Who When Where What Happened MAPS Soldier view Medals,List of all Presentation Images
Who SFC Smith was born in El Paso, Texas and raised in Tampa, Florida. He graduated in 1989 from Tampa Bay Vo Tech High School. Following graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Smith served there for 13 years, rising to the rank of Sergeant First Class.El PasoTexasTampa FloridaTampa Bay Vo Tech High SchoolU.S. Army Sergeant First Class As part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he was assigned to Bravo Company, 11th Engineer Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division. His company was supporting the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment as it made its way through the Karbala Gap, across the Euphrates River and to Saddam International Airport in Baghdad.2003 invasion of Iraq7th Infantry Regiment Karbala GapEuphrates RiverSaddam International AirportBaghdad
Where Satellite photo, taken April 1, 2003, of area surrounding Saddam International Airport where the courtyard battle took place three days later.
WHEN On April 4, 2003, a 100-man force was assigned to block the highway between Baghdad and the airport, about one mile east of the airport. A brief battle was fought, and several Iraqi prisoners were captured. SFC Smith spotted a walled enclosure nearby with a tower overlooking it. He and his squad set about building an impromptu enemy prisoner of war (EPW) holding area for prisoners there.April 42003 prisoner of war
WHAT HAPPENED Smith and 16 other men used an Armored Combat Earthmover (akin to a bulldozer) to knock a hole in the south wall of the courtyard. On the north side, there was a metal gate that Smith assigned several men to guard. These men noticed 50 to 100 Iraqi troops just past the gate who had taken positions in trenches. Smith summoned a Bradley fighting vehicle to attack their position. Three nearby M113 Armored Personnel Carriers came to support their position. An M113 was hit, possibly by a mortar, and all three crewmen were injured. The Bradley, running low on ammunition and damaged, withdrew during a lull in the battle. Smith organized the evacuation of the injured M113 crewmen.Armored Combat Earthmoverbulldozer Bradley fighting vehicleM113 Armored Personnel Carriers
Maps of Battle Scene Meanwhile, some Iraqis had taken position in the tower overlooking the courtyard, just over the west wall. The Iraqis now had the Americans in the courtyard under an intense crossfire. Smith took command of the M113 and ordered a driver to position it so that he could attack both the tower and the trenches. He manned the M113's machine gun, going through three boxes of ammunition. machine gun A separate team, led by First Sergeant Tim Campbell attacked the tower from the rear, killing the Iraqis. As the battle ended, Smith was shot in the head and killed.
Soldiers relate Smith’s courage under fire, care in garrison “Sergeant Smith and I went out the front of the gate along with the Bradley and that’s when I saw the enemy. There were 15 or 20 of them and they appeared to have some fighting positions about 175 meters out,” Keller said. “Sergeant Smith had a scope so he could see them better than me and he started to fire.”
Keller said Smith sent him for an AT-4 rocket launcher, which he prepped and Smith fired at the enemy. “Then I got another one and he went around in front of the wall to get some other Soldiers with heavier guns. I got three, one with the Squad Automatic Weapon and the other with the 240B, and me and Sergeant Smith had a plan to assault across the field,” Keller said. “He sent me to get a jacket with the M-203 (40mm-grenade launcher) ammo. Sgt. (Louis) Berwald tossed the jacket to me, and I ran around the wall – that’s when an RPG hit the Bradley and a mortar round hit the M-113 at about the same time.”
I was standing shooting the 203 while he (Sgt. 1st Class Smith) was getting the casualties evacced. When the Bradley started backing up, I went back into the compound and that’s when I saw Sergeant Smith on the.50-cal on the 113. I hollered at him to come out of there, and he did a ‘cut’ motion across his throat with his hand saying he wasn’t leaving,” Keller said. After seeing to some of the other Soldiers, Keller returned to help a group of Soldiers attempt to remove the trailer from the M-113. “I asked where Sergeant Smith was, and one of the other troops said he was gone,” Keller said.
Three Soldiers were injured by the mortar impact, including Berwald, and others began to evacuate them from the site. “That was when Sergeant Smith made a decision with the gallantry worthy of the Medal of Honor,” Lt. Col. Smith said. “He got in the M-113 with Spc. Michael Seaman, but he didn’t tell Seaman, (an APC driver) to get them out of there, he had him back up to just the point where he could cover all three of the Republican Guard targets, the tower, the wall, and the gate. We know he went through three boxes of ammunition.” Keller, fighting his own fight, saw Smith in action.
More than one million military men and women have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since 2001. But Sergeant Smith is the only one whose actions earned an award nomination that has reached this point after wending its way through more than 12 levels of military and presidential reviews over the last two years.
Sergeant Smith's commanders submitted several eyewitness accounts, diagrams of the battle scene and other supporting documents to the Army. A year ago, an Army review board sent back the application, requesting more detailed information about the battle, Army officers said on Tuesday.
Military officials said several factors weighed in nominating Sergeant Smith for the medal, including the intensity of the 90-minute firefight on that scorching spring morning; the risk of the enemy attack to some 100 other American soldiers; the ultimate defeat of the Iraqi attack; and Sergeant Smith's death in battle.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat that can be awarded to members of the armed forces. It sometimes is referred to as the “Congressional Medal of Honor” because the President awards it on behalf of the Congress. The medal was first authorized in 1861 for Sailors and Marines, and the following year for Soldiers as well. Since then, more than 3,400 Medals of Honor have been awarded to members of all DOD services and the Coast Guard, as well as to a few civilians who distinguished themselves with valor
. Medals of Honor are awarded sparingly and are bestowed only to the bravest of the brave; and that valor must be well documented. So few Medals of Honor are awarded, in fact, that the only ones awarded after the Vietnam War were bestowed posthumously to Army Master Sgt. Gary I. Gordon and Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart for valor in Somalia in 1993, and posthumously to the most recent recipient, Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith for valor in Iraq. There were no Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Desert Storm and operations in Grenada, Panama and Lebanon.
An Army of One Awards: Medal of Honor, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (4OLC), Army Achievement Medal (5OLC), Good Conduct Medal (3d award), National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, South West Asia Service Medal(3 bronze stars), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon (2d award), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (3d award), NATO Medal (Kosovo), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait), Valorous Unit Award, Army Superior Unit Award, German Marksmanship Badge, French Armed Forces Commando Badge.