|The study of history can be insightful and instructive – learning how to avoid the path of past mistakes. The experiences of Vietnam and the small wars in Latin America are rich with lessons, and none more important than this: there can be no military victory in Iraq without a victory of the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Then-Capt. Diorio, a student of history, arrived in Iraq armed with these past lessons, realizing that he had to lead his Marines on the battlefield, but had to also win over the Iraqi citizens.|
Diorio, commander of India Company at Camp Gannon – a Marine base near the city of Husaybah, Iraq – saw firsthand how difficult each of these tasks would be. His intuition and leadership in the heat of battle helped ward off repeated insurgent attacks – including an especially ferocious attack on April 11, 2005.
On that day, the base was shaken by a powerful blast. Insurgents distracted Marine guards with well-aimed mortars and RPGs as successive waves of suicide bomb attacks inflicted damage across the base. Camp Gannon was under a full-scale attack. Diorio knew he had to react quickly in order to save his men and the base from insurgents trying to overrun the base.
Diorio sent additional Marines to reinforce the areas hit by the IEDs. As the Marines took up their new positions, they saw two explosive-laden vehicles heading toward the center of the base. Laying down heavy suppressive fire, the vehicles blew up before they could exact serious damage.
As insurgents continued to pour on their assault, using gunfire and more explosives, Diorio called in air support. Soon, F-18 fighter jets and Cobra helicopters came looming out of the sky, inflicting heavy damage on the enemy forces.
Eventually, the enemy forces melted back into the city, and Diorio and his Marines were able to secure the base. At the end of the fight, 19 insurgents were dead and another 15 were injured; not one Marine was killed in the attack.
After the April battle, Diorio began studying the city and its inhabitants, and recognized that a rift was emerging between the locals and the insurgents. Seeing an opportunity to erode the enemies' base of support, he began meeting with community leaders, working with them to stabilize, secure, and their city. The Marines at Camp Gannon mobilized and focused its resources on addressing the concerns of the community leaders, rebuilding vital infrastructure such as water systems and schools, and delivering much-needed food items.
The bond of trust between Diorio and the village leaders proved to be instrumental in helping the Marines fight further insurgent attacks and ensure security for the area. The locals informed India Company of imminent attacks, and when insurgents returned to the village to punish them for their loyalty to the Americans, the Marines thwarted their efforts.
For his efforts and leadership, Diorio was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor on Jan. 31, 2006.