Marines honored for service in line of duty
Comments 1 | Recommend 0
January 12, 2009 - 6:34 PM

The Marines had just finished clearing one of the worst areas of Basra, Iraq, and were taking a vehicle to a British base to get it fixed when one of the vehicles was hit by a type of roadside bomb that includes a projectile formed in the explosion.

Five men were injured; two seriously.

Maj. Mark Slusher and now-Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Faulhaber moved quickly to get one of the most seriously injured men out of the vehicle so Faulhaber, a corpsman, could begin first aid.

The unit - of Military Transition Team 111, First Battalion, 1st Brigade, First Iraqi Army Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force - was taking small arms fire, Faulhaber remembers, so Slusher urged him to move the injured man away from the vehicle. Minutes later, the vehicle was hit again, Faulhaber said.

"I would have been a casualty as well," he said.

Slusher was honored Monday for his actions that day and throughout the month of April 2008 with a Bronze Star with Combat V. Faulhaber received the same award in November.

The two men were part of a 15-man military transition team, working with an Iraqi Army brigade during a yearlong deployment. The team had been in Iraq for seven months when they were told to go to Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, Slusher said.

During their time in the city, they were involved in 13 different engagements, Slusher said, working in a "rigorous and arduous environment."

But even when the Marine who was severely wounded during the bomb blast died, the rest of the team was ready to get back in the fight, Slusher said.

"I was truly blessed with the men I had on my team," he said, citing their "supreme level of dedication to the mission, their fellow Marines and the Iraqi people."

Brig. Gen. Juan Ayala, commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group, presented Slusher with the medal Monday. He said the men's work was "very significant in our country's history."

With the team serving as advisors, the mainly Shia Muslim force worked to clear the mainly Shia city, Ayala said.

"The reason they did it, and the reason they did it so well, was because of American advisors," Ayala said.

Throughout the deployment, Slusher regularly showed his tactical knowledge and leadership, said Lt. Col. Chuck Western, who served as brigade leader.

"He was always on the move," Western said. "Not only arranging, but engaged in the fight."

Slusher said it was an honor to be part of the team, and "pretty amazing to be part of that history."

"Success breeds success," and the team knew "the eyes of Iraq ... and of the world were on us," he said.

"I was successful because I worked with some outstanding people," he said.

Faulhaber, who also helped treat an injured Iraqi journalist on the team's first day in Basra, said the team "took care of each other while we were out there."

"I couldn't have done it without my Marines," he said.

Contact interactive content editor and military reporter Jennifer Hlad at or 910-219-8467.