Gunnery Sgt. Christopher J. Clookey was no stranger to danger during his deployment to Afghanistan in the spring of 2008. In a span of three days, Clookey and his Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, destroyed a Taliban machinegun bunker and its occupants, took down a squad of Taliban combatants, and picked a firefight with Taliban insurgents who outnumbered his Marines and were engaged in battle with his fellow battalion members.
During this firefight, one of his Marines was wounded and needed an immediate evacuation. Clookey purposely exposed himself to enemy gun fire in order to trace their location. After pinpointing the enemy’s positions, Clookey led his Marines to thwart the Taliban’s ambush, neutralizing the threat. Through his brave initiative, Clookey was able to safely evacuate the wounded Marine after calling in for air support and marking the landing zone. Clookey was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat V for his brave and selfless actions while serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
MARINES: Why did you join the Marine Corps?
Gunnery Sgt. Clookey: Mostly it’s a family thing. Almost all the men in my family have served in the service. Most of them are Marines, but not all.
If someone told you when you were younger that one day you would stand in the line of enemy fire and save your fellow Marines, how would you react?
I really don’t know how I would have reacted when I was younger. I probably wouldn’t have given it much thought and just did it because when you’re young, you’re invincible.
What was your initial reaction to the incoming rounds?
Incoming rounds really don’t even faze me anymore. My only concern is making sure the Marines around me aren’t hurt.
What was the day like leading up to the firefight?
It was late May 2008, temperatures were well above 110 degrees, and our platoon (1st Platoon) was divided in half, holding the company’s most western flank. We were [conducting operations] in two small compounds with a sniper team attachment observing and conducting patrols throughout the area. We were in contact almost every day with Taliban fighters, so this day wasn’t much different other than there were definitely more of them that day.
What gave you the strength and courage to stand in the direct line of enemy fire to locate the enemy?
You really don’t think about the enemy or death in situations where Marines are injured. The only concern and priority is getting them evacuated. Everything else just comes natural from good training.
Did previous experience in firefights and training help prepare you for that day?
It was definitely not my first encounter with the enemy. This was my third combat deployment. I had been in many engagements prior to the one leading up to that day. Training is an essential part in any MOS, but our company’s crucial work up and experienced leadership are what I relied on more than any training scenario we were given.
What were your thoughts when you heard you were being award the Bronze Star with Combat V?
My company commander had told me before I PCSed (permanent change of station) that he had recommended me for the award. I was more proud at that moment, that he had thought that much of me and my platoon’s actions, than actually receiving it. I believed and still do believe we were just doing our jobs.
What is one message you’d like to tell Marines today?
When all else fails, rely on your training and protect that Marine to your left and right. Everything else should fall into place.
Do you have any role models or is there someone who you think led you to become the type of Marine or person you are today?
There are so many great Marines I have looked up to and tried to emulate throughout my career. I just try to take a little from everyone and make it work for me. Marines like Col. William M. Jurney, Sgt. Maj. Scott D. Hamm, Maj. Sean Dynan, and fellow gunnery sergeant, Gunnery Sgt. Julian Lumm to name just a few.
What’s your favorite Meal, Ready-to-Eat?
Without a doubt, the chicken breast.
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