Major Jim Gant had a lot of decisions to make on one fateful day. One of them was to make sure that the insurgents detonated an IED on his humvee, rather than against civilians or the police.
Major Gant is not only someone to be recognized as a hero, but as someone who is like most soldiers I know, ready to give their lives for the Iraqis because they believe the mission is worth it.
Soldier in Heroic Battle to Receive Silver Star
Story by Sgt. Nicole Kojetin
Posted on 05.02.2007 at 10:29AM
BAGHDAD – “Men, you have one second in your life where you can decide
if you are going to be a coward or if you are going to fight. The time
to decide is now.”
That sentence is something that Maj. James “Jim” Gant, who serves as
the chief of the Iraqi National Police, Quick Reaction Force Battalion
Transition Team, tells his policemen all the time, encouraging them to
fight for what they believe in.
Though most the time he was talking in generic terms, this time he knew
the fight was waiting for them. For six weeks his patrol of three
armored high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles and 23
“soft-shelled” national police pick-up trucks had been getting in
firefights with an organized insurgent force in an area between Balad
and Baghdad. On Dec. 11, his patrol was finally on their way back home.
Gant knew there would be a grand finale.
“We took frequent trips back and forth in the area and the engagements
kept getting bigger,” the Las Cruces, N.M., native said. “They knew
that we were going to leave. They are a determined enemy force. They
wanted to give us a going away present, and we definitely wanted to
...His actions, during that gift, resulted in him earning the Silver Star,
which will be awarded on May 3 at an Iraqi National Police station near
Forward Operating Base Prosperity. The Silver Star is the third highest
award given for valor in the face of the enemy. It is given to American
Gant knows four Soldiers who have earned Silver Stars; two died for
them. He said heroes are everywhere, it just depends on if they get the
chance to show it.
“There are a lot of very good Soldiers, very brave Soldiers that have
never had the opportunity to show it,” he said. “As good as you are,
you don’t control the enemy. I have been blessed since 2001, since our
nation has been at war to fight with incredible warriors and heroes.”
He was given his change to prove himself on that fateful day in December.
The enemy on that stretch of road was well trained and waiting, Gant
said. But he knew his crew was ready. After spending 17 years in the
Army, he should know.
“I had a really well trained transition team,” he said. That confidence
was also extended to his Iraqi brethren as well, with good reason.
“On Nov. 24, (insurgents) hit my vehicle (with an improvised explosive
device) and it flipped three times,” said Gant, half of a dual-military
couple of 11 years. His wife, Maj. Giselle Pozzerle, currently serves
at Fort Bragg, N.C. “One of my Iraqis got me out of that vehicle.”
That was just a recent example, and the training and experience of the
Iraqi policemen and U.S. Soldiers were about to be tested. As the
patrol headed south, machine gun fire started from the west.
Gant ordered his gunner, to return fire, eventually breaking contact
and moving towards Baghdad. In the initial fight, one of his Iraqi
police “Commandos” was injured with a gunshot wound to the face.
“It wasn’t a wound that we could continue without treatment right then and there,” he said.
Using his advanced medical skills that he gained during his time in the
Special Forces, he dismounted and rushed to stabilize the Iraqi and
called in a medical evacuation helicopter.
In order for a helicopter to land, an area had to be cleared. They
moved into nearby palm groves on foot pushing the enemy back in a close
“At this point, it became very apparent to me that the (insurgent’s)
intent was to destroy our patrol,” he said. “We had over 20 vehicles
with us that were spread out across a large area. It is a large enemy
force to have our entire patrol engaged at once.”
They moved back to their landing zone, but the fire intensity increased
on both sides. If they could not clear the landing zone the helicopter
would not be able to land.
“The fire was so heavy you could feel it inside; you could see and feel
the shake of the gunfire, with the Commandos fighting just as
heroically as the Americans” Gant said.
After pushing the enemy back, the bird was able to land, but before the
fight took a turn for the worse, Gant wanted that helicopter out of the
“I told the flight medic, ‘I believe you have about two minutes before
we start receiving mortar fire. They know we are here and we are going
to start receiving mortar fire within the next 60 seconds to two
minutes,’” he said.
They swiftly loaded up the casualties and within 15 seconds of the
helicopter taking off, the landing zone started receiving mortar fire,
He considered the fact that they were still in contact a good thing, though.
“We try to maintain contact with the enemy as long as possible and kill
as many as we can,” Gant said. “We were going to do some serious damage
“It is easy to sit in a room in safety and talk about it,” he said. “I
came here to fight. I came here to kill the enemy. I knew at the time
what a huge engagement it was... I also had a huge concern for my team
and my Iraqis, because I love these guys. I wanted to ensure that we
didn’t take unnecessary risks or have unnecessary casualties.”
He decided that he needed to get the insurgents out of their well-built
positions. It was obvious to him that this complex attack was well
planned. They mounted up and started to move again toward Baghdad still
taking fire from both sides.
“We were receiving some sporadic machine gun fire (as we moved,) and I
got word that the rear was being pinned down with intense small arms
fire,” he said.
He peeled his vehicle to the rear putting him between the patrol and
the incoming fire. Laying down suppressive fire, his gunner went
through 18,000 rounds that day. The rear of the convoy was moving up
out of the hot zone, and Gant’s Humvee pushed back to the lead of the
They were moving toward an urbanized area, with the threat of
improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenade teams rising.
This is when the heaviest fire of the day began, and in the middle of
the median, was an obvious IED.
He wasn’t going to put his team in a situation where they are forced to
pull security in the area, especially since they were still under small
arms fire. His logic was if the IED struck one of the police vehicles
that did not have any protective siding the results will be
catastrophic and they would be pinned down.
“We couldn’t get off the road. There were markets and such on the sides
of the road,” Gant said. “The IED had to go off and I wanted it to be
on an up-armored vehicle. I wanted it to be mine.”
He told the rest of his patrol to push left, and pulled his gunner
inside of the vehicle. He told his driver to have the IED detonate on
“We moved up. Nothing. (We) got closer. Nothing,” he said. “We were within about twenty feet, when (the IED) went off.”
Nobody was hurt and the vehicle was still operational. They continued
on, discovering a second IED about 50 feet from the first.
“My driver was fearless that day. He didn’t even hesitate,” he said.
They started the same drill but at this point a civilian vehicle had
linked up with the convoy. He knew it was there, but he still needed
the second IED to go off on an armored vehicle. The passengers braced
themselves for the second blast. Everyone was all right, once again.
“There was a bend in the road. We were receiving machine gun fire from the front and both flanks,” Gant said.
There was a third IED; a ploy to get them to stop and be sitting ducks for another ambush. It was a hoax
This is when Gant received word that a woman in the civilian vehicle
had been severely injured in the first blast. Still under heavy small
arms fire in a hasty perimeter, he got out and tried to perform first
aid on her.
“She didn’t want me touch her. She was going to die and she didn’t want
me to touch her,” Gant said. His Iraqi counterpart, consoled the woman
saying, “It’s OK. He is my brother.”
She then allowed him to apply tourniquets to both of her severely
wounded legs. There was also a little girl in the vehicle. Gant, a
family man with two kids of his own back in North Carolina, Tristen, 9,
and Scout, 7, wanted to keep this child safe.
“I realized that we might all die today, but this little girl will
not,” he said, talking about how he put the child in his up-armored
vehicle. “We had some sporadic small arms fire after that, but we had
broken their back. They wanted us to stop there.
“I later found out that the women lived, and the little girl,” he said
with a smile, “was still afraid of U.S. forces, but she was really
small... maybe one. She didn’t understand; (she) just knew that someone
had grabbed her from her mom and dad. She didn’t know that it was for
her own protection. I hope that one day, her parents tell her what
happened that day.”
They engaged the insurgents until the patrol was able to get out of the
area, eventually making it into Baghdad and down a route known for
When they finally made it back that day, they were met with a
celebration. There were more than 200 Commandos singing and bathing the
road with goat’s blood and planting bloody handprints all over there
war-torn, bullet-ridden vehicles. There were celebrating.
“I will never forget them hugging and kissing us, their brothers in
arms,” he said of their return. “They do this in celebration, when they
think we gave our lives for them, or could be dead.”
Though nearly six months has passed since that battle occurred, Gant can tell the story of the battle like it was yesterday.
Only two Soldiers remain on his crew that were with him that day, most
of the American Soldiers have rotated back to the United States, but he
remembers all of his team.
“On that day, there were no Americans. There were no Iraqis, no whites
and no blacks. There were no Sunnis, Shias, Christians. There was just
a group of warriors working and fighting together,” he said. “All the
men I fought with that day showed incredible courage and bravery. That
was one of the highlights of my life; working with those men that day.”