Combat Center Marine receives Bronze Star for actions in Iraq

19 Mar 2004 | Lance Cpl Heidi E. Loredo

It takes concentration, impeccable training and a certain personality to do what 1st Lt. Joshua R. Bates matter-of-factly calls his job.

Bates does his job well.  So well in fact, that he received a Bronze Star Medal with a combat V device at the base theater March 5 for his actions as platoon commander for Combined Anti Armor Team Red, Weapon's Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Bronze Star is the nation's fourth highest award for bravery, heroism or meritorious service.  The "V" signifies the award resulted from an act of combat heroism or valor, distinguishing it from meritorious achievement awards.

"After being engaged in four separate firefights within a six-hour period, CAAT Red continued its attack toward Division Objective Two when an unknown force engaged the platoon.  [Bates] reported receiving fire from an organized armored defensive position and thus began to engage the enemy with accurate machine gun and missile fire. 

Almost immediately, an adjacent friendly unit reported receiving missile fire in close proximity of the enemy positions.  His platoon engaged the well dug in force and destroyed 12 T-55 Tanks, three MTLB's and two supply trucks," reads Bates' citation.

On April 5, in the town of Al Muhaydi As Salih the team was establishing a vehicle checkpoint, when a vehicle approached at a high speed with no intention of stopping. 

Bates quickly drew his 9mm pistol and fired two rounds into the hood of the vehicle.  The vehicle stopped and three occupants were detained.  His quick decision without doubt saved the lives of numerous Marines manning the checkpoint.

Bates received his award in front of his Marines and Sailors.  He was also honored with the presence of his father, Col. John R. Bates, assistant chief of staff, Camp Pendleton, Calif., who pinned the medal on his son.

"I thought I felt the buttons on my cammie blouse bust.  I couldn't be prouder of my son," said the colonel.  "I'm very impressed with his actions.  I saw him in Iraq but all he talked about was his Marines, not his actions during the missions."

"It was great to have my father there at the ceremony.  It was one of those classic moments. I'm definitely very fortunate," said the 25-year-old Bates.

The Oceanside, Calif., native admitted he was slightly influenced to become a Marine by his father.

"Well, there is no way it couldn't have influenced me -- with him being a Marine and the officer that he is," said Bates.  "A lot of people ask me about that.  Is it hard to follow in his footsteps?  It has never been like that with him.  He's never tried to influence me.  He never tried to push me into the military, especially in the Marine Corps."

Although he always sensed the Corps' presence it was not until his junior year in high school that Bates really became interested in joining the Marine Corps.
"I walked into the recruiter's office one day and I thought I was going to do it, remembered Bates.  "I came back and told my father.  He said, 'my God you didn't sign anything did you?' He was a little worried about that because he wanted me to go to school first.  His big thing was, 'When you turn 18 you're on your own. It's time for you to go out and figure out what you're going to do with your life.'"

Soon after the visit to the recruiter, Bates inquired about the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.

"I considered it and thought -- it pays for college and that works for me," said Bates.  "That wasn't my full reason for joining the Marine Corps though.  It was sort of the macho thing to do. I had something to prove."

"When he first started to experience interest I said to him, 'I don't want any part of it. They'll tear you up.'  Obviously, that made him tougher," remembered the elder Bates.

The father and son duo aren't the only Marines in the Bates family.  Stacey Lafreinere-Bates, wife of Lt. Bates is a former Marine lieutenant.  She spent nine months in Kuwait and Iraq with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1.  Stacey left the Marine Corps in February to pursue a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"We saw each other six times during our deployment, three times in Kuwait and three in Iraq.  I was pretty excited. I definitely didn't take it for granted. It took a lot of coordination both on our parts to make it happen with us being so far apart.  It wasn't easy.  I was relieved and really happy to see her," said Bates.

A humble Bates stood in front of his Marines, who he refers to as "an outstanding group of tough guys."  "You know I feel kind of guilty about something like this," said Bates. "There are so many people that do great things and not that many are recognized.  I definitely credit my Marines.  They are the ones that made it happen.  They are the ones for the most part pulling the triggers and I'm on the radio telling them where to go. Nevertheless, they make it happen."

Anxious to see combat, Bate's Marines had to deal with the day-to-day boredom in Iraq.

"We were finally getting to do what we were trained for," said Bates. "We had a lot of fun and we accomplished our mission without losing any Marines. You could see it in the their eyes.  They'd get pumped up and on ultra-alert.  We were waiting on the edge of our seats."

The most memorable moment for Bates during his time in Iraq was in Az Zubayr.

"The first day after we left Az Zubayr we were doing a battle hand-over to the British Tank Command.  As we were pulling out we could see the entire downtown ringing with fire and explosions. Everybody was hooting and getting pumped up," said Bates.

"His performance in Iraq was exemplary," said Lt. Col. Christopher Woodbridge, battalion commander, 1/7. "This award gives the Marines a great example of leadership and courage. It gives the enlisted Marines and even officers a role model. I was thrilled and I was glad to be able to present the award as well as honored to have his father, Col. Bates, at his side."

"This is how we recognize our heroes," said Woodbridge at the awards presentation. "We can't give you extra money.  We can't give you special duties or special jobs. What we do is stand you up in front of your peers, in front of the Marines and Sailors that you fight with and we recognize something that you did above and beyond."

Bates' father expressed his pride in his son and daughter-in-law.

"This is a very special moment for me.  It's such an honor to have my Josh as a brother in arms as well as my son. What inspires me the most about Josh and Stacey is that they were born citizens of this country but they have earned it by giving something back to this nation," said the elder Bates.

Bates will end his tour of duty in July and hopes to further his education and become a college instructor. 
Instead of taking the credit for his actions, he praised his Marines for the award. Bates wishes he could divide his award among all of those he considers deserving. "If they could give this award to a platoon it would be my take on it," he said.  "These guys are 18, 19, 20-year-olds and the amount of responsibility, leadership and their outstanding performance they have shown is unbelievable."

"Bates' leadership is the reason he now wears his Bronze Star Medal.  Although his award humbles him, it's an unmistakable honor he earned in the fight to offer the Iraqi people freedoms otherwise beyond their reach," said Woodbridge

Headquarters Marine Corps