(AP) - A Minnesota soldier will be honored for "gallantry in action" Saturday when the Minnesota National Guard presents him with the prestigious Silver Star.
Staff Sgt. Chad Malmberg distinguished himself when he led 15 American soldiers in a fierce, nearly hourlong firefight against 30 Iraqi insurgents on Jan. 27, the Guard said in a statement.
They defended a convoy against rocket fire and more than 1,000 AK-47 rounds from an enemy determined, he believes, to capture an American gun truck.
He took the dangerous step of getting out of his armored vehicle several times to throw grenades and fire a shoulder-mounted rocket at the insurgents creeping closer.
Malmberg, 27, will be the first Minnesota National Guard member to receive a Silver Star since World War II, the Guard said.
The Silver Star is the nation's fourth-highest combat decoration and is "designated solely for valor in the face of the enemy," the Guard said.
"Malmberg repeatedly put himself in the direct line of enemy fire to coordinate ground and air support and ensure the safety of his soldiers," the Guard said. "His calm leadership ultimately saved the lives of every troop in his convoy, at great risk to his own."
The St. Paul man, who's attending college in Mankato, will receive the award at a ceremony in St. Paul Saturday.
“It was just surreal. You didn't have time to think about being afraid.”Staff Sgt. Chad Malmberg
The medal will be presented by the commanding general of the 34th Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Rick Erlandson. Soldiers who served with Malmberg in Iraq and their families will attend.
Malmberg was a convoy commander, leading semis loaded with food, fuel and supplies from southwestern Iraq near Kuwait to locations throughout Iraq. As it happened, the flatbed semis he was leading across the Iraqi desert near Baghdad the night of Jan. 27 were empty.
The insurgents began their attack from about 500 yards away, then approached to within 20 yards.
After hearing about similar tactics used elsewhere, Malmberg said, he realized the insurgents were attempting to surround and capture a gun truck with three soldiers inside. So he left his armored vehicle, threw some hand grenades and fired a shoulder-mounted rocket at them.
"It was just surreal. You didn't have time to think about being afraid," he said.
The thing he's most proud of, he said, is that none of his troops was injured.
Malmberg plans to graduate from Minnesota State University, Mankato, with a law enforcement degree in a few months, then hopes to join the St. Paul Police Department.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)