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Army Staff Sgt. War E. Mobley, Jr., 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, receives the Soldier’s Medal during a Wednesday awards and promotion ceremony in Friedberg, Germany. Pinning on the ribbon is his wife, Senait, and Command Sgt. Major Mark K. Schindler.
Army Staff Sgt. War E. Mobley, Jr., 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, receives the Soldier’s Medal during a Wednesday awards and promotion ceremony in Friedberg, Germany. Pinning on the ribbon is his wife, Senait, and Command Sgt. Major Mark K. Schindler. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)

FRIEDBERG, Germany — First came the bright flash, then the ball of flame, then a man named War burst onto the scene to chase down a burning tank and pull two soldiers from its smoking hull.

An officer on the scene later said Staff Sgt. War Mobley didn’t hesitate, inserting himself into an extremely dangerous situation. But despite the valiant effort, Pvt. Chris W. Morados, 18, and Pfc. Robert L. White Jr., 19, died in the July 29, 2002, training accident at Fort Hood, Texas. Nine soldiers, including Mobley, were injured.

“I would have done it for anybody,” Mobley said.

But White and Morados weren’t just “anybody” to Mobley, who was 31 years old at the time. He knew the two teenagers well, and had spoken to White shortly before White drove his M1A2 tank onto the Brookhaven Range for the gunnery exercise.

On Wednesday, both White and Morados were on Mobley’s mind as he accepted the Soldier’s Medal at a ceremony on Ray Barracks in Friedberg. The ribbon was awarded at the start of a promotion ceremony for 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment soldiers.

At the time of the accident, Mobley was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized).

The soldier’s medal is awarded by the Army “to any person of the Armed Forces” who distinguishes “himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy,” according to U.S. law.

“The performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy,” the section states.

Mobley was observing the exercise when White’s tank caught fire because of a malfunction with its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons system, an Army spokesman said. He ran from a reviewing platform to a vehicle and, with others aboard, chased down the tank, which eventually crashed into a tree. The soldier then climbed into the smoke-laden tank twice to retrieve White and Morados. Two others in the crew managed to jump clear of the tank as it rolled along unguided.

Lt. Col. Vincent J. Tedesco III, the 1-37th battalion commander, said at Wednesday’s ceremony “it is truly motivating to have a noncommissioned officer like (Mobley) in the unit.”

A veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Mobley is humbled by the award, saying he often thinks of where White and Morados would be in their careers had they lived.

“This is in recognition of them, not me,” Mobley said after the ceremony. “That’s how I would like people to see it.”

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