MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- A station explosive ordnance disposal Marine received a Bronze Star on Aug. 30 at the Sonoran Pueblo here for his actions in a firefight in Fallujah, Iraq, in December 2004.
Gunnery Sgt. Simon A. Wade, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron EOD operations chief, received the award, with a combat distinguishing device, for his bravery under fire while serving as the EOD team leader with the Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 11, 11th MEU (Special Operations Capable), out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., that resulted in the rescue of nine Marines and the death of 25 insurgents.
The day started as any other, said Wade, a native of Heber, Ariz.
“It was a nice day, it wasn’t too hot -- a normal Iraq day. We were taking care of a few things and that’s when I heard screaming from ‘Thumper’ over the radio,” said Wade.
Thumper is the call sign of 1st Lt. Alfred L. Butler IV, 81mm mortar platoon commanding officer who also received a Bronze Star for his actions during this event. “I was like ‘holy crap.’
I yelled for all the EOD technicians to mount up because the Marines were only a few hundred meters to our south. We went screaming down there and the biggest damn firefight I have ever seen was going on,” said Wade.
The crazy thing was that the insurgents were attacking from a three-story house that had been cleared by the Marines of Task Force Bruno, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the day before, said Wade. The house must have been searched by about 30 Marines, and no weapons, ordnance or bodies had been found.
Wade said his team laid down suppressive fire until all the Marines were cleared from the house and then they proceeded to unleash a barrage of fire on it.
“I saw one insurgent walking back and forth by the front door. I fired about 500 rounds from the M- 249 squad-automatic rifle in and all throughout the house … I started throwing grenades while the other EOD technicians provided me suppressive fire. I threw grenades in the front door, in the garage and in the door of the second floor. I tried to get some on the third floor, but it was just too far.”
Wade said he stopped firing for a second to make sure all the Marines were out of the house. After he stopped Wade was hit in the cheek by a ricocheted round that knocked him unconscious.
“I couldn’t see a thing out of my left eye and I was temporarily deaf, but the important thing was making sure all the Marines were out of that house and taken care of,” said Wade.
“I threw a few more grenades and then finally a tank pulled up behind me and shot a few main gun rounds in the house. After the tank did its business we backed off and bombs started dropping,” said Wade.
“There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t remember that day’s events,” he said.
There is no other mission more important in the Marine Corps than keeping fellow Marines alive and well, said Wade.
Despite receiving this prestigious honor, Wade believes he was only doing his job and attributes his success to the hard work of the Marines he deployed with.
“I put my team through some extremely difficult situations and they never hesitated to follow my orders. They knew I was putting them through serious danger and yet still followed me,” said Wade.
Wade may feel he was only doing his job, but it takes someone extraordinary to risk their life like that, said Sgt. John Fury, H&HS EOD technician and native of Davenport, Iowa.
“It’s easy for people to say they would risk their lives, but it’s hard to actually do it,” said Fury. “That’s why I wouldn’t hesitate to follow him into combat.”
Wade is a truly outstanding Marine who embodies what it means to be a staff noncommissioned officer, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael Snow, station EOD chief.
He excels at finding solutions to tough problems and making the Marines around him better.
He is a great example for other EOD Marines to learn from and emulate, said Snow, a native of Arlington Heights, Ill.
“What I did is expected of any team leader or staff NCO -- you lead from the front -- and that means not only in combat but here in Yuma as well,” said Wade. “I didn’t know those Marines real well, but it didn’t matter. They were Marines, they were my brothers.”