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Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert lines up a target from atop an oil storage tank outside of Lutafiyah, Iraq, in April, 2004.(Courtesy of Steve Reichert)Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert

Unit: 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment

Medal: Bronze Star with "V"

Earned: April 9, 2004, Lutafiyah, Iraq

Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert earned his Bronze Star with “V” device like many other Marines in Iraq: saving the lives of members of his patrol by gunning down attacking insurgents.

But he did it from a mile away.

The 25-year-old sniper with the Headquarters Company of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, shot down nine insurgents from thousands of feet behind his comrades — including an enemy machine gunner positioned 1,614 meters away — during a mission on April 9, 2004.

Commanders praised his accuracy and quick response as “inspirational,” especially since he did it while under fire himself. Reichert, a Massachusetts native, said it was just part of his job.

“That was the first time we had really come under fire,” he said. “But once the insurgents started to come in, we started making them fly off roofs.”

Reichert and his spotter, Cpl. Winston Tucker, for several days had been using an oil storage tank outside of Lutafiyah to survey the region and cover unit movements through the town. According to the Marine Corps, the patrol’s mission that day was to look for insurgents in the area and protect Arba’een pilgrims moving through.

The storage tank had come under fire in previous days, and Reichert said once he positioned himself on top of it, he came under attack again from enemy snipers and other small-arms fire.

“It was not the best spot in the world, but we needed to be there,” he said.

Through his gun sight, Reichert spotted an explosive device in an animal carcass along his patrol’s path and radioed disposal experts. Reichert said once they moved in, insurgents began their ambush.

Patrol leaders radioed to him that a rooftop gunner had pinned down parts of the unit. Reichert located him, quickly calculated the distance and drop in his head, and fired two shots, the second killing the attacker.

Tucker and Reichert then swept the area from their distant position, taking out three attackers as they scrambled up a staircase and several others as they darted in and out of buildings.

Reinforcements came shortly thereafter, and at one point mistook Reichert’s sniper fire as part of the enemy assault. Reichert said he held his position and kept firing, even as the friendly fire caromed around them.

The sniper duo spent nearly 13 hours in the field that day, offering support to units entering the escalating firefight.

“When we linked back up, they told me several Marines had been killed, and that was hard to swallow,” he said. “We did the best we could, but it’s tough to see that when you lose guys.”

But Corps commanders credited Reichert’s actions with saving several other Marines that day. A few weeks later, Reichert was seriously injured when the vehicle he was traveling in was hit by a roadside bomb.

He plans on medically retiring later this year, but he said he hopes to continue serving in another government agency.

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