Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Leach was a platoon sergeant during a New Year's Day raid on an ISIS commander operating in Afghanistan. Despite being wounded in a grenade blast, Leach held off enemy fighters long enough to save the coalition soldier's life.
"It was all about the guys standing next to me," Leach said. "Our Afghan partners fight side by side with us. We protect them, and they protect us."
For Leach, a native of Bremerton, Washington, who has served 12 deployments during his 13 years in the Army, it was more important to see his fellow soldiers be recognized for their actions.
"To me, getting to see my men recognized meant the world to me, and it was a privilege to be with them," he said.
Leach was one of 11 soldiers in the battalion to receive awards Friday, as the unit looked back on exceptional service during its 23rd deployment in support of the Global War on Terror.
"In every case, Rangers never cowered, never hesitated to accomplish their mission," battalion commander Lt. Col. Kenneth Burgess said in prepared remarks.
While under direct AK-47 and grenade fire, Leach continued to fire his weapon alone for three minutes, allowing two injured Rangers to exit the compound, then dragged the Afghan soldier to safety, according to his citation.
"He continued to lead his Rangers, organizing the [helicopter landing zone] party, repositioning security, and only sought medical attention after all medevacs were complete," the citation reads.
In addition to Leach, five 2nd Battalion soldiers received the Bronze Star with "V" device for actions during their October 2016 to January 2017 deployment in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. They were Staff Sgt. Robert Burgess, Staff Sgt. Timothy Campbell, Sgt. Kevin Hanley, Staff Sgt. Michael Imboden and Sgt. Jacob Ponczkowski.
Five more soldiers received the Joint Service Commendation Medal with "V" device: Sgt. Dominic Carabajal, Sgt. Roderick Coday, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Marinellie, Staff Sgt. Christopher Newell and Staff Sgt. Andrew Ross.