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Soldiers honor, remember Dog Face hero

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POSTED: April 12, 2010 9:10 a.m.
Photo by Spc. Jared Eastman/

Third ID soldiers observe a moment of silence to remember Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, who died April 4, 2003, in Iraq while defending his fellow soldiers from an enemy attack.

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Victory Base Complex, Iraq — More than 75 3rd Infantry Division “Dog Face” soldiers and several additional U.S. units serving throughout Iraq gathered on April 4 in a small lot at  Victory Base Complex in Baghdad to pay tribute to a fallen hero, Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith.
Soldiers said they came to honor the ultimate sacrifice Smith, a 3rd ID soldier, made while protecting his fellow soldiers seven years ago on April 4, 2003.
For his actions, Smith was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously on April 4, 2005. He was the first such recipient for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Smith was a combat engineer assigned to Company B, 11th Engineer Battalion, 3rd ID and his company was attached to 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.
During this year’s remembrance, Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Campbell, who was the Co. B first sergeant in 2003, described that fateful day.
“At first light on April 4, we arrived here. By 9 a.m., Alpha Company, 2-7, had taken prisoners and needed a place to hold those prisoners,” said Campbell, who currently is the command sergeant major of Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID. “Sgt. 1st Class Smith answered the call and directed that the holding area be placed here.
“As it was, this was an ideal spot to guard those prisoners … and for the enemy to mount an attack. Around 10 a.m., they did just that. With mortars and rocket-propelled grenade fire, two M113s were taken out in seconds. With the enemy controlling fire superiority, the casualties had to be extracted and the attack had to be stopped,” Campbell said.
“The only things preventing the enemy — a company’s worth of dismounted republican guards — from advancing was less than 10 engineers from Bravo Company. Sgt. 1st Class Smith secured the site by firing AT-4s and small arms, and throwing hand grenades. Once the casualties were being moved out, he directed a soldier to operate bravo one-three — a disabled M113 — and move it into position where I am standing right now,” the command sergeant major said. “Sgt. 1st Class Smith fired over 400 rounds of ammunition into the tower behind me — the wall to my left and the gate to my right. During this time, he was completely exposed to enemy fire from all directions. This allowed the casualties to be evacuated as three engineers flanked the tower to take out the command and control element controlling the attack. In the final minutes of his attack, Sgt. 1st Class Smith was fatally shot in the head by small arms fire.
“However, his equipment showed damage and hits taken from direct-fire that lasted over 45 minutes. His devotion to duty and direct leadership are an inspiration to us all,” Campbell said.
Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, the commander of Task Force Marne and the 3rd ID, also spoke about events of April 4, 2003, and of the importance of the memorial event.
“Sgt. 1st Class Smith was a Dog Face soldier,” Cucolo said, “One of a long line of Dog Face soldiers that stretches back over 92 years, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. He was one of 50 other Dog Face soldiers who performed acts so valorous that the nation saw fit to award them the Medal of Honor.”
Smith’s actions link him to a long history of Marne soldiers standing their ground in the heat of battle.
“On the Marne River in 1918, a group of Dog Faces said to the retreating allies on their flanks and to the relentless enemy to their front, ‘We will stay here,’ and they did,” Cucolo said. “On the fourth of April, 2003, Paul R. Smith spoke those same words to overwhelming odds with a .50-caliber machine gun. From his exposed position behind that weapon, with every accurate burst from the weapon, shouted, ‘You all picked the wrong outfit to attack, we’re staying here.’”
The memorial ceremony had extra significance for soldiers in attendance who served with Smith before or during OIF. “This is a special moment for me because this is the first time I have been able to come to this location to commemorate his death,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Byron Loyd, the command sergeant major of Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd ID. “I served with Sgt. 1st Class Smith in Co. B, 1st Engineer Battalion at Fort Riley, Kan., from 1992 through 1995.”
Smith’s devotion to duty and valorous actions motivate soldiers who never met him, soldiers who served with him and those who he served under.
“I think this is important to recognize Sgt. 1st Class Smith and continue to tell his story,” Campbell said. “Sgt. 1st Class Smith’s life and actions inspire me to be a better NCO.”
Even though soldiers were aware of the challenges Smith faced during the fight, physically being there put his actions in perspective.
“As I was looking over the wall, I was thinking about how confined the space in which the battle took place was,” said Capt. Steven Jackowski, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-3 Advisory and Assistance Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, U.S. Division-Central. “I am amazed at how Sgt. 1st Class Smith was able to fire upon the enemy with the .50-caliber machine gun for as long as he was. He and his soldiers were in a precarious position with the enemy having a higher vantage point.”
Seven years later, the details surrounding the event have not faded and soldiers continue to visit the small lot at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad to honor the sacrifice made by an NCO who was determined to defend his fellow soldiers.

 

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