Staff Sgt. Christopher Shranko, drill instructor, Platoon 3250, Company L, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor in front of his peers and newly minted Marines aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Nov. 29.
Shranko was nominated for the award for his actions while deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from April to October 2011. He deployed as the platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).
“The deployment was devastating. We lost a lot of guys,” said Shranko. “The enemy would catch on to our tactics and use them against us. We had to constantly adapt to the flexible environment.”
Shranko led his Marines and partnered Afghan forces on more than 100 combat patrols facing much adversity throughout the deployment. However, there were two separate events that set Shranko apart for his unselfish and heroic acts of valor.
On June 2, an enemy fire team engaged Shranko’s over watch element with sustained bursts of small arms fire. Without hesitation, he boldly positioned himself in the open, exposed to heavy fire, to positively identify enemy positions and direct his Marines’ fire. He established fire superiority and coordinated reinforcements as well as surveillance assets that defeated the attack and forced the remaining insurgents to break contact.
Ten days later, while on a dismounted patrol, his lead sweeper struck an Improvised Explosive Device. Shranko, less than 10 meters from the detonation, was blown off his feet and knocked unconscious. He quickly recovered, despite still suffering the effects of his own injuries, rushed to the blast site where he applied tourniquets to casualties’ amputated limbs and coordinated for an air evacuation.
“I definitely feel honored to be getting this award,” said Shranko. “Every Marine that I was out there with deserves one. I was just put in a position to do something that rated the award, but I have no doubt in my mind that they would’ve done the same.”
Now holding a different billet and title more than a year later, Shranko still shows the same humility as he did before he was awarded, according to Staff Sgt. Luis Cardenas, senior drill instructor, Plt. 3250, Co L, 3rd RTBn.
“Shranko is the epitome of a brand new drill instructor,” said Cardenas. “He’s a very astute individual, he’s very knowledgeable and very decorated but that doesn’t deter him from being humble. You would never expect that he’s a recipient of a second Bronze Star.”
The same day Shranko was awarded marked the end of his first cycle as a drill instructor.
“He always goes above and beyond what he has to do. He’s very dedicated to being a good drill instructor and making good Marines,” said Cardenas. “To be present as one of my peers receives a Bronze Star in lieu of second award is an amazing experience. It’s a great honor to be in the presence of an individual like him.”
Article by Cpl. Liz Gleason, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego