Then-2nd Lt. Kenneth Conover III, 1st platoon commander for Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, speaks to local Afghan children in May 2012. A month later, Conover led a six-day operation in Qaleh-ye Gaz, during which his platoon engaged 'waves of enemy fighters.' (Cpl. Mark Garcia/Marine Corps)
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Four California-based Marines will be recognized for their heroism during a 2012 operation in Afghanistan.
First Lt. Kenneth Conover III and Sgt. Kenneth Rick will each receive a Silver Star while Staff Sgt. Joshua Brodrick and Sgt. Nicholas Brandau will each receive a Bronze Star with combat “V” device during a Feb. 18 ceremony aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.
The awards stem from a six-day operation during which 1st Platoon, Company D, of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, repeatedly engaged the enemy in close, intense fighting that ultimately resulted in the death of two Marines and the serious injury of another. The Marines would face “multiple waves of enemy fighters” according to Conover’s Silver Star citation.
Fighting began shortly after the unit conducted a nighttime air assault on June 22, 2012, into Qaleh-ye Gaz, a known enemy stronghold in Helmand province.
After Marines landed, enemy forces quickly brought indirect fire, medium machine guns and small arms to bear on 1st Platoon from multiple locations. Brodrick, the platoon sergeant, ran across 75 meters of open field to link up with the squad taking the most fire. He left cover to direct return fire, which eventually forced enemy forces to withdraw.
At the same time, Rick, a squad leader, was “attacked from multiple positions by high volumes of medium machine gun and indirect fire,” his citation states. On four occasions he subjected himself to the fusillade of enemy fire so he could accurately fire his M4 Carbine and M203 grenade launcher while directing his squad’s movements. His actions are also credited with forcing the enemy to withdraw.
Meanwhile, Brandau, a fellow squad leader, was also subjecting himself to enemy fire to help his unit maneuver to a nearby compound for cover. Later, while 1st Platoon was fortifying the compound for use as a patrol base, the unit again came under attack by grenade, small-arms, medium machine gun and indirect fire. Despite being exposed on the compound’s roof, he threw two grenades at the enemy, forcing their withdrawal.
Later that day Rick and Brandau would leave the cover of the patrol base and sprint 200 meters across open ground to recover a mortally wounded Marine. Rick led a security team while Brandau led an aid and litter team. As rounds landed within feet of Rick, he continued to direct his squad and remained outside the patrol base, suppressing enemy fire until all other Marines were safely inside. Brandau similarly directed suppressive fire to allow the litter team to carry the casualty back to the patrol base.
In an effort to recover Marines, Brodrick would also aid in a counterattack, directing fire support from a tank section to destroy enemy as close as 75 meters from his platoon.
The following day, June 23, Rick led his squad to counter yet another enemy ambush.
“The precision fire he employed from his grenade launcher destroyed two enemy fighters and oriented close-air support aircraft onto their targets, ultimately leading to the destruction of the enemy,” his citation reads.
The enemy’s efforts would persist, however.
“The attacks initiated on the first day were unrelenting and continued throughout the six day operations,” according to Brandau’s citation.
In all, Conover, the platoon commander, would lead 1st Platoon through “40 significant events, to include 23 direct-fire engagements, one grenade attack, two indirect-fire attacks, and 10 enemy attempts to overrun his position,” according to his citation. “In relentless pursuit of the dozens of enemy who attacked his platoon, he directed the employment of 38 tank main-gun rounds, four artillery rocket strikes, four close-air support strikes, five AT-4 rockets and two anti-personnel obstacle breaching systems. His efforts resulted in more than 12 enemy destroyed, five enemy wounded in action, three detainments and an enemy vehicle destroyed.”
Lt. Gen. John Toolan, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, will award the medals during a ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field.