Lance Corporal Todd Corbin was driving a 7-ton for Third Battalion, Twenty-Fifth Marines on May 7, 2005, when word came down that an nearby platoon had come under intense fire along the Euphrates River near Haditha, Iraq.
A quick reaction force comprised of Corbin’s 7-ton truck, three Humvees and two tanks took off to support their fellow Marines and attempt to block the insurgents' escape route.
As they closed in on the firefight location, Corbin and the members of the QRF noticed the eerie absence of civilians.
“There was no one out, nothing moving” before “all hell broke loose,” Corbin told Marine Corps Times in 2007.
A van loaded down with explosives bolted from an adjacent alley and blew up between two of the convoy’s Humvees, igniting a brutal ambush of small-arms fire, mortars and rocket propelled grenades.
Four personnel — three Marines and a Navy corpsman — were killed instantly. Three vehicles suffered catastrophic damage.
“It was a total nightmare,” said then-Cpl. Jeff Schuller, who would go on to receive the Silver Star for his actions that day.
Of the nearly 15 surviving QRF Marines, only five were uninjured.
Corbin “immediately repositioned his truck directly between the enemy and many of the wounded,” his Navy Cross citation read. “He radioed the situation to the battalion and leapt into the enemy fire, directing Marines to engage and marking targets.”
“He just jumped [out] and took over,” Schuller said. “He immediately started getting the killed and wounded, not thinking of himself.”
One of the wounded was Corbin’s patrol leader. Disregarding the concentrated enemy fire, Corbin ran to the grievously wounded sergeant, picked him up and placed him over his shoulder, continuing to fire at the enemy with his free hand while carrying the wounded Marine back to the 7-ton in the other arm.
Manning a mounted M240G machine gun in one of the Humvees, Schuller sent rounds downrange, swinging the gun across his field of fire for over a half an hour while eliminating insurgents positioned on rooftops, in doorways and windows.
After exhausting the M240G ammunition, Schuller then drained his M16 before firing a few rounds from his 9mm pistol.
“My biggest worry was that we were gonna run out of ammo,” he said, adding he was “just short of shooting my AT4 and throwing my Ka-bar.”
As Schuller provided deadly fire, Corbin continued maneuvering back and forth through the kill zone, retrieving wounded Marines and carrying them to the safety of the 7-ton.
During one of five trips through the kill zone, Corbin came under small-arms fire while carrying an injured corpsman. Without hesitation, he shielded the “doc” with his own body until Schuller was able to repel the burst of enemy fire from the Humvee turret.
By the time Corbin was done, wounded Marines filled the 7-ton to the brim, many with their weapons still protruding from the truck to continue firing at the enemy.
“The 7-ton looked like a porcupine with all these weapons sticking out of it,” Corbin said, adding that during the firefight, the truck had sustained three flat tires and a shot-up radiator. “I don’t even know how this vehicle even ran.”
“The whole platoon rolled out in that 7-ton,” Schuller said. “It’s a testament to Cpl. Corbin’s knowledge of that vehicle that he kept it running.”
Corbin activated the truck’s emergency systems and was able to drive it out of the kill zone and to a battalion aid station five miles away, his citation said. “Due to his heroism, no Marine lost his life after the initial attack.”
Corbin and Schuller received their medals during a joint ceremony at the Brook Point, Ohio, headquarters of Third Battalion, Twenty-Fifth Marines. At the ceremony, Corbin was asked about his actions on that hellish day.
“In hindsight, would I do that again? Hell, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a situation you want to say yeah, every time, but you don’t know. It’s just what you’re trained for … and you do it for your buddies."
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.