A decorated Marine Raider who was critically wounded during a deployment to Iraq in support of the fight against Islamic State militants received one of the nation's most prestigious awards for valor this week.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Maloney, a multi-purpose canine handle with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion within Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was presented with a Bronze Star with combat valor device Oct. 30 in recognition of heroism during an intense ISIS ambush.
According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, Maloney had been conducting partnered reconnaissance operations on a "prominent ridge" along the Kurdish Defensive Line.
While the citation does not state where Maloney's team was deployed, U.S. military officials have described the defensive line organized by Kurdish Peshmerga forces prosecuting the ground fight against ISIS as surrounding the city of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.
On Aug. 27, 2016, the Raider team was providing security from an observation post overlooking ISIS territory when three of the Marines were ambushed from a position 500 meters to the west, according to the citation.
Incoming small-arms and machine-gun fire was heavy enough to pin the troops down, and ISIS machine-gun rounds pelted the vehicle the Marines were taking cover behind.
At that point, Maloney decided to take action.
"He immediately crossed open ground, retrieved ammunition, and took charge of a Peshmerga heavy machine gun in an exposed and open truck bed," the citation reads. "Remaining deliberately exposed to withering fire, he laid deadly suppressive fire on the enemy fighting positions."
There, with enemy rounds flying around him, the worst happened: His machine gun malfunctioned. Not once, but twice.
Each time, he had to keep his wits about him and fix the problem with the weapon while remaining exposed to enemy gunfire. And when the gun started working again, he kept firing.
"[Maloney's] fearless actions and fierce suppression gained fire superiority and enabled his teammates to return safely to covered positions," the citation states. "His bold actions further contributed to the immediate withdrawal of enemy forces."
Months later on the same deployment, Maloney would be wounded in action. According to a GoFundMe page created by friends, he was "critically wounded" Dec. 30.
Marine Corps Times reported at the time that Maloney was recovering from a head wound. The account almost immediately raised most of the $15,000 goal to support Maloney's family and cover expenses associated with his recovery.
The fundraising page stated he had been on his fifth deployment.
Maloney's medal citation provides a rare look into the heroism of special operations troops in the fight against ISIS. While there are now hundreds of operators in Iraq and Syria supporting and advising local ground forces, they frequently are kept out of the public spotlight.
While the Defense Department does not keep a public database of Bronze Star awards, it lists only four Silver Stars awarded to date for valor in Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Three have been presented to soldiers, and one to an airman.