MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- When a Marine cleans up after a chaotic combat tour and returns stateside, the American public stands in awe at the heroic things he accomplished. However, the Marine sees it as another day on the job.
This is the case with 1st Lt. Andrew P. Thomas, who served as platoon commander, 4th platoon, small craft company, 1st Marine Division, who was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal July 8 for his actions during an attack on the riverbanks of Ramadi. Recalling one of the more prominent events that qualified him for the award, Thomas takes a humble, nonchalant approach to telling the story.
Thomas, originally out of Millen, Ga., joined the Marine Corps after receiving a degree in criminal justice. He hit the ground running when he started his Marine Corps career, and approximately three years later, he’s still going strong with esprit de Corps.
Thomas and his crew of Marines were conducting amphibious patrols via watercraft in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom Dec. 12, 2004 when he and the Marines under his command were ambushed from both sides of the river.
“We didn’t expect to get ambushed because we supposedly had friendlies over in that direction. It turns out they weren’t there,” said Thomas. “We were supposed to go to another place as opposed to the way we came, but we ended up going that way. We got hit that way, and we tried to get out of there as fast as we could.”
“We didn’t have the assets to dismount and go after them at that time, so we did what we could from the water.”
Thomas testified it wasn’t an easy escape.
“There were 15 or so guys shooting at us from along the river,” he said, “They had a lot Rocket Propelled Grenades and my boat got hit quite a few times. There were a lot of rounds on it.”
Despite the ‘extensive damage’ to the boats described in the award citation, Thomas and all his Marines made it out alive and were able to reciprocate extensive damage to the enemy. Specifically, all attackers and their vehicles were prevented from escape.
The whole incident was approximately 15 minutes long, said Thomas.
Thomas doesn’t have a lot to say about his achievements during his first tour in Iraq, but is getting ready to make a second stop starting in the middle of September.
“I just love Marines, period,” said Thomas when asked about why he serves, noting the Corps’ superior discipline.
As Thomas looks on to his future role in the war as the executive officer for Dam Security Unit, 2nd Amphibious Assault Battalion, he remains optimistic about the Corps and his ability to serve.
“I feel better prepared and I know what to expect,” he said with confidence.