Distinguished Service Cross Awarded
From an Army News Service story by Sergeant Lorie Jewell:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 24, 2005) – The Distinguished Service Cross – second only to the Medal of Honor in military decorations – has been awarded to U.S. Army Col. James H. Coffman Jr. for his role in leading Iraqi Special Police Commandos through a 5 ½-hour battle against insurgents trying to overrun an Iraqi police station.
[As Colonel Coffman's] Quick Reaction Force approached the station, it was besieged with rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortar rounds. Coffman and the commandos fought the insurgents for four hours before help arrived. When the initial firefight killed or seriously wounded all but one of the commando officers, Coffman rallied the remaining commandos while trying to radio for assistance, according to his award citation.
“Under heavy fire, he moved from commando to commando, looking each in the eye and using hand and arm signals to demonstrate what he wanted done,” the citation said.
When an enemy round shattered his left shooting hand, damaging his M4 rifle in the process, Coffman bandaged it and continued fighting with AK-47 rifles he collected from commando casualties until each ran out of ammunition. He also passed out ammunition to the uninjured commandos with the help of the remaining commando officer; when all that remained were loose rounds, Coffman held magazines between his legs and loaded the rounds with his good hand.
When a second commando unit arrived four hours after the fight began, Coffman led them to his position and continued to fight, refusing to be evacuated for treatment until the battle was over. Not long after the commando reinforcements arrived, air support and a Stryker Brigade Quick Reaction Force were on hand to assist to assist in the battle.
Coffman supervised the evacuation of injured commandos and led another group of commandos to the police station to make contact with the Iraqi Police inside. Once the additional air and ground support elements began attacking buildings the enemy forces were hiding in, Coffman went back to his initial position to check on the injured commandos and then agreed to be evacuated for treatment. Twenty-five insurgents were killed and dozens injured.