Defend Sgt. Robert Richards
Sgt Robert W. Richards
United States Marine Corps
Sgt Richards, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in January, 2007 and attended Recruit Training at MCRD, Parris Island, South Carolina, graduating as a PFC. In April 2007, Rob married Raechel. Upon completion of Recruit Training and School of Infantry, PFC Richards reported to 1st Battalion 6th Marines, Camp Lejeune, NC.
LCpl Richards was selected for 1st Battalion 6th Marines' Sniper Platoon in August of 2007. In March of 2008, he deployed with the 24th MEU as the invading force for Operation Aswada Woda into Garmsir, Afghanistan. He served in Scout Sniper team 2. During this deployment, the battalion experienced two casualties, both within the sniper platoon, 1stLt Jason Mann and Cpl Justin Cooper. Cpl Cooper was killed in an ambush during a mission the sniper platoon was on in May 2008. 1stLt Mann was killed in July 2008, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. The loss of these men hit Rob very hard, as he admired and had gained a lot of knowledge from 1stLt Mann and respected him as a prior-enlisted Officer and mentor. Rob was also hit hard by Cpl Cooper, as he had become a close comrade during his time in the sniper platoon.
After Rob returned from his first deployment, he attended the Scout Sniper Basic Course in Quantico, Virginia in March of 2009. In August of that year, LCpl Richards attended Scout Sniper Team Leader Course at Camp Geiger, North Carolina. Upon graduation, he was meritoriously promoted to Corporal and selected to be team leader of Sniper Team 1 with 1st Battalion 6th Marines, and served as Team Leader during the December 2009 deployment as the invading force for Operation Moshtarak into Marjah, Afghanistan.
March of 2010 brought many changes for the Richards. Raechel had been extremely active in the Family Readiness Program with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines since it's implementation in 2008. She completed her college level internship through the program and focused her studies on Communicating with the Military and their Families. Through her close professional relationship and spending over 40 volunteer hours per week at the battalion, Raechel gained the respect of the higher-ranking officers and enlisted personnel in the unit. She made friends with many of the spouses and other Family Readiness Assistants.
On March 14, 2010, Raechel's very close friend, Rachel Porto, was notified that her husband, Cpl Jonathan Porto, had been killed in action in Afghanistan. Raechel was one of the first to be at her door after the notification and to help care for the couple's newborn baby, while assisting her friend in making funeral arrangements for her fallen Marine.
Raechel accompanied Rachel Porto to Dover, Delaware, to receive Cpl Porto's remains. Later, when Raechel awoke to drive to Florida for to attend Cpl Porto's funeral services, she received the phone call informing her that her own husband had been wounded in action in Afghanistan.
Rob had been severely wounded on a foot patrol by an IED and returned to the United States via MEDEVAC. He was categorized as a VSI (Very Serious Injury). His injuries included extensive shrapnel to the neck, groin, legs, and left arm. One of the most severe wounds was a quarter sized hexagonal nut that scraped the sheath of the carotid artery and was lodged in his neck, destroying his Adam's apple and damaging his vocal chords. A titanium Adam's apple was placed in his neck. Most of the shrapnel was removed from his groin, legs and arms; however, much of it was too deep to remove in surgery. The medical staff was amazed by Rob's quick recovery and many staff members exclaimed that it was a miracle that Rob still had his legs. He spent several weeks recovering at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Upon returning to the Camp Lejeune area, Rob was recommended by the staff at the Naval Medical Center at Camp Lejeune to be placed on a Medical Separations Board. Determined to succeed in rehabilitation and to continue his career, Rob declined and devoted all his efforts to returning to full duty and staying in the Marine Corps. To the amazement of those same medical professionals, Cpl Richards returned to full duty with 1st Battalion 6th Marines within 6 months of his initial injury.
Sgt Joshua D. Desforges was also a member of the 1st Battalion 6th Marines sniper platoon and a very close friend of Cpl Richards', who was killed during the recovery period in May 2010. Rob acted as an escort for the Desforges family during the funeral services. . In fact, Rob was so determined to get back to full health that he challenged himself to be able to "run" the annual Hope for the Warriors 5K in May of 2010 in honor of his fallen comrade, Sgt Josh Desforges. After the services in Ludlow, Massachusetts, Rob was granted convalescent leave and traveled to Florida to visit family. Rob had been suffering from night terrors, depression, and experienced frequent flashbacks since he was wounded. During the entire month of June, Rob was prescribed heavy doses of medication and was treated for PTSD, night terrors, anxiety, and acute depression at a private facility in Clearwater, Florida.
1st Battalion, 6th Marines returned from their deployment to Afghanistan in July 2010 and Rob began to show much improvement in his mental and physical state. In July 2010, Rob was contacted by his former Sniper Instructor at Quantico, SSgt Joseph Chamblin. SSgt Chamblin was building a platoon and needed experienced Snipers for 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines' (3/2) upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. 3/2 had not had a recent combat deployment and even many of the senior Sergeants had not seen combat. They were slated to deploy to the Sangin area of Afghanistan, so Rob began to give classes as well as pass knowledge to the platoon on the expectations for Snipers in Afghanistan. Soon after, Rob was asked if he'd be interested in deploying with them. Rob had been working on getting prepared for his full-duty review at the end of September. Denied full-duty status by medical authorities at Camp Lejeune, Rob headed back to National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and successfully persuaded the staff there to return him to full-duty.
Once he was removed from limited duty, in October of 2010, Rob re-enlisted in order to deploy with 3/2 and soon received orders to be transferred to 3/2.
In January 2011, Rob was put on the Battalion Meritorious Promotion Board and elevated to the rank of Sergeant (meritoriously).
In March 2011, Rob deployed to Musa Qala, Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines' Scout Sniper Platoon as the Team Leader of Team 4. This time, Rob was in charge of 9 Marines and Sailors. Rob took it upon himself to incorporate Combat Engineers, Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Techs, and Human Exploitation Teams (HET) to be permanently attached to his team. This took his team size to 15 personnel. They executed several missions up to 3 km south of the most southern patrol base (PB) in the area of operation (AO). Rob's team is responsible for over 76 insurgent kills. It was Rob's idea to incorporate tanks in Sniper Teams and his was the only Sniper team in the AO to have done this. General Toolan* commented on this tactic and stated, "It is a great combo and 3/2 is spearheading that." The commandant, General Amos, later visited the platoon to praise them for these accomplishments, as well. Due to the experience of Sgt Richards and his team, the battalion utilized the team to maximum effort as an offensive combat task-force to disrupt the enemy's activity. This was done all while keeping the rest of the line squads to hold forward operation base (FOB) security and conduct census patrols. Rob's tactics worked so well that the commander implemented battalion-sized operations only utilizing sniper teams.
Throughout this deployment, Rob had 2 Marines severely wounded while serving on his team. One of those Marines was a Combat Engineer who suffered the double amputation of his legs. Another was a Marine and EOD Tech who lost his left leg during operations. Earlier in the deployment, while in a vehicle, moving from FOB to FOB, Rob's team hit an IED in the road. Two members of the Team received Purple Hearts for concussions sustained by this event. The teams within the sniper platoon were frequently tasked with dangerous missions, bearing in mind the recurrent combat stress associated with these types of operations. Directives affecting the Rules of Engagement (ROE) eventually saw enemy insurgents plainly walking around with weapons, having observed that the Marines were not allowed to engage. This increased the stress on the Battalion.
After Rob's team linked up with another team in the northern region of the AO, the Marines witnessed a Marine with 3/2 get hit by an IED and lose both of his legs. The enemy insurgents retrieved the dismembered legs, carried them around as war trophies and hung them in trees. This Marine later died of injuries sustained from the IED. The enemy insurgents increased IED emplacement and Rob frequently witnessed and treated civilian locals, especially children, with traumatic amputations from the explosives.
During this deployment Rob's assistant team leader's brother, Sgt. Mark Bradley, stepped on an IED while conducting operations to the North. Sgt. Mark Bradley was the assistant team leader of team 2 in the 3/2 Scout Sniper Platoon. Cpl. Steven Bradley left operations to escort his brother back to the States. Sgt. Mark Bradley passed away in the hospital from wounds sustained in Afghanistan. The loss of this Marine shook up the entire Battalion, especially those in his sniper platoon.
During this time, the team initiated an ambush on 3 armed insurgent fighters and were ordered to examine the bodies of the enemy. En route to the area, an 8-year old boy brandished an AK-47 and pointed it at the team. Rob had to shoot the child in order to save his Marine. They treated the child and attempted to MEDEVAC him. The entire time they treated the child he yelled "get off me, infidels". However, Rob and his team continued to treat the child. This is the same day that the alleged urinating video was filmed. The child ended up surviving his wounds and was overheard later on a military radio communicating Marine positions to Taliban fighters.
After the Battalion's return to Camp Lejeune, at a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner in December 2011, a high ranking officer with 3/2, pulled Raechel aside. This high ranking officer began to explain to her what an incredible Marine Rob was and that he had the utmost confidence in his performance during this deployment. He had stated that Rob was one of the most disciplined and courageous Marines that he had ever served alongside. This high ranking officer was thoroughly impressed with Rob's abilities and praised his leadership qualities.
Rob was nominated for a Bronze Star with a V for his noteworthy performance in Afghanistan. This award was recommended for upgrade to a Silver Star, and was sitting at MARCENT awaiting final approval when the video purporting to depict Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters appeared on the Internet.
Sgt Richards' personal decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Meritorious Unit Citation, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Citation, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (three stars), and Good Conduct Medal (one star). He has an Expert Rifle Qualification (3rd award) and an Expert Pistol Qualification.
Sgt. Richards was recommended for a Medical Board in the fall of 2012. His findings came back in January, 2013 deeming him 100% disabled and recommended for full medical retirement.
View Sgt. Richards charge sheet here.
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