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Spc. James Peterman, of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 66th Transportation Company, doesn’t remember being scared. Nor does he remember how much time elapsed during the chaotic exchange with insurgents.

All the gunner remembers from the night of May 31, 2007, in Mosul, Iraq, is holding steady in the turret and firing round after round at an attacking enemy that was armed with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

“We were surrounded,” said Peterman, who took a shot to the shoulder during the fight.

On Dec. 21, Peterman was recognized for his bravery during that fight with the Bronze Star Medal decorated with a “V” for valor. The 21st TSC’s commander, Brig. Gen. Scott G. West, pinned Peterman with the medal during a ceremony at the Daenner Kaserne chapel in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

As Peterman recalled the fighting that night, he said the one thing that remains a mystery to him is how much time elapsed during the clash.

“I have no idea how long the fight was. I think it was just the exhilaration of having someone fire at me,” Peterman said. “But I wasn’t concerned about my safety whatsoever. Never took cover.”

Instead of taking cover, Peterman maneuvered in the turret, firing some 200 .50-caliber rounds. At one point, he also fired a magazine of M-16 rounds while waiting for a fellow soldier to hand up more .50-caliber ammo.

It all started around midnight when the 66th was moving by convoy in Mosul. During its deployment, the unit was responsible for providing logistical support and escorting convoys moving between forward operating bases.

“We were moving along and everything was going great (that night),” Peterman said.

But then the situation took a turn after the convoy’s lead vehicle was disabled by a roadside bomb, Peterman said. With the convoy stalled, soldiers waited for the wrecker to clear the way.

In the meantime, “we were all just kind of waiting for something to happen,” the 23-year-old San Antonio native said.

That’s when insurgents sprung from behind a nearby wall. The first enemy Peterman saw was armed with an AK-47.

“We started taking fire from all sides. I was hit in my shoulder,” Peterman said. “It didn’t faze me at all. I kept on firing.”

At one point, an RPG landed some 50 feet from Peterman’s vehicle, he said.

During the fight, Peterman said there was no time to think.

The 66th conducted 396 missions during the deployment and sustained 56 attacks. Seven soldiers were wounded.

Peterman said he never thought about being awarded a medal for his efforts.

“It didn’t seem real until a general pinned it on me,” he said.

author picture
John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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