Bronze Star awarded to Yuma Marine

February 8, 2008 - 10:34PM

The leader of Yuma's explosive ordnance disposal unit at the Marine Corps Air Station has received a Bronze Star medal with combat "V" for heroic achievement during a 2006 deployment to Iraq.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Charles Whitlock received the medal on Feb. 1 for his actions with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274's EOD.

Multiple actions in 2006 led to Whitlock being awarded the nation's fourth-highest combat award with an attached "V" denoting valor:

- On April 9, Whitlock placed a disposal charge on an armed rocket that landed in a taxiway at Al Asad airbase.

- On May 16, Whitlock held a live 40 mm grenade to his body, shielding nearby Marines while he removed it from the area.

- June 23, Whitlock disarmed two improvised explosive devices along a convoy route.

During his deployment, Whitlock led his team on more than 220 ordnance disposal missions, responses to 30 reports of improvised explosive devises and 24 route clearance missions spanning 3,000 miles.

After receiving his award in a ceremony at MCAS attended by fellow Marines, Whitlock, 45, put others before him once again during his speech.

"Several others received this award through their families because they didn't make it back. I'd like to take a moment and think about those people," said Whitlock, a Gladewater, Texas, native.

"This award is not about me. Not one single officer in the Marine Corps can be anything without his Marines," he added.

Col. Ben Hancock, the MCAS commanding officer, praised Whitlock and his team.

"I am very proud of the Gunner. It takes a special breed of Marine to take such a dangerous job. All you EOD Marines are worth your weight in gold," said Hancock.

Not all of the Marines who serve under Whitlock could be present for the ceremony. At that moment, EOD Marines were called in to Yuma to help Yuma police and the Yuma County Sheriff's Office bomb disposal team respond to a report of a grenade being discovered near a Yuma apartment complex. The grenade turned out to be an inert practice model.


Lance Cpl. Gregory Aalto writes for The Desert Warrior, the Marine Corps Air Station newspaper, from which this story is reprinted.