MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Split-second decisions made on urban battlefields often mean the difference between life and death. In the Marine Corps, an institution famed for war fighting excellence, this competent supervision and decisive leadership is the key to success in combat.
For Master Sgt. Joseph M. Hanks, a 42-year-old Cincinnati native, keeping oversight of thousands of troops in harm’s way and making tactical decisions to keep them safe was just another day on the job.
Hanks worked as the 2nd Marine Division operations watch chief in addition to his regular duties as the division’s nuclear, biological and chemical chief while deployed to Iraq from January 2005 through January 2006. As watch chief, Hanks assisted his command by keeping track of significant events such as indirect fire attacks from insurgents, as well as Marines engaged in firefights throughout the thousands of miles of terrain that division personnel and Iraqi Security Forces occupied in the Al Anbar province.
On April 11, Hanks was presented the nation’s fourth highest award given for valor and meritorious service during a ceremony here in recognition of his efforts in Iraq.
Brig. Gen. Joseph J. McMenamin, 2nd Marine Division’s assistant division commander, pinned a Bronze Star Medal over Hanks’ left breast pocket as dozens of friends, family and fellow Marines looked on.
“He did a lot of behind the scenes work in the COC (combat operations center) that helped in the overall command and control and coordination efforts,” McMenamin said of Hanks’ hard work. “This is a well-deserved recognition for the effort master sergeant here put into things.”
In addition to his excellent supervisory skills, Hanks developed and maintained an indirect fire tracking system that identified recurring points of origin targeting his home base of Camp Blue Diamond. This kept the frequently shelled base safer from insurgent mortar attacks and aided in the apprehension of several of these terrorists.
Hanks tracked hundreds of such significant events from the camp’s COC and ensured that they were reported to the division’s staff officers.
He did not drop his pack, even when it was time to head home. Rather, he worked with the incoming 1st Marine Division personnel during the transfer of responsibility with this Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based unit.
Despite his efforts, Hanks humbly credited his award to his junior-ranked Marines.
“Master Sgt. Hanks didn’t get this award today; it’s everybody else who worked with me,” Hanks stated.