Friday, September 09, 2005

Iraq medals for Gibraltar Regiment officers

Two members of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, Major Colin Risso and Major John Perez, have been awarded medals for their involvement in operations in the war in Iraq.

In the case of Major Risso he was caught up in a fierce ten minute gun fight with the enemy and in “desperate” circumstances had to single-handedly defend a US convoy with two weapons.

Major John Perez was awarded the American Bronze Star Award and is the only British officer to have led a US Marine Corps unit in Iraq.

Every Royal Gibraltar Regiment soldier who deploys on operations is a volunteer.

A CBF statement said:

“Major Colin Risso, Officer Commanding G Company, and Major John Perez second in Command of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment both received awards in yesterday’s Operational Honours List for their presence of mind whilst serving on operations last year.

Major Colin Risso has been awarded the Military Cross for the actions he took when his convoy came under attack in Afghanistan and Major John Perez has been awarded the American Bronze Star award for meritorious service on a high intensity combat zone on Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Major Risso was serving as the Plans Officer in the Combined Joint Task Force in Bagram, Afghanistan when the convoy he was travelling in came under heavy attack in a narrow wadi.

In an extract from his Military Cross citation:

“Despite the hail of small arms fire, including rounds coming into the rear where he was seated and the Rocket Propelled Grenade explosions around the vehicles, Major Risso identified the main threat from the right flank and immediately engaged the enemy with an M16 rifle, a weapon he was unfamiliar with.

The HUMVEES (American vehicles) were unable to put down fire, their grenade launchers having jammed and putting down a rapid rate of fire Major Risso could sense the desperate situation. Running short of ammunition he also took the Colonel’s M4 rifle to maintain a high rate of suppressive fire on the enemy positions.

Using both weapons and stocks of ammunition in the vehicle he maintained this rate of fire expending over 150 rounds to allow the Colonel to gain control of the convoy and begin to co-ordinate its extraction.

After the fierce firefight lasting 10 minutes, Major Risso assisted in the loading of casualties onto the medical evacuation helicopter and helped focus the remaining soldiers on defence from further attacks. Major Risso was awarded the Military Cross for operational gallantry.”

“Major John Perez was awarded an American Bronze Star Award for his services whilst serving as a forward operator alongside American Forces in Iraq.

He was the Officer Commanding a 300 strong Coalition Military Advisory Team in a training camp North of Baghdad under the constant threat of daily bombardment and hostile actions against the Coalition forces supporting the New Iraqi Army.

His team consisted of British, American, Australian and Jordanian Forces.

This involved training the new Iraqi Army to support coalition operations around Baghdad often under dangerous situations. Additionally, he remains the only British officer to have led a United States Marine Corps unit in Iraq.

He was further responsible for setting up and tactical instruction of the Iraqi Intervention Force to fight alongside the US Marines within the Sunni Triangle around Baghdad.

He conducted on the ground advice and evaluations to guide the Iraqi forces to success. The US Army have invited Major Perez to Washington to be presented his Bronze Star Award later this year in the presence of the United States Marine Corps.

The Queen has granted him the unique privilege to wear his award, which was conferred to him by the President of the United States of America.

Both awards are published in the Operational Honours List on Friday 09 Sep 05 and an announcement will be made in the London Gazette.”

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