SSG David Bellavia, Army, Fallujah, Iraq
FALLUJAH, IRAQ: On the night of 10 November 2004 Third Platoon, A Company, Task Force 2-2 IN near OBJ Wolf in Fallujah, Iraq, was ordered to attack to destroy six to eight Anti Iraqi Forces (AIF). 1LT Edward Iwan, the A Company Executive Officer, had identified six to eight AIF who had entered a block of twelve buildings. These AIF had engaged A55 and tanks from Team Tank with automatic weapons and rocket fire. Having a 25 mm cannon malfunction, 1LT Edward Iwan cordoned off the area and called Third Platoon to enter and clear all buildings until the AIF were killed or captured.
The first nine buildings yielded many AK47s, Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers, rockets, assorted ammunition, and flak vests. When they came to the tenth home, SSG Colin Fitts, 1st Squad Leader, led his squad of soldiers into the house, with four soldiers from SSG Bellavia’s 2nd Squad. SGT Hugh Hall, 1st Squad, B Team Leader and SGT Warren Misa 1st Squad, A Team Leader, established a quick foothold in the interior of the house. When SGT Misa attempted to clear the second room he encountered heavy enemy fire. Two AIF were under a stairwell, well covered behind a three-foot
barrier, engaging SGT Misa and SPC Lance Ohle as they attempted to move into the room. At that point, multiple bursts of automatic and semi-automatic gunfire were exchanged from extremely close quarters. As rounds impacted near the entry point of the house, nine Third Platoon soldiers became fixed inside the house. At that moment, fire erupted from a kitchen ground floor window onto the inner cordon in the carport of the house. At one point, gun fire was being exchanged inside and outside of the house, as a total of three dismounted squads from Third Platoon were in contact.
SSG Bellavia quickly requested a M240B machine gun and a M249 SAW to suppress the AIF under the stairs in an effort to break contact and consolidate the platoon. Rounds from the insurgent side of the wall began impacting through the poorly made plaster. Multiple soldiers were bleeding from the face from flying debris. Two soldiers had glass and metal shards in their face, one soldier had been grazed on the side of his stomach underneath his vest and at least six others were bleeding from some cut or scrape from the point blank fire they were receiving. As two soldiers answered the request for support, it became apparent that the entrance to the building was extremely dangerous from ricocheting rounds.
Rather than place his soldier at risk, SSG Bellavia moved quickly to come to the aid of the squad. He exchanged weapon systems with a M249 SAW gunner and entered the fatal funnel of the room. The enemy was crouched behind the barrier and continued to fire at the doorway of the house where SSG Bellavia was positioned. With enemy rounds impacting around him, he fired the SAW at a cyclic rate of fire, forcing the enemy to take cover and allowing the squad to break contact and move into the street to consolidate. SSG Bellavia’s actions undoubtedly saved the lives of that squad.
As the platoon gathered outside to get accountability of personnel, two or more AIF engaged Third Platoon from the roof. Rounds ricocheted off the ground and SSG Fitts moved his squad to an adjacent building to over watch the AIF on the roofs. SSG Bellavia grabbed an M16 rifle and headed back to the outside of the house. SSG Bellavia called for a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to come up and suppress the outside of the building. The high walls of the enemy strong point made it difficult at close proximity to get well-aimed 25mm cannon fire into the actual building. AIF again engaged Third Platoon from windows.
After the BFV suppressed the house, SSG Bellavia decided to move back inside the house to determine the effects of the BFV fire and whether the AIF still occupied the bottom floor of the house. He placed two SAW gunners and SSG Scott Lawson into the courtyard as the inner cordon. Michael Ware, a TIME magazine journalist, entered the house with SSG Bellavia.
SSG Bellavia entered the house and told SSG Lawson to stay outside until he was needed in the second room. The only two people that went into the house at first were Michael Ware and SSG Bellavia. SSG Bellavia heard AIF whispering from the other side of the wall. Mr. Ware was told to run out if anything happened inside the second room. The journalist insisted on going into the second room. SSG Bellavia got in a low crouched fighting position and quickly pie wedged the first room and fired his M16A4. The enemy immediately fired back with a belt fed RPK machine gun. SSG Bellavia quickly turned away from the fire. The AIF had fire superiority and SSG Bellavia didn’t have time to get off well-aimed shots.
As SSG Bellavia moved again to get eyes on the room and determine the enemy disposition, he identified one of the AIF loading an RPG launcher. Understanding how devastating this weapon could be to his platoon, he moved quickly to eliminate the threat. SSG Bellavia told Mr. Ware to remain in the first room. As debris and smoke filled the room the insurgent with the RPG was killed first near the stairwell. A second AIF with a PKC machine gun fired as he ran for the kitchen. SSG Bellavia shot and wounded him in the back of the shoulder. He was heard screaming from outside the building. At that point an AIF yelled from upstairs. SSG Bellavia quickly realized how many insurgents were in the house. Despite the odds he continued the assault.
SSG Lawson entered the room with SSG Bellavia. He was armed with only a 9mm pistol. SSG Lawson was across the room firing into the kitchen door, and SSG Bellavia was near the doorway of the master bedroom using the stairs as his cover. The wounded AIF was firing back, this time with an AK47. The insurgent was screaming loudly as he fired. SSG Lawson fired an entire magazine toward the kitchen, when a piece of debris lodged in his right shoulder. Thinking he was shot and with only one 9mm magazine remaining, SSG Bellavia told him to leave to get medical aid and to retrieve a shotgun with buckshot and other soldiers. SSG Lawson and Mr. Ware exited the house.
SSG Bellavia realized that his back was facing a room he had not cleared. In order to secure his position he entered the master bedroom of the house. SSG Bellavia heard movement in the room and fired into the dark corners to clear them by fire. There was a closet directly in front of him with six closed doors, and multiple areas of dead space. At that point an insurgent ran down the stairs and started firing into the room. SSG Bellavia moved behind a protruding corner of the wall to acquire cover. Over the loud noise of small arms fire from across the hall, he could hear screaming from upstairs and to his immediate left. Confused and trying to locate if another insurgent was in the corner of the room, SSG Bellavia began to scan the room with his PEQ-2A. Thinking the noise originated from the closet, SSG Bellavia took a few steps to his left and began to fire into each door from left to right. Before he could finish clearing the closet the wounded AIF from the kitchen ran toward the bedroom door and began blindly shooting at him from outside. Finding his position of cover behind the elbow of the wall, SSG Bellavia fired back. As the enemy fire came closer, he moved his position into the far opposing corner of the room. The AIF exposed his shoulders as he fired into the bedroom and SSG Bellavia fired wounding and then killing him.
He then noticed a closet door was open and he witnessed tracer fire hit the side of the room. Unsure of where the fire originated, SSG Bellavia looked for a target. Suddenly the insurgent on the stairs began shooting at him again. As the wounded AIF turned and exposed his position in the doorway he was hit and fell near the stairs. He was moaning and slowly moved away from the door, mortally wounded. Simultaneously, a closet door opened and clothing flew everywhere, as an insurgent leapt out and fired wildly all over the room. In his rush out of the closet he tripped on something in the closet and the entire wardrobe fell down resting on the open doors. This actually was a benefit to SSG Bellavia as it provided more cover. When the AIF attempted to cross over the bed, he lost his balance on the mattress and was shot multiple times. The insurgent fell to the ground and with his back to the front door, fired an accurate burst directly into the closet and the wall near SSG Bellavia. SSG Bellavia crouched low to the ground, the insurgent was screaming loudly in broken English. Someone from upstairs was yelling back in Arabic. SSG Bellavia responded in Arabic in an attempt to intimidate the men into surrendering. The insurgent then picked himself up and ran out of the room and up the stairs. SSG Bellavia fired, missing the insurgent and then pursued him as he fled up the stairs. Blood was soaked all over the stairs causing SSG Bellavia to slip, nearly catching a burst of AK fire. The wounded AIF turned and shot an automatic burst from the first landing of the stairs but once again missed SSG Bellavia, who was now well behind cover.
Tracking the blood, SSG Bellavia followed the AIF into a room immediately to the left on the second story. He heard the AIF inside and tossed a fragmentary grenade into the room. The blast sent the screaming AIF onto the second story roof. The AIF began shooting his weapon in all directions, until it was empty of ammunition. Bellavia noticed the AIF was seriously wounded in the right side of his body from the blast of the grenade. The insurgent stumbled back into the room and began to dry fire his weapon. As SSG Bellavia scanned the inside of the room, it was quickly filling with thick smoke from burning foam mattresses ignited from the blast. Two AIF could be heard screaming at each other from a third story of the building. Not wanting the AIF to give away his position, SSG Bellavia quickly grabbed the wounded AIF in a choke hold to keep him quiet. SSG Bellavia met resistance as he attempted to quiet the screaming AIF. Bellavia was bit on the arm and struck in the face with the barrel of the wounded insurgents small AK47. A .45 caliber pistol shot off against the wall and SSG Bellavia, whose helmet was loosened when it was jarred by the barrel of the AK, began to thrash the AIF in attempts to pacify him. Exchanging blows in the struggle, SSG Bellavia fearing that the screaming insurgent was issuing instructions to his peers upstairs, opened his IBA vest and attempted to use his front sappy plate to forcibly subdue the insurgent into compliance. Hearing multiple foot steps over his position, Bellavia used his Gerber tactical blade and cut into the left side of the insurgent’s throat. Not wanting to discharge his weapon as to give away his position and in fear of the many propane tanks near the wall, SSG Bellavia bled the insurgent with applied pressure as he was spastically kicked and scratched in the melee. Two other insurgents, only feet away yelled to their comrade in Arabic, simultaneously firing their weapons. SSG Bellavia confirmed the insurgent was dead and exited the room as his eyes and the fresh scratches on his face were stinging from the smoke and heat of the growing fire.
SSG Bellavia moved to secure the two doors to his right. Suddenly an AIF dropped down from the third story roof, onto the second story roof. The AIF dropped his weapon as he fell to his knees. SSB Bellavia moved to the window and as the AIF went to grab his weapon SSG Bellavia shot in his direction multiple times, wounding him in the lower back. The AIF was prone and SSG Bellavia assumed he was dead. He moved to the door leading to the roof and found the insurgent straddling a large water tank at the edge of the roof. He shot the remainder of his ammunition into the insurgent’s legs and went back inside to grab a dead insurgent’s weapon. As he moved inside the house the insurgent fell off the roof and into the garden. Moments later, five members of Third Platoon entered and secured the downstairs of the house and yelled up to SSG Bellavia who was still on the second floor.
SSG Bellavia moved to link up with the rest of his platoon. However, before the search could begin for the fifth or sixth insurgent the platoon was ordered to move out of the area due to a close air support mission called in by an adjacent unit.
SSG Bellavia single handedly saved three squads of his Third Platoon that night, risking his own life by allowing them to break contact and reorganize. He then entered and cleared an insurgent strong point, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding another.