FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq -- When a convoy of Marines from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, was attacked recently in the town of Musayyib, there was one Marine who stood out during the firefight.
That was Lance Cpl. Rattanaka Yun of the battalion’s motor transportation section, who was manning an M-240G machine gun mounted atop a humvee.
With rounds flying right past his head and bouncing off the gunner’s shield in front of him, Yun unflinchingly fired his machine gun at enemy insurgents who were trying to take him out with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
His ability to keep firing in the face of danger was a big factor in allowing all the Marines involved to come away with no causalities.
“I saw him put his head down to look through the crack in the shield as rounds were bouncing off it,” said Cpl. Andre Queiroga, 21, a Ludlow, Mass., native and a motor transportation operator. “When other Marines would have bailed off the truck in that situation, he kept firing.”
But if it had not been for an unusual set of circumstances, Yun probably would not have been at this fight at all.
The reason -- he is an infantryman by trade who happens to be working in the motor transportation section.
“It’s rare to have someone with his [Military Occupational Specialty] with the section,” said Staff Sgt. Michael C. Mceachern, 29, a Hyannis, Mass., native and Motor Transportation Operations Chief.
According to Mceachern, Yun had been assigned to one of the rifle companies, but friction between Yun and other Marines there led to his transfer to Headquarters and Service Company.
Yun welcomed the new assignment.
“I knew if I went to H&S Company, I would go to Motor-T,” said Yun, 21, a Philadelphia native. “They taught me how to do the Motor-T thing, and I’ve taught them a little bit of the grunt thing,” he added.
Along with teaching his fellow Marines some basic infantry skills, Yun also works in the tool room.
“Yun is the tool room [noncommissioned officer]”, said Queiroga. “He checks and keeps track of everything the mechanics use to work on the vehicles.”
He also helps out the mechanics from time to time, lending a hand to work on trucks whenever he can.
“Motor-T has given me a second chance,” said Yun. “They took me in as their brother. Most people are surprised that I’m with Motor-T.”
Yun has made the most of the opportunity, shining in his new role while putting his infantry skills to good use protecting the BLT’s logistics train as it conducts convoy operations throughout Iraq.
Yun’s cool under fire in Musayyib drew praise from Queiroga, who was manning the MK-19 machine gun in the next vehicle.
“He would shoot in eight-round bursts,” Queiroga said. “I saw him fire on the insurgents when they first appeared at the end of the street, allowing the two Marines caught in front of us to get back to cover -- saving their lives.”
“I also saw him fire on two insurgents who ran forward with RPGs, both aiming for our trucks,” he added. “Yun strafed (with) the 240G, hitting the insurgents and causing the rocket propelled grenades to fly over our vehicles instead of hitting them. All the while, enemy fire was concentrated on him, bouncing off the metal shield he was sitting behind.”
After the firefight, the Marines who were standing in front of Yun when the insurgents appeared came up and thanked him for saving their lives and allowing them to get behind some cover.
“I think I proved (myself),” said Yun.
He has also earned the respect of the Marines in his new section.
Whatever problems he might have had in his old company, said Mceachern, “he’s doing a great job here.”