Yesterday was the second anniversary of the death of Army Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith
of the 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 11th Engineer Battalion. The event was marked by the presentation of the Congressional Medal of Honor to his widow and children.
Sergeant Smith was killed in action against the Iraqi army near the Baghdad Airport. He saved American lives while firing the heavy machine gun mounted on an M113 armored personnel carrier.
He had earlier called for support from a Bradley fighting vehicle, but the Bradley had to withdraw due to heavy RPG fire from the Iraqis. The M113 and crew responded to the action but the crew was wounded after taking a mortar hit. Sergeant Smith manned the M113's machine gun to stop the Iraqi advance.
Sergeant Smith was a member of an engineering unit. His unit was assigned to build a holding area for prisoners of war. They were a construction team, not a combat team. They should have had protection by combat units, but just like Jessica Lynch's transportation unit, there weren't enough combat units available to provide protection.
If the US had used the force levels recommended by General Shinseki, the supply route used by Lynch's unit would have been protected; the area where Smith's unit was working would have been protected; there would have been troops to guard Iraqi weapons dumps, and other important sites.
Rumsfeld did not go to war with the army he had, we went with the smallest force he thought would probably win. He had years to prepare for this war, and he didn't.
Sergeant Smith deserved his honor; he went above and beyond his duty. It is tragic that those above him didn't do theirs.