Kaneohe Marine receives Silver Star
The lieutenant wins recognition for 2005 action in Afghanistan
The first Kaneohe Marine to receive the Silver Star since the war on terror began nearly five years ago says Americans need to remember that there is still a war in Afghanistan.
After receiving the country's third-highest medal for valor yesterday, 1st Lt. Stephen Boada, 27, said he does not want "to say that Afghanistan is the forgotten war, but there are lot of things going on in Afghanistan that people don't really know about.
"It is not as high intensity as Fallujah or Iraq right now, obviously," said Boada. "I think we have made significant progress in Afghanistan up to this point."
Boada deflected any attempts to describe him as a hero. But the commanding officer of his battalion, Lt. Col. Rudy Janiczsk, told his Marines that they should look up to the lieutenant and remember that "at any given time you can make the difference."
GREGG KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lt. Col. Norm Cooling, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, pinned the Silver Star on 1st Lt. Stephen Boada at morning formation yesterday at Kaneohe Bay. Boada was credited with directing aircraft attacks on al-Qaida forces and other insurgents last May in eastern Afghanistan, resulting in the death of about 30 insurgents.
Boada has been a Marine for seven years and an artillery officer with Kaneohe's 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, since July 2004.
For seven months last year, Boada was assigned to an infantry unit, the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, as a forward observer and forward air controller. His job was to coordinate both artillery and close Air Force support for the 3rd Battalion.
During a routine patrol in May, Boada not only coordinated both Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt and AC-130 Spectre gunships on about 30 insurgents fighting in the mountainous region near the village of Shatagal in Laghman province in eastern Afghanistan, but also led a grenade attack on a machine gun nest hidden in a cave.
Boada, who is from Bristol, Conn., said the firefight was "the highest-intensity conflict" that the unit he was assigned to -- 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company -- had experienced during the seven months it was in Afghanistan.
Two Kaneohe Marines -- Cpl. Richard P. Schoener, 22, and Lance Cpl. Nicholas C. Kirven, 21 -- were killed in the battle on May 8. They were the only combat deaths the 3rd Battalion suffered in Afghanistan.
The two fallen Marines were both awarded a Bronze Star for their part in the cave-clearing incident. They were cut down in the initial assault on the cave, according to the Marines.
Three other Kaneohe Marines were injured in the firefight in a valley known for its poppy fields and dominated by drug lords. The region had been virtually untouched by coalition forces until the Kaneohe Marines arrived there in November 2004, Boada said.
Boada, who suffered a minor chest wound, said it was a team effort of his platoon that earned him the Silver Star.
"It was a tremendous honor, but like I said, it's just not my day. I don't see it that way. An honor, certainly, knowing the history of the award and those who have received it before me ... but I prefer just to carry on."
Boada said that while operating near Shatagal village, intelligence reports indicated that al-Qaida and other insurgents planned to ambush the Marines when they left the village.
Boada and 30 members of 2nd Platoon pursued the insurgents up the mountain. One of his squads came under fire, killing Schoener and Kirven.
Boada said the insurgents, armed with AK-47 rifles and machine guns, were spotted in a cave on the side of a mountain. He said that one of his squads surrounded the cave while another took a defensive position.
While members of his platoon laid down a barrage of firepower, hoping to distract and suppress the insurgents in the cave, Boada and Cpl. Troy Arndt hurled grenades into the cave, Boada said.
The two were about 30 feet from the mouth of the cave on their bellies, protected only by a few rocks.
Arndt, 22, said he "prepped" the grenades by removing several of its safety mechanisms and then tossed them to Boada, who hurled them into the cave. The two tossed four grenades into the cave. Arndt was awarded a Bronze Star medal with "V" device for valor.
Arndt praised the way Boada "took control of the situation and neutralized it" after realizing several members of the platoon had been killed and others wounded.
He also agreed with Boada that although the Iraq war might get more attention, "it's good for the world to be reminded that there is still terrorism and al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan who are still trying to make a statement. The Marines, Army, Navy -- all of us combined -- are doing what we are trained to do."