Marine's 'conspicuous gallantry' cited
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
By William Cole
KANE'OHE BAY — Afghanistan has been called the "forgotten war" because the fighting and controversy of Iraq sometimes overshadows it.
Not for 1st Lt. Stephen J. Boada, or Kilo Company, or the family and friends of two Hawai'i Marines who were cut down by enemy gunfire in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan last May 8.
Boada yesterday was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action — the first for the Kane'ohe Bay base for service in Iraq or Afghanistan — for his role in the firefight that killed the two Marines and wounded three others.
"There are a lot of things going on day to day in Afghanistan that people, they don't really know about," the Connecticut man said. "It's not as high of intensity as Fallujah or the Iraq fight right now, (but) I think we've made significant progress up to this point."
Boada, 27, directed air strikes against enemy positions, tossed grenades into a cave — killing the fighters who shot the two Hawai'i Marines — and called in aircraft again to cover the unit as it evacuated its wounded.
"He stepped up," Lt. Col. Rudy Janiczek said after the presentation at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. "He saw something going on and took charge."
Lance Cpl. Nicholas C. Kirven, 21, of Richmond, Va., and Cpl. Richard P. Schoener, 22, of Hayes, La., were shot and killed by insurgents who holed up in a cave after Boada called in the A-10 aircraft strike.
The soft-spoken Marine deflected the praise for his actions onto the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines who were with him that day in the mountains of Afghanistan. Some members of the unit stood behind Boada as he talked with reporters.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them," Boada said. "This is not my day. This is their day."
The 3rd Battalion of about 900 Marines, which got back from Afghanistan last June, is expected to deploy to Iraq in March.
Boada is an artillery officer with the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines. In his seven months in Afghanistan, he was attached to 3/3, known as "America's Battalion" and was standing in as a forward air controller.
The firefight, in which an estimated 25 to 30 enemy fighters were killed, began as a routine patrol at an elevation of about 7,500 feet through the Alishang district of Laghman province for the 30 Marines of 2nd Platoon.
The opium-growing region had been the scene of previous clashes. Another unit radioed to the Marines that fighters were moving up a mountainside and were setting up an ambush.
While the unit took small-arms fire, Boada called in the A-10 strike. Schoener and Kirven were hit by AK-47 fire from a cave as they checked on fallen enemy fighters.
"It was something to see," said Cpl. Troy Arndt, 22, of Palmyra, Pa., of the A-10 rocket and cannon fire. "You train in situations and use some of the weapons systems, but it's all training to see what you would do in this type of environment, and when you are actually put to it, you hope to react the way the lieutenant reacted to get those aircraft on the scene."
Boada and Arndt picked their way through boulders to get about 30 feet from the cave. With Arndt removing safeties on grenades, and Boada tossing four of the explosives, the Marines killed the fighters inside.
Arndt was approved for a Bronze Star, with a "V" for valor.
Janiczek, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, said the Silver Star Boada received remains a rare honor.
"You don't see many," he said. "It's few enough that it really matters when you wear one."
Reach William Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org.