CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa --
“As we came up to the choke point I was thinking to look out for victim-operated IEDs, but not an ambush,” said Staff Sgt. John Rudd, an explosive ordnance technician with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “We had made a push through the area about two days prior, so at that particular spot, we were expecting to encounter an IED but found ourselves in a gunfight.”
Rudd earned the Bronze Star with a combat distinguishing device for actions he performed on July 27, 2011, while assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
The award citation describes how on that day, after courageously walking into the kill zone to disarm an IED by hand, he came under heavy small arms fire. Although under fire from multiple positions, he continued to disarm the device to allow the patrol to move from the site.
During the ambush, a local national was holding his eight-year-old daughter who was severely wounded by enemy fire. Rudd rushed to the girl, expertly applying lifesaving care to her injuries, which included a severe chest wound, and ultimately was responsible for saving the girl’s life.
When asked what was going through his head during the ambush Rudd responded abruptly with two words, “my daughter.”
“When I got to the little girl and saw her looking at me with fear in her eyes, I was trying to tell her that she would be ok and I was there to help rather than hurt her,” said Rudd.
He described the receiving the nation’s fourth-highest combat award as a humbling experience to share with his EOD brothers.
The award came as an unsurprising feat from the perspective of Capt. Donald Pilcher, EOD Company commander, 9th ESB, whose unit provides the EOD detachment for the 31st MEU. “Staff Sgt. Rudd has been a leader from the time I met him as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed lance corporal, and has continued to develop into a fine man, excellent Marine and outstanding EOD technician,” said Pilcher. “I’m not surprised in the least that earned this award.”
Rudd’s wife also received a certificate of appreciation in conjunction with his Bronze Star award for her continual support during the deployment, supporting their daughter alone while her husband was deployed. By ensuring the family was strong back home, she said she allowed Rudd to devote his mind to the fight in Afghanistan without distraction.
After the ceremony, the imminent explosion of handshakes and hugs proved to be something Rudd couldn’t defuse. The room filled with pride for Rudd receiving the award on behalf of the tightly-knit EOD community.
“SSgt Rudd proved that the professionalism of the Marine Corps is alive and well,” said Pilcher. “In a field full of exceptional Marines to begin with, he continues to find a way to bring it up a notch.”
Rudd recently returned from a deployment to the Asia-Pacific region with the 31st MEU, which included doing theater security cooperation and helping keep the region stable and secure.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.