Before Capt. Christopher Ashinhurst was selected for the Leftwich Trophy, honoring the Marines’ top ground forces captain, he was awarded a Bronze Star with combat valor device for heroism leading his company during a grueling five-day battle against insurgents, and later rallying to the aid of coalition troops at Combat Outpost Shir Ghazay following a suicide car bombing that left seven Georgian soldiers dead.
The commander of Delta Company, 1st Tanks Battalion, Ashinhurst proved calm under fire, assessing casualties and directing Marines even after being hit on the head with a wooden divider after a blast destroyed his company office. Following the attack, he ran toward enemy forces breaching the outpost without protective gear and armed with the only weapon he could find: a Georgian rifle that had been left behind.
The summary of action from this incident is remarkable: it’s worth reading the whole portion reproduced below.
On 15 May 2013, a Suicide Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (SVBIED) detonated in the entry control
point (ECP) at Combat Outpost (COP) Shir Ghazay. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) estimated the car was
carrying 200lbs of bulk explosive. The effect of the blast wave on the interior of the COP was tremendous.
Captain Ashinhurst and his company staff were in their office, approximately 100 yards from the blast. The blast
wave immediately destroyed the company office. Interior walls, air conditioning units, and pieces of the ceiling
were thrown through the air. Captain Ashinhurst was struck in the side of the head by a wooden divider in the
officer, but immediately ordered his Marines to get to the Indirect-fire (IDF) bunker and then after clearing the
debris off himself, pushed his men out the door of the office. As Captain Ashinhurst left the office building, he
checked each of the rooms in the buildings for casualties left behind and recovered a Georgian rifle left behind in
one of the offices. As he came outside and into the IDF bunker, he took a quick head count of his staff and then
moved past the Georgian living areas directly to the site of the explosion.
The SVBIED blew a gap in the perimeter wall several meters across. Approximately two minutes after the blast,
four enemy fighters armed with AK-47s, UGLs and RPGs dressed in military uniforms, stormed the COP through
the hold made by the SVBIED. Firing through the gap in the wall and over the COP with their AK-47s the enemy
forces shot at Georgian casualties lying in the rubble and soldiers running to assist.
At the same time, Captain Ashinhurst, Georgian Liaison Team Officer-in-Charge, and the Georgian battalion
commander, already heading for the site, accelerated their movement, bounding between MRAPS parked in a lot
between them and the blast site. Without Personal Protective Equipment, and using a rifle he had found in one
of the offices, Captain Ashinhurst unhesitatingly assaulted towards the enemy forces breaching the COP.
When Captain Ashinhurst reached the blast site, he identified casualties among the rubble and after ensuring
that the enemy forces were dead, and soldiers were covering the breach point, he began treating one Georgian
soldier with open fractures to his legs, a mangled hand, and a penetrating chest wound. Capt Ashinhurst applied
a tourniquet to the soldier and directed other Marines to get a stretcher to transport the casualty to the FAS.
Captain Ashinhurst, recognizing a stretcher was unavailable, prepared the soldier to be lifted on to his shoulders
and taken the 200 yards in a firemans carry. As Captain Ashinhurst began the carry a stretcher arrived and he
then transferred the soldier to the stretcher. A moment later, Captain Ashinhurst recognized that some of the
downed enemy fighters were wearing possible suicide vests. He alerted the Georgians securing the scene and
then notified the GLT chain of command so they could get EOD to check the enemy bodies.
After Captain Ashinhurst assisted a few more soldiers and Marines with the evacuation of casualties he located
his company 1stSgt to ensure all his Marines were accounted for. Recalling a tank in from outside the base,
Captain Ashinhurst took the company executive officers tank and crew back outside the COP to command the
defense of Shir Ghazay during the medical evacuation of casualties and the reconstruction of the perimeter. His
fearlessness in the face of the enemy and boldness of action inspired his men and those around him. His
unhesitating reaction assisted in breaking up the enemy follow-on attack, saved the life of at least one Georgian
soldier, and secured the COP from follow on attacks.
And here’s Ashinhurst’s medal citation:
Read more about the May 13 attack on Shir Ghazay and the heroism of Marines who ran to the rescue here.