CAMP DELARAM II, HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
As a hail of gunfire overcame their convoy, a Marine and his teammate dismounted and pursued the enemy aggressors. At the site of his partner’s leg wound, he charged through the enemy’s machine gun fire, bringing the fight to them.
Standing at attention, Warrant Officer John Hermann, platoon commander of 1st Explosive Ordinance Disposal platoon, 1st EOD Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), and all in attendance listened as his citation was read, citing the heroic actions carried out by Hermann on that day in Helmand province.
“It’s important for the other Marines and sailors to see the kind of hero that we have amongst us,” said Brig. Gen. Charles Hudson, commanding general of 1st Marine Logistics Group, from Zirconia, N.C. “This Marine is, in fact, a hero. He moved to the sound of the guns and exhibited bravery under fire, he saved a wounded Marine, and he also killed the enemy along the way.”
Hermann deployed for the first time in 2003 during the initial invasion in Iraq shortly after making a lateral move from infantry to explosive ordnance disposal, redeploying to Iraq again in 2004. His first deployment to Afghanistan was at the end of 2007. Currently deployed to Delaram in the Nimruz province, Hermann is managing various EOD teams operating within the battalions working with RCT-2.
In 2007, then Hermann was attached to Company B, 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Deployed from November 2007 to April 2008, they conducted combat operations throughout Helmand province.
“The routines were different; sometimes we would go out for a few days to do humanitarian assistance operations and provide medical services to different villages,” said Hermann.
During the deployment, enemy engagements were frequent according to Hermann.
“It was about 50/50. It wasn’t every single day that we were out, but it did happen,” said Hermann.
During a recon patrol that also included providing medical care for tribal personnel, the enemy bit off more than they could chew.
“It was one of our longer reconnaissance patrols,” said Hermann. “We had hit a few of the towns in the western cluster. We did [Medical Civil Assistance Program]-type things. The locals were happy to see us, it was nothing too exciting.”
After a day of providing medical care to villagers and getting acquainted with the populace, the convoy found a place in the desert to sleep overnight. The next morning, they approached a town called Dahaneh with the intent of setting up another MEDCAP.
“Generally if there was going to be any kind of contact within a village, it would already be abandoned by women and children, or you would see them egress from the town as you make your way into the village, but that wasn’t the case on that day. They were everywhere. They didn’t expect us.”
According to Hermann, they were in the village less than five minutes when everything started happening.
After they arrived in town, the second vehicle in their convoy was struck with a rocket propelled grenade.
“As soon as it impacted the vehicle [the gunner] yelled contact right,” said Hermann. “It was funny because the RPG didn’t detonate; it bounced off the truck then landed on the ground. That is when everything else started.”
After the Marine yelled contact, more fire came upon the convoy. With women and children still occupying the general vicinity, it was difficult to fire on known targets, according to Hermann.
“People were running to take cover so you had to be very mindful of what you were doing and where your targets were,” said Hermann. “Once that happened, we identified where the insurgents appeared to be firing at us from, so we made the decision to dismount and assault through the ambush.”
Alongside Sgt. Kurt Zimmerman, the vehicle commander for victor one, Hermann and Zimmerman pushed into the village, finding cover behind a building. After reaching that point, they had a better view of the enemy. As they began to close width on the enemy, the enemy fire became more accurate, according to Hermann.
Between the opposing forces lied an open field. While taking cover from a building, enemy fire still impacting around them, Zimmerman and Hermann made the decision to cross the field and eliminate the enemy threat.
“We took off, Zimmerman was right behind me,” said Hermann. “We couldn’t have gotten 10 or 15 yards and he was shot in the left leg.”
Successfully making it to the trench line, Hermann jumped in and destroyed the two man machine-gun team with his M4 semi-automatic rifle. Hermann then made his way back to his teammate to help dress his wound.
“At that point, Zimmerman had crawled back behind the corner of a building, struggling to get his tourniquet on,” said Hermann. “I applied his tourniquet and dressed his wound.”
Shortly after, an additional machinegun opened fire on Zimmerman and Hermann’s position. At that point, another fire team appeared with a corpsman, reinforcing their position.
“We passed Zimmerman off to the doc to ensure his wound was taken care of properly,” said Hermann. “At that point, we finished clearing through the town.”
As the fire team advanced with Hermann, the team’s assault resulted in the demise of another 11 insurgents. When asked about his reason for returning to aid Zimmerman after crossing an open field under enemy fire once before, the answer was quite simple.
“I couldn’t leave him,” said Hermann. “He would have done the same for me.”
Hermann attributes the success of his team surviving that day to two things: training and teamwork.
“Honestly, you don’t have time to sit and think about what’s going on,” said Hermann. “You rely on your training. You do what you’re taught. It’s a team effort. It’s never just one guy. People talk about heroics. Heroics happen every single day out here, it doesn’t matter what unit you’re in.”