s weapon.
Chontosh scanned the area, seeing where the biggest threat lay. He saw a group of enemies firing from a trench, and shouted to his driver to move that way. As they approached, Chontosh leapt from the vehicle and single-handedly began clearing the trench using his M-16 rifle and 9mm pistol. He continued advancing, even when his ammunition began to run low. Instead of returning for more ammo or calling for help, Chontosh used anything he could find – enemy rifles, RPG launchers, grenades – to continue his ferocious attack.
When the battle finished, Chontosh had cleared more than 200 meters of enemy trench, killing some 20 insurgents and wounding several others.
For his leadership and actions, Chontosh was awarded the Navy Cross on May 6, 2004.