AL ASAD, AL ANBAR, Iraq -- The soldiers looked out of place reporting to the Regimental Combat Team-2 commander in front of a predominately Marine formation.
But Corporal Ahmed Jalil Mani’a from Basra, Al Anbar, Iraq and Capt. Salah Ati Ne’eman from Baghdad, Iraq of the Iraqi Army have something they share with Marines. They are decorated warriors.
Both soldiers are members of the Reconnaissance Company of 7th Iraqi Battalion and were presented medals from Col. Stephen Davis for their heroic achievements during Operation River Blitz in February.
These awards were approved by LtGen Sattler, the Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force on behalf of the Secretary of the Navy. LtGen Sattler commanding the Multi-national Forces – West at the time of the actions.
Although an award for their heroic acts is not the first thing on their minds, they were happy to receive the same recognition a United States Marine would receive for serving his country.
They received the awards, written in both Arabic and English, in a ceremony outside of Regimental Combat Team-2’s combat operation center.
“I was willing to help my country any way and when I saw the opportunity I didn’t hesitate,” said the 20-year-old Mani’a. “I was really proud of my achievements as well as my award.”
During the mission, Mani’a volunteered to conduct a reconnaissance mission of the Hit Bridge, while Ne’mah volunteered to lead him and others on the mission. The bridge was a key piece of terrain and tactically important for an upcoming operation.
While gaining intelligence for multi-national forces, insurgents ambushed them. While Mani’a fought to defend others and himself, Ne’emah realized they would soon be overpowered and began leading his troops back to the multi-national forces.
Upon arrival back at the field operation base, they were able to pass on the detailed knowledge of their attackers as well as terrain information.
“We completed the mission thanks to the training we received from the Marines,” Mani’a said. “I am grateful to be receiving this award for my actions that are a direct result of that training.”
“They trusted me with the mission and I expected nothing, but to help my country in return,” said the 43-year-old Ne’emah. “I was excited to hear that I would be getting an award from the United States military. It is a great Honor.”
The reconnaissance company’s missions are dangerous and hard, but they continue fight for their country and never falter even when one of their own falls in battle.
“During that mission we lost a good man in Shaker Jabber, but he died heroically fighting for his country,” Ne’emah said. “We are proud of him, his family is proud also, and we will continue to fight for him and others who have died in our struggle for peace.”
Like many of their Marine counterparts, both Ne’emah and Mani’a enlisted to serve their country and fight terrorism.
“I am impressed by the dedication and sense of obligation by these soldiers in the Iraqi war effort,” said 31-year-old Captain Joseph P. Burke, the RCT-2 Iraqi Security Force coordinator. “The recognition of these soldiers is a small token of the Marine Corps appreciation for their sense of duty.”
“Hopefully, in the future we will continue to develop good relationships with more Iraqi armed forces and hopefully there will be more awards handed out as we continue our efforts,” said Burke a Houston, Texas native.