CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Staff Sgt. Robert T. Van Hook, critical skills operator, 2d Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Raider Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was awarded the Silver Star Medal during a ceremony at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 15, 2016, for his actions in Afghanistan.
Van Hook was nominated for the prestigious award following a deployment to Herat Province, Afghanistan, with 2d MRB in 2013 where he served as an element leader.
It was during an operation on Aug. 14, 2013, that Van Hook organized a hasty ambush on 10 insurgents, wounding two and killing four. He continued the fight, leading an attack on an enemy-held building with hand grenades and small arms, killing another insurgent and detaining two others.
Van Hook said the team excelled that day because of how thoroughly they prepared for the mission.
“We train like we fight,” said Van Hook. “Plans from time to time become worthless, however, the planning process is unforgiving. Once you have done the planning process correctly and you’ve identified all your contingences and rehearsed them to muscle memory, that’s when you’re successful on the battle field.”
Van Hook’s actions during the ambush and the assault on the building were enough to earn recognition, but his fight that day wasn’t over.
According to his citation, during a skirmish later that day Van Hook manned a MK-19 machine gun position which had been abandoned, directing enemy fire away from friendly forces.
“His effects on the enemy caused them to focus their efforts back to his position, targeting him with a rocket propelled grenade and machine gun fire which resulted in his wounding and temporarily rendering him unconscious,” reads the citation. “Despite his wounds affecting his ability to walk, he continued to direct fires on the enemy while under enemy fire; aggressively led his element; and ultimately played a pivotal role in coordinating 120 mm mortar danger close suppressive fires for aerial medical evacuation during approach into a hot landing zone.”
Despite what many consider heroic actions, Van Hook remains humble and said any of his MARSOC counterparts would have done the same thing.
“Any Raider could have been switched out with me and done the same exact thing,” said Van Hook. “A Raider isn’t going to let anybody down, not the brothers that went before him, not the Marine beside him. He might have done it differently, but he would have got the job done.”
Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, presented the medal to Van Hook during the ceremony and spoke on his character.
“As a commander, I’m just incredibly appreciative that we have men of (his) caliber that are amongst our ranks,” said Osterman. “You take a look at all his phenomenal accomplishments, it’s everything we talk about at MARSOC and our culture of quiet professionals.”
Van Hook said he accepts the award on behalf of the men he served with at the time, and for those who continue to serve.
“Walking past the Memorial Wall, to receive this award in front of the crowd that will be there is an extremely humbling experience,” said Van Hook, a day before the ceremony. “This award isn’t given to me, it’s given to my team.”
Story by Sgt. Donovan Lee