54 Hours of Valor: female Marine awarded Combat V
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    Exclamation 54 Hours of Valor: female Marine awarded Combat V

    First Lt. Rebecca M. Turpin received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device at Combat Logistics Battalion 3’s Warriors’ Field Sept. 4, for her actions under enemy fire during the battalion’s last deployment to Afghanistan from October 2008 to May 2009.

    Although categorized as a supporting unit, CLB-3’s triumphant efforts to carry out their mission while under enemy attack provides an example of the vital role of every Marine, regardless of their Military Occupational Specialty.

    The First Hour (Daily Dose)

    First Lt. Rebecca M. Turpin woke up to her alarm at 1:30 a.m. after a couple hours of restless sleep. She was in the third month of her first deployment, and today she would be leading her second convoy as a platoon commander for Motor Transportation Company, CLB-3. She was nervous, but confident.

    For Turpin, it was just another day in theatre, and she looked forward to getting her daily dose of motivation – working with her Marines.

    The Second Hour (80 Miles To Go)

    Combat Logistics Patrol 1 departed Forward Operating Base Bastion in Southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan, at 4 a.m. for what they thought would be a standard day-long cross country movement to FOB Musa Qalah, more than 80 miles away. Regularly providing the six functions of logistics to five forward operating bases and three combat outposts, the battalion’s mission that day was to provide logistical support including supplies and maintenance to Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, as well as supplies for United Kingdom troops.

    “If our Combat Logistics Patrols did not deliver necessary supplies and services, capabilities would be severely reduced,” Turpin said. “Our missions had to be successful, especially because of the limited supplies and equipment in the [area of operation] at the time. Every Marine in the patrol knew this and they always put mission accomplishment first.”

    The Seventh Hour (Off Roading)

    The 18-vehicle convoy, consisting of Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements (MTVRs) and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) started heading north toward Wadi after exiting Route 1 (the only paved road in Afghanistan), to begin their rocky off-road journey through sand dunes, dry river beds and gravel.

    “All of the FOBs are located off Route 1, so you have to drive through the desert to reach them on open terrain,” Turpin said. “The MTVRs and MRAPs make about a foot wide track so it’s very obvious when a patrol has been through terrain. Therefore, each time we went on a mission we would take a different off-road route, because if they see tracks, [the enemy will] plant IED’s nearby.”

    Shortly after leaving the paved road, an improvised explosive device hit vehicle nine, destroying the driver side wheel.

    “Turpin immediately provided direction on immediate actions to cordon the site, sweep for secondary devices, and have the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team assess the site,” wrote Lt. Col. Michael Jernigan, commanding officer, CLB-3, in his award reccomendation. “EOD found two additional IEDs, and she directed them to exploit the IED for intelligence and then destroy them in place in order to continue with the patrol.”

    The only thing Turpin remember’s going through her mind was that she didn’t want any of her Marines getting hurt. As the convoy pushed on, Turpin continued to think ahead, planning for the patrol’s next move.

    The 15th Hour (Deja Vu)

    Eight hours later, the patrol was still pushing forward, with the rich darkness of the night limiting visibility, even with night vision goggles.

    “I’ve never used NVGs more than on that patrol,” Turpin said. “I was constantly looking around asking myself – are there people moving in that village; are we coming up on a tough crossing point?”

    Suddenly, another IED exploded, hitting vehicle one of the convoy. It destroyed the attached mine roller, littering the surrounding area with metal fragments, making it impossible to sweep for secondary IEDs.

    “Lt. Turpin directed the sweeping to the rear of the vehicle and had it reverse in its own tracks in order to remove the vehicle out of the danger area and not endanger more Marines,” Jernigan said.

    Turpin then coordinated with higher headquarters to have a new mine roller delivered via a United Kingdom helicopter support team. While Turpin ordered the immediate sweeping and clearing of a hasty helicopter landing zone, 2nd Platoon, Motor Transportation Company, CLB-3 worked together at Bastion to assemble the mine roller for external lift to the convoy.

    “The United Kingdom’s British forces were wonderful,” Turpin said. “If I could work with them again, I’d love to.”

    The 24th Hour (No Sleep ‘Til Musa Qalah)

    After the convoy received and installed the new mine roller, Turpin continued leading the mission forward, pressing on without sleep. At this point, Turpin said she realized that leading the mission was much like the Obstacle course - she knew she’d simply have to take one event on at a time.

    “Marines are the most impressive people I have ever encountered, and being given the opportunity to lead Marines and work with them, especially under the most challenging circumstances, is my motivation,” Turpin said.

    The 35th Hour (Sinking Feeling)

    Around the halfway point of the convoy’s trek, the patrol began making its way through a medium-sized village with men farming their land and children playing soccer in the streets. Shortly after entering the village, the routine movement was interrupted.

    “The men in the village began rushing the women and children into the houses and began gathering; I had a sinking feeling when I saw this,” Turpin said. “I heard my gunner yell, ‘RPG!’ and heard the RPG strike our refueler's engine block, disabling the vehicle.”

    The hit initiated a complex attack with small arms fire and several more RPG’s from multiple firing positions from covered areas in the village.

    An RPG struck the engine of Vehicle 15, the refuel MTVR, resulting in a mobility kill.

    “It’s like a huge crack that you can feel in your chest,” Turpin said of the RPG’s.

    Turpin immediately ordered return fire and directed the lead vehicles to pull back out of the kill zone, form a security perimeter around the downed vehicle and rig it for tow.

    As two of the vehicles became disabled, Turpin directed the patrol to provide cover for the Marines rigging and towing one vehicle and repairing the air compressor on the other. Only later would Turpin find out the Marines took a smashed soda can to cover the bullet hole in the compressor to create a seal, returning air to the brake lines, miraculously fixing the vehicle.

    “I was like, ‘You guys are amazing,’” Turpin said to the innovative Marines.

    As the convoy returned fire and suppressed the enemy, Turpin wrote to the Combat Operations Center at Bastion, “Troops In Contact!”

    “[Then] our Joint Tactical Air Controller coordinated our air support with Cobra helicopters and other fixed-wing air support that were redirected to our position,” Turpin said. “Our machine gunners engaged the positively identified fighting positions, and once all vehicles were able to roll, we moved out of the valley.”

    The Cobras escorted the two wreckers through the valley as they expertly traversed the terrain while pulling the MTVR’s.

    “The Marines driving the wreckers were so experienced and they made the vehicles accomplish some amazing feats,” Turpin said.

    The 37th Hour (Out Of The Valley)

    After the Marines completed repairs and tow rigging, Turpin moved to the lead vehicle for better visibility of the terrain and controlled the movement of direction in order to break contact. She directed the convoy to pull back from the village; however, the two wreckers, each pulling a downed MTVR, could not traverse the terrain. Turpin then utilized the Cobras to scout better egress routes for the wreckers. Once a route was found, she ordered the wreckers and two security vehicles to take the new course, splitting her platoon.

    “The Marines never gave up and just worked through any problem we encountered, especially those mechanical and equipment issues,” Turpin said. “The Marines are incredible at doing the most with the least, and thinking outside the box to get the job done.”

    Once half the patrol was out of the valley, suddenly the rear of the convoy was attacked with four RPGs and machine gun fire.

    “I was just thinking, ‘We have got to get these Marines out of this valley,” Turpin said. “The more that happened, the initial shock begins to wear off and you get into the zone of dealing with the problem at hand.”

    Turpin directed four separate ‘gun runs’ from the Cobras which released four 10 x 2.75-inch high explosive rockets and two-hundred 20 mm rounds of ammunition, eliminating the enemy threat located within nearby trench lines and an irrigation tunnel complex. She broke contact and again continued the CLP-1's mission.

    “While still engaged, she was able to calmly redirect the movement of the convoy to take a different direction and still give guidance to the air officer for air support,” said Gunnery Sgt. Isaac Hart, platoon sergeant, Motor Transport Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 3.

    The 54th Hour (Two And A Half Days Later)

    More than two days after its beginning, the patrol reached its destination, arriving at FOB Musa Qala at 10:30 a.m., Dec. 15. Fighting fatigue, Turpin then carried out the mission of supply distribution and maintenance as well as directed the repairs of the downed vehicles.

    Five days later, CLP-1 made its way back to Camp Bastion with no other incidents.

    “Throughout the mission, Lieutenant Turpin led by example and set the standard of calm under fire,” Jernigan wrote. “She ensured that her Marines effectively fought their way out of dangerous situations and completed her logistics resupply mission. Her efforts ensured the delivery of vital combat logistics support to FOB Musa Qalah while eliminating several enemy threats along the way.”

    Turpin said it was the Marines' actions during the two and a half day patrol which enabled mission success and ensured the safe return of all personnel.

    “No matter how long the patrol went on, how tired and hungry the Marines and corpsmen were, they did everything they were asked to do and more,” Turpin said. “They supported one another, each did their own part, and by all elements of the patrol working so fluidly and efficiently, this patrol concluded with zero casualties. I think that the success of a logistics patrol is not measured when everything goes perfectly, but by how the Marines and corpsmen react and behave when everything goes wrong.”

    Turpin humbly said receiving the medal meant her superiors saw fit to award her for doing the job she was assigned to do.

    “I am honored by the award, but feel that I was completing my assigned duties as per my billet, by directing the Marines and corpsmen that themselves completed the mission and made our deployment a success,” Turpin said.

    Since February 2003, a total of 12 female Marines have received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Combat “V.” Turpin is the seventh female company grade officer to be awarded this medal and device.

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