View Full Version : U.S. Donald Hollenbaugh , Distinguished Service Cross,Iraq

08-16-2009, 11:33 AM
Donald Hollenbaugh

* Home of record: Prescott, Wash.

Awards and Citations

Distinguished Service Cross

Awarded for actions during the Global War on Terror

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Master Sergeant Donald R. Hollenbaugh, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Headquarters, United States Army Special Operations Command, in action on 26 April 2004, during combat operations against an armed Iraqi insurgent force while supporting United States Marine Corps operations in Fallujah, Iraq. Master Sergeant Hollenbaugh demonstrated the highest degree of courage and excellent leadership through his distinguished performance as Team Leader while engaged in Urban Combat Operations. His heroic actions throughout one of the most intensive firefights of the Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign were directly responsible for preventing enemy insurgent forces from overrunning the United States Force. Master Sergeant Hollenbaugh personally eliminated multiple enemy-controlled weapon positions, essential in turning the tide of the enemy's ground-force assault upon a United States Marine Corps Platoon. His actions under fire as a Leader were performed with marked distinction and bravery. Master Sergeant Hollenbaugh's distinctive accomplishments are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, this Command, and the United States Army.

Service: Army

Rank: Master Sergeant

08-16-2009, 11:34 AM
Master Sgt. Donald Hollenbaugh was the last man standing on the rooftop in Fallujah. The three men with him were down. Enemy fighters were creeping up.

It's what he did then that won Hollenbaugh the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest award for valor in combat.

Hollenbaugh, a Fort Bragg special operations soldier who has since retired from the military, received the medal from Vice President Dick Cheney in a ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., earlier this month.

Cheney said that Hollenbaugh's award ceremony offered a rare glimpse into the world of special operations.

"It's ... in the nature of your business that the best work goes unrecognized until years after the fact, if ever," he said. "And we may never know all the grief that has been spared because of you."

Hollenbaugh was assigned to the headquarters of U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. The Army typically uses that designation for soldiers in Delta Force, the secretive unit that specializes in high-risk missions.

The fight that led to the medal began April 26, 2004, about three weeks into an American offensive in the most volatile city in Iraq. Four American contractors had been killed, their bodies mutilated by insurgents.

The military was positioning itself to take back the city. Hollenbaugh and a platoon of Marines had taken over two houses on the outskirts of the city, about 300 yards in front of the American lines. Their mission was to set up lookout posts and spot insurgent positions.

What was supposed to be a simple mission turned into a fight for their lives as more than 300 enemy fighters poured into the area around the houses, Hollenbaugh said in a telephone interview this week.

"We didn't expect the level of contact that came," Hollenbaugh said.

When the American forces withdrew, 25 of the 37 men with Hollenbaugh had been wounded. One was killed. Eleven of the wounded were evacuated on stretchers.

Hollenbaugh helped hold off the enemy fighters while the wounded were evacuated. He turned "the tide of the enemy's ground-force assault upon a U.S. Marine Corps Platoon," according to the citation accompanying his medal.

When the soldiers set up in the houses, Hollenbaugh climbed to the roof of one of the three-story buildings. He heard the Muslim call to pray echo down the alleyways. He said he turned to one of his buddies and said he had a bad feeling.

"Oh boy, this is not going to be a good day," he said. "This is how Somalia started. This could get ugly quick."

But the fight started slowly. At dawn, the house where Hollenbaugh was set up was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade. No one was hurt.

A few minutes later, machine-gun fire rattled off the facade. The machine gun was followed by another rocket that hit near Hollenbaugh. He could feel the heat and flash on his face.

"I didn't get hurt, but I only had one earplug in, so that stung," he said.

What Hollenbaugh didn't know at the time was the Iraqis were probing the American defenses. They believed that this was the start of an offensive on Fallujah, and hundreds of insurgents were headed to the fight.

For the next hour or so, Hollenbaugh said, the firing was sporadic. The insurgents would shoot and the Americans would fire back.

Then the house north of the one where Hollenbaugh was set up was hit by grenades, wounding several Marines. The blast started a fire on the roof, which caught an ammunition vest on fire and started to detonate several of the Marines' 40 mm grenades.

A special operations medic on Hollenbaugh's team raced across the street under heavy fire to treat the wounded.

By now, enemy fighters were along the walls of the building and moving up the alleyways. The Americans were pouring fire down the alleys and tossing grenades along the base of the building.

Hollenbaugh, another special operations soldier and two Marines were on top of the southern building. A grenade exploded on the roof. Hollenbaugh said he had time to duck into a stairwell, but the blast badly wounded the two Marines.

Hollenbaugh helped get them to cover. He said he also patched up the other special operations soldier, who had been hit by shrapnel in the arm and behind the ear.

Hollenbaugh was the only man standing.

"I was just running from hole to hole putting a few rounds here and there to make them feel like they were dealing with more than one guy," he said.

A Humvee pulled up to take the wounded back to the American lines. A machine gun down an alley was firing at the medics. Hollenbaugh said he could barely see the gun, so he banked rounds off the walls of the alley to keep the gunner's head down.

After everyone was evacuated, the Marine platoon leader told Hollenbaugh that it was time to go. Both men raced down the stairs and out of the empty house. Hollenbaugh said they linked up with the rest of the platoon a few houses away. It was at that point he realized he had been the only one still defending the house.

"I am glad someone did a head count," Hollenbaugh said. "I didn't calculate that I was alone."

Hollenbaugh recommended the team's medic for a medal. He was shocked that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

"There was a lot of heroism that day," he said. "I work with heroes every day."