Army National Guard / Silver Star
His convoy stalled with trouble nearby, he kept the enemy away – with no American casualties
The explosion wasn’t exactly a surprise. Rather, it was a fact of life along MSR Tampa, the main supply route through Iraq.
Riding in the scout truck for his column, Staff Sgt. Chad Malmberg could see that the convoy ahead had been stopped by a roadside bomb and now was under attack from small-arms fire. It was after 10 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2007, and suddenly chaos reigned all along the line, from the lead Humvee in the first convoy to the rear truck in Malmberg’s own column.
As commander of his convoy escort team, Malmberg and his five up-armored Humvees had been shepherding about 20 empty semis – mostly flatbed trailers – as they returned south from delivering materials to Baghdad.
“Though it’s a six-lane divided highway, the insurgents are creative in finding ways to disguise the IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” Malmberg said. “Some are camouflaged in the craters blasted out of the pavement, while others are simply hidden in the debris on the side of the road.”
Soon the fighting intensified, with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades joining the insurgents’ small arms fire. That was compounded by berms on both sides of the highway that prevented the semis from turning around. The road ahead had to be cleared.
As hot spots developed along his convoy, Malmberg provided support wherever he was needed most. Eventually, Apache helicopters were heard overhead.
“We welcomed their help and expected that the M280s on the helicopters would begin to rake the enemy positions by following our tracer fire,” Malmberg recalled.
That hope would be fleeting.
“The Apaches weren’t on the scene more than 30 seconds,” he said, and for some reason they never fired on the enemy.
Malmberg could only surmise that the miscommunication was caused by heavy network traffic: “Call signs were jumping on top of each other. We simply couldn’t communicate with the pilots because of the crosstalk, so I think the decision was to break off the engagement.”
Whatever the reason, the convoy now was on its own. And the enemy was closing in.
“Pretty soon, we could see their silhouettes and then their faces, lit up by the muzzle flashes,” Malmberg said. “They were that close.”
After almost an hour of exchanging fire, the last truck in Malmberg’s convoy radioed for help: Its ammunition was almost gone. Perhaps sensing that the truck was in trouble, the insurgents had closed within 20 meters and appeared to be preparing for a final assault.
Malmberg took a second gun truck with him, speeding to the rear of the line and spraying the enemy positions with heavy fire from the M240 machine guns and the .50-caliber turret guns. Then he left his Humvee to throw grenades into the ditch along the road, effectively ending the attack.
The disabled trucks in the lead convoy were cleared from the road, and Malmberg was able to move his convoy ahead. The effects of the enemy fire had been minimal, and despite the volley of rocket-propelled grenades shot at the trucks, only one did any damage.
Better yet, none of Malmberg’s men had been hit, and there were no casualties.
Wesley Millett is a freelance writer and author of the military nonfiction book, “The Rebel and the Rose,” about the final days of the Confederate government.
Army National Guard / Silver Star
Born Nov. 22, 1979, in St. Paul, Minn., where he still lives.
Engaged to be married.
Joined the Army on July 15, 1998, and deployed to Iraq on Oct. 5, 2005, where he was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment.
WHAT HE DID
Drove off enemy fighters who were closing in on a stalled supply convoy.
WHERE HE IS NOW
Works full time for Joint Forces Headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. His current National Guard unit is the 84th Troop Command out of Minneapolis.
WHY HE JOINED THE ARMY
“I wanted to serve my country. The military was a way for me to better my life through the Army College Fund. I also felt that the job experience gained through my training would be useful in my career.”
Iraq / Mahmudiyal