MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Improvised Explosive Devices are the leading cause of death for U.S. service members in Iraq. Insurgents continue to refine homemade bombs, sometimes utilizing materials which avoid metal detectors or are hidden under mounds of sand, making it more difficult to distinguish.
Marines of Explosive Ordnance Disposal units put their lives on the line and go ‘on the hunt’ to find and recover IEDs every day. While many of these Marines go unrecognized for their efforts, one Fightertown Marine was acknowledged here recently for his heroic actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Gunnery Sgt. Adan Morones, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Fightertown’s EOD, was presented the Bronze Star Medal with the Combat Distinguishing Device by the Secretary of the Navy, Dr. Donald C. Winter, here June 25 for his heroic combat action during his most recent deployment to Iraq.
“(When my family and I) returned from Disney World and came back to work I heard that I would be receiving my Bronze Star Medal and that the Secretary of the Navy was going to present it,” Morones said. “It was a nice surprise, something I really didn’t expect.”
Although Morones currently serves on the Air Station, he earned the Bronze Star Medal for his accomplishments while serving as the EOD noncommissioned officer-in-charge for Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in Iraq.
“While in Iraq, my team was responsible for (disposing of) any explosives or weapons that were found while clearing the roads,” he explained. “Our main efforts were out on the roads with (suspected or live) Improvised Explosive Devices. I applied anything I could to safely get in and out, while taking care of whatever was in front of us.”
Although EOD has employed new technologies such as robots, radars and other equipment to help with recovering ordnance or rendering safe potential bombs, mines or IEDs, the job continues to be a life-threatening one.
“It’s a challenging job,” said Gunnery Sgt. James Morgan, EOD operations chief. “Although you learn something new every day and the missions are never the same, when you’re out there on a mission, it’s like you’re playing the odds. You never know what could happen. If you go out 100 times, there is a good chance that five of those missions will be close calls.”
Morones himself even had a few close calls.
As stated in his award citation, during one particular mission, Morones disarmed three IEDs and led every Marine out of the area safely. On another mission, Morones’ vehicle was struck by an IED. Despite the attack, he was able to dismount the vehicle and alone, conduct a mobile sweep of the area in order to move his security team forward to complete the mission. His repeated acts of bravery and quick thinking at the risk of his own life significantly benefited coalition combat effectiveness in his area of responsibility.
With continuous EOD missions, Morones’ vigilance to prepare his Marines for the unknown shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
“He’s the safest person I have ever met,” said Staff Sgt. Raymond Lombard, EOD technician. “(Morones) is great to work with and at the same time he’s always consistent and professional. He’s very knowledgeable (based upon) his experiences and continues to share what he knows with the rest of us.”
With all that Morones has achieved, he believes he would not have been able to do it without his fellow Marines and the support of his family.
“I wish I could have had my EOD team here with me for all that they did to keep me alive,” Morones said. “My wife (has also been great) with everything she has done and has put up with, especially all the deployments and times away from home.”
“We couldn’t be happier for his award,” Morgan said. “It’s great to see a true hero get what he deserves, especially someone who is very humble about it.”
Although the award is very gratifying, Morones said that which he is most proud of is that he brought every member of his team home alive to their families.