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Marine Corps names top infantry captain

Benjamin Middendorf wins coveted Leftwich Trophy

Apr. 23, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
2/5 Marines search suspicious compounds in Musa Qa
Marines with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, patrol through Musa Qala district, Afghanistan, on April 17, 2012. During Operation Lariat, Marines engaged in multiple firefights with insurgents before searching suspicious compounds. (Cpl. Kenneth Jasik/Marine Corps)
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Reiko Kikuta shows Capt. Ben Middendorf a scrap book photo on March 26 showing Middendorf doing relief work during Operation Tomodachi in 2011. Japanese students and parents visited San Diego to thank Marines for their help during the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan two years ago. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

A company commander out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., has been selected to receive the Marine Corps’ Lt. Col. William Leftwich Jr. Trophy for Outstanding Leadership, the Marine Corps announced Tuesday.

Capt. Benjamin Middendorf of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, has earned the prestigious award, Commandant Gen. Jim Amos said in All-Marine message 011/13. The captain joins a list of recipients that includes Gen. John Allen, the previous commander of the war in Afghanistan, and retired Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, who as a two-star officer was the first commander of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The award goes to the top captain in the infantry each year.

Additional details about Middendorf were scant in Amos’ message, but he served in Afghanistan last year as the commander of Golf Company 2/5, according to several media reports and Marine news releases published at the time. The unit was based primarily in volatile Musa Qala, a district in Helmand province.

The unit engaged in multiple firefights during the course of its deployment. In one example, Golf Company was called upon to shake up the Taliban after insurgents launched a brazen April 2012 attack on a police compound in Musa Qala that left well-known police commander Wali Koka badly wounded. Middendorf told an embedded journalist with Business Insider last spring that he decided his Marines needed to do something.

“This guy was the linchpin to stability in that area, so, in his absence, we knew we had to do something to regain control,” Middendorf told Business Insider.

The Marines launched a full frontal assault on Lewar-Jel-Jay, a Taliban held village in Musa Qala district, according to the embedded report. A Marine Corps news release called the mission Operation Lariat, adding that the Marines engaged in multiple firefights while searching compounds east of their typical operating area.

One Marine was wounded during the operation, but the unit engaged and killed many more Taliban fighters, Middendorf said.

“The enemy lost numerous fighters, and the (Afghan National Army) conducted multiple raids within their security bubble and eliminated (insurgent) leaders,” Middendorf said in a Marine Corps news release. “The (insurgents) were forced to regroup.”

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