Lt Col Todd S. Desgrosseilliers is one tough Marine and a helluva leader. Cpl. Athanasios L. Genos wrote about his Silver Star Award ceremony ifor the Marine Corps News
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Feb. 13, 2006) -- He was standing there as his battalion came to attention and the order was read, “The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to Lt. Col. Todd S. Desgrosseilliers.”
Desgrosseilliers received his award in a ceremony here Feb. 10 to recognize what he accomplished in Task Force Bruno from Dec. 12 to 23, 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq. His new battalion gathered together to honor his actions and leadership he portrayed while facing tough times where decisions were made and lives were saved.
“This was the first time and it is one of the highlights of my career and especially an honor to give it to him for his actions going above the call of duty,” Brig. Gen. Joseph J. McMenamin, 2nd Marine Division assistant division commander, explained. “Its inspiring to his men to see a leader with the experience, combat record, and someone who is not afraid to lead them into battle.”
On December 12, during Task Force Bruno, Desgrosseilliers was the officer in charge at that time. He had in between 60 and 100 Marines with him as they were following the battalion and catching anything they had overlooked.
He got word a few of his Marines had been trapped inside a building by enemy gunfire. He went directly to their aid with other Marines at his side.
“We were following the battalion clearing a few places they didn’t get to and I had a bad feeling; we then made contact with the enemy,” Desgrosseilliers stated. “I wanted to protect my Marines and kill the enemy…in that order.”
The Marines under his charge were his first priority at all times. They were the ones getting the job done and risking their life everyday to complete the mission, he said.
Desgrosseilliers instinctively grabbed the Marines around him when an enemy grenade landed near them as they were aiding the trapped Marines.
“They were throwing down grenades from the second floor at us, and I grabbed the Marines and then I was unconscious,” Desgrosseilliers explained. “We were along the outside wall and I shook it off while regrouping to go back, where we killed three or four more insurgents.”
The Marines under Desgrosseilliers continued on for little over a week. A few days before Christmas, he and his men were still fighting the insurgents of Fallujah. On Dec. 23, 2004, the battalion came under heavy gunfire from the enemy. Desgrosseilliers led his men again into battle knowing well what they needed to do.
Fighting off the enemy combatants, one of the Marines near Desgrosseilliers was injured. He exposed himself to grab the wounded Marine and drag him to safety.
The combined efforts and teamwork provided by all the Marines to close with and destroy the enemy all contributed to the overall success of the battalion.
“I still get chills down my spine when I hear something like this, it makes you truly know what it means to be a Marine,” McMenamin explained.
Jay Price of The News & Observer wrote about him as well
Maj. Todd S. Desgrosseilliers somehow did two things during the second battle of Fallujah that each would normally earn you a medal -- or a casket.
In one firefight, Desgrosseilliers stepped between a pair of insurgents' grenades and two other Marines to take the blast. Nine days later, he dashed through a stream of point-blank machine-gun fire. Not only did Desgrosseilliers live, in fact, he continued to fight both days....
Desgrosseilliers, 42, got it for his performance while leading a task force of about 100 Marines a little more than a year ago.
The task force moved behind the lead Marine units as they pushed through the city in the war's most bitter battle. It was charged mainly with finding and destroying caches of insurgent weapons but also mopping up groups of insurgents that were somehow missed or that had slipped back in.
On Dec. 12, some of his Marines were moving up the stairs of a two-story house when insurgents began shooting down at them, ; hitting one.
Desgrosseilliers ran in to help and began shooting up the stairwell at an insurgent. Immediately, he saw two small objects flying down.
"Grenades!" he shouted, and pushed two other Marines against a wall, stepping between them and the grenades.
The explosions knocked him out, and he flopped to the floor. He came to and got outside with the other Marines while the insurgents upstairs continued to shoot down and throw grenades.
When he had collected himself, Desgrosseilliers began to lead the battle again. At one point, the two groups were throwing grenades back and forth inside the house. Marines tried to get the insurgents to surrender, but they refused.
During the chaos, another grenade flew through the air near Desgrosseilliers. He tried to swat it away, but it was too far. When it blew up, a piece of shrapnel lodged behind one of his ears.
At the end of the firefight, 15 of the enemy fighters were dead.
Desgrosseilliers, a lean man with a firm grip, said Friday that the credit belonged to the men he was leading.
Many were young. Some were engineers or had administrative jobs. "They never hesitated, though," he said. "They all wanted to fight."
An observer to all of this, tank commander Capt. Robert Bodisch tells the story differently
The unit fought heroically, he said, but its commander was on a different level.
Bodisch responded to Desgrosseilliers' request for tanks on the morning of Dec. 23, 2004 -- the second day for which Desgrosseilliers received his medal. Desgrosseilliers' men had run into a large group of insurgents in a group of houses. As Bodisch rolled up, he saw dead Marines and heard a terrific amount of fire. This, he thought, was going to be bad.
The first live Marine he saw was Desgrosseilliers, who was an extraordinary sight, he said.
"It was like a movie, that was the best way to describe it," Bodisch said.
Bullets were flying in every direction, and grenades were exploding. But Desgrosseilliers was dashing around, ignoring them. The major quickly began telling him which houses to take out.
After the fighting there calmed a little, they moved about a block to another hot zone. Bodisch saw a group of Marines charge through the gate of a house and an insurgent just inside the door step forward with a machine gun and hit two of them.
The other Marines backed out and took cover, but within seconds Desgrosseilliers dashed through the gate into the line of fire. One of the men who had been shot had been hit only on one of the plates of his body armor and was stunned.
Desgrosseilliers yelled at him to get up and help, then grabbed the wounded Marine by a handle on his body armor and began dragging him toward the safety of a wall a few feet away. The other Marine grabbed the wounded man's legs and helped.
Then Desgrosseilliers ran behind Bodisch's tank, dragging one leg, which had been grazed by a bullet and hit by shrapnel.
From the modest cover, he began directing the fight again. Bodisch's tank -- itself shot up by this point -- and another ended up leveling the house.
At the end of the day, 30 insurgents were dead, along with three Marines.
"It was a long day, but somehow it seemed like it was over fast," Desgrosseilliers said.
Later Bodisch sought out Desgrosseilliers' commanding officer.
"I can't believe what I just saw," he said.
You'd think that that was enough for anyone, but Desgrosseilliers is still at it; facing danger with his Marines in the most dangerous place in Iraq: Ramadi
Desgrosseilliers and other Marines working in Anbar are reviving age-old counterinsurgency tactics that require a heavy presence in the province’s most dangerous streets and neighborhoods.