U.S. Army Lt. Timothy C. Peterson went to Iraq in 2006 with the 321st Engineer Battalion and spent a year leading his platoon in route clearance throughout Anbar province -- not exactly an easy task. In pre-surge Iraq, jihadis in Anbar routinely attacked coalition forces. Peterson recalled of his earlier missions, "We'd only go at night because it was too dangerous during the day," adding that almost every night they were shot at and came across IEDs. His soldiers' duty was to disarm the IEDs.
In the first phases of the surge, the 321st was on 24-hour patrol for days at a time. During one such stretch, another platoon was hit by an IED, which disabled the lead vehicle. Peterson and three members of his unit took their Buffalo MRAP truck and assumed command of the patrol. As they moved further into hostile territory, Peterson's Buffalo was hit by a series of IEDs, crippling the vehicle and injuring all four occupants. For his bold actions in leading the convoy, Peterson was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and his third Purple Heart.
After recovery, he resumed the lead on an arduous patrol schedule. He tells of an Iraq that is vastly improved because of the surge. Soldiers walked freely during the daytime and citizens were no longer afraid to assist them. As he left Iraq, Peterson said, "Things were changing, what we were doing was working.... For the people that lived there, there was a transition." Due to the courage he displayed and the success of his missions, Peterson was also awarded the Bronze Star.
(This account was originally published in the Mar. 14, 2008 Digest.)